Hawks vs. Horns - Matchups

With everything that has gone on this week, it's somewhat easy to forget that there's still a game to be played Saturday. So, without any flowery lead-ins or clichés, here are this week's matchups.

When Kansas runs the ball: Advantage Texas

The Longhorns are flat out stingy against the run, allowing an astounding 1.6 yards per carry, and just 50.4 yards per game on the ground. On the flip side, the Jayhawks have struggled since hitting conference play, averaging just 68.7 yards per game and 2.4 yards per carry. Defensive tackle Lamarr Houston and Buck (end/linebacker) Sergio Kindle each have double-digit stops in the backfield against the run. Eleven of Houston's 16 tackles for loss came on run plays, with Kindle matching him with 11 backfield stops against the run (according to Texas stats, which vary from the Big 12's). Kansas has been effective running the ball on third-and-short. The Jayhawks ran the ball five times on third or fourth down with short distances to cover against a tough Nebraska defense, and converted on all five plays, thanks to bruising freshman Toben Opurum. Don't be surprised if the Jayhawks do attempt to run the ball at times, not necessarily on the hopes of cranking out five yards per carry, but largely to give Kansas a shot at third-and-medium to third-and-short distances.

Interesting Matchup: Jeff Spikes, Jeremiah Hatch and Sal Capra against the Texas defensive tackle rotation

When Kansas passes the ball: Advantage Kansas

If Kansas has an advantage here, it's not by much. Texas boasts the conference's second-best defense against the pass, and ranks second in pass efficiency defense. But the Jayhawks threw the ball well at times against a Nebraska defense almost identical to Texas's statistically last week. When Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing gets into a rhythm, the Jayhawks have the receivers to make life tough for any defensive backfield in the country. Even with his recent struggles, Reesing is second in the league in passing yards per game, thanks largely to Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, who rank second and fourth, respectively, in receiving yards per game. Kansas protected Reesing well against arguably the conference's top defensive line last year, and if Reesing has time to throw, Kansas's receivers should be able to make plays. At the exact same time, Reesing will have to watch out for arguably the top safety combination in the nation. Earl Thomas is a Thorpe Award candidate with six interceptions on the year. He's returned two for touchdowns. Blake Gideon has another four picks.

Interesting Matchup: Todd Reesing against Earl Thomas

When Texas runs the ball: Advantage Texas

Texas has been mediocre running the ball in conference play, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. But the Kansas defense has allowed a running back to top the 100-yard mark in four of the past five games. It's not that the run defense has been poor — they go through spurts of playing solidly against the run. But consistency is a major issue. When players have missed assignments, the Jayhawks have been gashed for big plays. Just ask Roy Helu. The Nebraska back had four carries of 14 or more yards, with those plays adding up to 78 yards. Helu's other 24 carries also netted him 78 yards. So on four big plays, Helu averaged 19.5 yards per carry. On the other 24 carries, Helu averaged 3.25 yards per carry. The key for Kansas will be to limit those big plays against Texas. When Texas gets in short situations, watch out for battering ram Cody Johnson, who has 11 touchdowns on the season.

Interesting Matchup: John Williams against Chris Hall

When Texas passes the ball: Advantage Texas

While Colt McCoy hasn't had the type of year everyone expected, the senior signal caller is still leading the league in passing efficiency, thanks largely to his 72.4 percent completion rate. McCoy has thrown for 262.8 yards per game, with many of those yards coming courtesy of Jordan Shipley. Shipley has snagged 81 passes for 1,096 yards and eight touchdowns on the year. In conference play, the Jayhawks have performed pretty well against the pass, ranking fourth in the league in pass defense in conference play. But the Jayhawks have struggled at times locating the ball on deep passes, a major issue as the Longhorns will surely try to test Kansas deep on multiple occasions. The Jayhawks have done a decent job getting to the quarterback this year, and Texas has only done an average job of protecting McCoy. If Kansas wants to win this battle, they'll likely have to do so by pressuring McCoy into mistakes.

Interesting Matchup: Chris Harris against Jordan Shipley

X-Factor: This week's business

Most weeks, the X-Factor would be based on something like the fact that the Longhorns are the best team in the Big 12 with regard to turnover margin, while Kansas has a tendency to turn the ball over. Or it might focus on the fact that Texas has a whopping six touchdowns on punts and kickoffs this year. Or maybe even that it's the last trip to the Longhorn state for players like Reesing and Briscoe, who were stepped over by the Longhorns in recruiting. But as anybody can concede, this isn't most weeks. The Jayhawks spent more time discussing an investigation of Kansas Coach Mark Mangino than they did the talents of McCoy and Shipley. And that could drive the team one of two ways. The most obvious is to point out a potential lack of focus, one that could lead to the Longhorns besting the spread and ending the game quickly. The other is that the team will come out with an us-against-the-world mentality and play lights out. Neither is uncommon in the world of sports. But how the Jayhawks deal with this week's issues should probably have some effect on a game that would have been an awfully difficult matchup even if the Longhorns were the only opponent.

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