Aaron Cedeño: So tell me about this David Ash. Has he completely supplanted Baby McCoy, or will we still see some of him?
Kevin Flaherty: "Just two weeks ago, you would have gotten a different answer. That's when Ash dominated the repetitions in practice and wound up taking every quarterback snap (excepting the Wildcat and a direct snap to Malcolm Brown) against Oklahoma State. Texas ran for more than 200 yards in three quarters of action, then tried to take advantage of one-on-one matchups outside, but wasn't able to do so. Ash was a big part of the reason why not. It's not necessarily that he played poorly. His internal clock isn't quite up-to-speed yet.
"That's part of the reason McCoy split the reps with him in last week's bye week and again this week. Early in the week, the Texas coaches said they weren't sure how much each quarterback would play, but I think you can expect to see both players, possibly rotating early on and later switching to the one with a hot hand (if there is one).
"They started off rotating with Ash running special plays out of a sub package, but I think by this point, the offense is pretty similar regardless of who plays. Ash has the higher upside. He's pretty much what you look for in terms of size and arm strength, and he has some mobility. McCoy can be overlooked at times because he lacks those first two qualities. But he's a gamer, he's pretty accurate and the team seems to respond to him. While Ash is the better runner, McCoy is actually the more elusive within the pocket.
"Both need to work on making faster decisions, and better ones. The Longhorns have been sacked 13 times in their last two games (though one was on receiver Jaxon Shipley), and the quarterbacks have accounted for six turnovers over that same period. While some of the sacks are on the offensive line, others occurred when the quarterbacks hesitated."
Cedeño: As familiar as you are with both of this teams, if you're looking at this from a Texas prospective what player or players on the Kansas offense gives you pause?
Flaherty: "Darrian Miller is probably the biggest one. The Longhorns have generally been strong against the run this year, but have given up a few big plays when they've gotten out of position. And Miller is arguably the best Kansas running back at bouncing from hole to hole. If you have one guy get out of position, he can hurt you. James Sims has the quick feet to do the same thing, but I'm not as worried about him breaking one for a long touchdown. And while Tony Pierson has big-time speed (he might be the fastest back Texas has faced this year), I don't know that he has shown the vision.
"The other guys are Tim Biere and Kale Pick. I'm not necessarily afraid of them as big-play guys, but each are players somebody have to locate on third downs. Texas under defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has been a big fire zone team, so the Longhorns will send extra guys, and sit players in zones behind them. Both Pick and Biere excel at getting open in those exact circumstances. Biere will be especially interesting in that Texas defensive back Adrian Phillips will miss the game with injury, and he's kind of their jack-of-all-trades type who might have been assigned to hang with Biere.
"I like D.J. Beshears and JaCorey Shepherd on the outside, but with Carrington Byndom taking one of them, that's not necessarily a matchup that should scare the Longhorns. And who knows which Jordan Webb will show up? If he's on, in-rhythm and accurate, he can be pretty tough to stop. If he's not, it could be a long day."
Cedeño: If this Texas defense has a weakness Kansas can exploit, what is it?
Flaherty: "Texas has done two things poorly as a defense this year. First, they've allowed too many big plays in the running game. And second, the Longhorns haven't been able to sack the quarterback (though they have created some pressure).
The former is something that Kansas might have trouble executing. Yes, I know that the Jayhawks are a run-first team, and that their strength lies in a physical offensive line and a talented set of running backs. But with two weeks off since Texas allowed two touchdown runs of more than 30 yards, you can bet that was an emphasis in practice. And the Longhorns have the pieces to be a strong defense against the run. They held down the Oklahoma running game but for one big play.
I think the Jayhawks' best chance to exploit the Texas defense is probably in the quick passing game. Run the ball well enough to get into third-and-medium, and then hit guys like Pick and Biere just past the sticks while Diaz sends all kinds of pressure. It isn't exciting, and the Jayhawks have to make sure to not make negative plays and to not get into third-and-long, but it's probably their best bet.
Cedeño: Is there any chance Bevo gets loose and ravages the stadium's lower levels?
Flaherty: "I think the original Texas mascot — a pit bull named "Piggy" — was more dangerous than the current Bevo is. While previous Bevos have been dangerous, this Bevo, Bevo XIV, has been to a presidential inauguration and is bred to be docile. He handles all sorts of public appearances, and doesn't even get riled up when Texas fires its cannon. He's one relaxed dude.
"Now previous Bevos, you had to watch out for. Bevo II attacked an SMU cheerleader, which, let's be honest, we've all thought about. Bevo III actually escaped and ran around campus for two days before he was caught. Bevo IV went all Johnny Drama on a parked car and Bevo V, after tiring of their legal threats about his leaving one ranch to go to another, attacked the Baylor band.
"No, the only Bevo to be running amok on Saturday will be the CGI ones on the JumboTron, which run around town and through campus only to enter the stadium through the tunnel. It's a stampede of epic proportions. And it doesn't bother me as much as the basketball version. I mean, how the heck can a stampede of Longhorns get into the Erwin Center? Dexter Pittman barely fit in, and he's not (quite) 1,800 pounds."
Cedeño: Does Kansas have any hope in this one? If so, where does it lie?
"No, I'm just kidding. If the Longhorn quarterbacks play the way they have the past two weeks, are indecisive and turn the ball over, Kansas might have a chance. The Jayhawks have to be sound in their run defense. If Malcolm Brown, Fozzy Whittaker et. al get loose, this one could get out of hand before halftime. Stopping the run is the biggest key, because everything the Longhorns do, from play-action passes to trick plays are designed with the backbone of a successful running game.
"Turnovers will obviously be key. I'm not confident in the Jayhawks' ability to sustain long drives against the Longhorn defense, so Kansas needs to find ways to shorten the field.
"And Webb will need to be on-target. Kansas does have a few things to like about this game. The Jayhawks' biggest weakness (pass defense) goes against the Longhorns' biggest weakness (passing offense). Texas defensive tackle Kheeston Randall has been great, but the Jayhawks have one of the league's top centers in Jeremiah Hatch, who once helped to shut down Ndamukong Suh.
"Kansas has been its own worst enemy for most of this season. And when Texas has struggled, it has been for the same reasons. So if the Jayhawks can stay out of their own way, and if Texas falls flat, Kansas has a shot. Not a great one. But a shot, nonetheless."