Texas currently sits at 21 consecutive Big 12 Conference victories. This number ties the record set by Kansas State between 1997-99. The Longhorns will be looking to take the record all to themselves, and the Wildcats will have a little something to say about that.
This is going to be a grand game on the grandest of stages, primetime on national television. Another intriguing plotline is that the last two reigning Big 12 Offense Players of the Week will be starting against each other, Texas freshman quarterback Colt McCoy and K-State freshman quarterback Josh Freeman.
I believe K-State will put up a good fight, but can they upset a team as stacked at Texas? We'll see Saturday night.
Player of the Game on offense: Quarterback Josh Freeman
During conference play, the Longhorns are dead last in the Big 12 in pass defense and No. 1 in rush defense and Freeman is coming off a game where he was named the conference Player of the Week after going 22-of-26 for 251 yards and two touchdowns.
He won't have the same productivity this week, but he will be able to find holes in the secondary and in the flats with screens and draw plays. He will need to make big plays early and often if the Wildcats have any chance of surviving. He will get sacked a lot (Texas is second in the conference in sacks this season) but when he has time he will need to continue making good decisions with the football.
The Longhorns have two of the best defenders in terms of interceptions this year and Freeman will have to look out for cornerback Aaron Ross (T-1 in conference in interceptions with four) and safety Michael Griffin (T-4 with three) all game long.
Player of the Game on defense: Safety Kyle Williams
McCoy has thrown for 2,051 yards and 27 touchdowns this season, which means he makes his throws count. He is the second most efficient quarterback in the country this season, and Williams will have something to say about that in his last game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. I expect him to be jacked for this game, and to get an interception or cause a fumble early.
Surprise contributor: Tight end Rashaad Norwood
The Longhorn secondary is one of the best in the country with twins Michael and Marcus Griffin at the safety positions and Tarell Brown and Ross at the cornerback positions. These players will shut down the wide receivers for most of the game. The linebackers for Texas play extremely aggressive, which will open up the middle of the field. If Freeman isn't getting sacked, he will find Norwood open in the middle a lot during this game.
Players you shouldn't expect too much out of:
Running backs James Johnson and Leon Patton
Texas is only allowing 45.1 yards rushing per game this season, which is the second best average in the country. The Longhorns do not let teams establish a running game, and the two-headed monster of Johnson and Patton will struggle because that won't change Saturday.
Three keys to a Wildcat victory:
Slow down Longhorn offense and run the football –
Texas Coach Mack Brown is 51-0 when his team rushes for more than 200 yards, and 79-1 when his team outrushes the opponent. Establishing a solid running game and slowing down the high-powered Longhorn offense will be the biggest factor in this game. If the Wildcats struggle to find a running game, watch out for a blowout.
Use the recent momentum and the home crowd –
The Wildcats have won its last two contests, and scored more than 30 points in each of those two games. They have been playing extremely well lately, and will need to carry that momentum over into this week, and also feed off the energy of the home crowd getting pumped up for a primetime game on national television.
Create turnovers and have solid special teams play –
The Longhorns are +11 in turnover margin this season, which ranks ninth in the country. K-State is only +2, and will need to take advantage of any slipup this team makes. The Wildcats will have a chance if they make Texas pay dearly for a mistake with a touchdown or something big.
Another area where K-State might be able to take advantage is in kickoff coverage. The Wildcats actually lead the country this season with a 29.1 yard kickoff return average, and they lead the Big 12 with two scores on kickoffs. During conference play, Texas is dead last in the conference in kickoff coverage. Look for Patton, wide receiver Yamon Figurs or cornerback Justin McKinney to have a big return in this one.
Final Score: KSU 21, UT 44
K-State surprised me last week, but Colorado is no Texas. The Wildcat offense has scored more than 30 points in their last two games, so I expect to see them move down the field and score a little bit. However, it will not be enough to slow down the high-powered Longhorns and help their bid to repeat as national champions.
Too many playmakers, and too big a stage for the Wildcats to handle. The seniors lose on their final game inside ‘The Bill'.