Kansas is actually a strong defense against the pass, as evidenced by the Jayhawks ranking 25th nationally in Defensive Passing S&P+ and 15th in Defensive Passing Downs S&P+. McCoy meanwhile, has been growing into his new role on the offense, averaging a stellar 10.45 yards per attempt over his last two games. If McCoy continues his hot streak and can hit on a few shot plays in this game, it could get out of hand in a hurry. If not, the Jayhawks could stick around a bit longer.
Texas slot receivers versus Kansas defensive backs
This one is pretty much tied directly into the one above. Kansas has two very good outside cornerbacks in JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald. That's not to say that Texas's outside receivers Mike Davis and Kendall Sanders won't be able to beat them deep, just that it will be more difficult to do so. Instead, the juicier matchups for the Longhorns are in the slot, where Jaxon Shipley, Marcus Johnson and Daje Johnson should be able to do some damage. The Jayhawks play a tone of man, and, at least on the inside, it appears that Texas has the tools to exploit those one-on-one matchups.
Texas linebackers versus James Sims, Kansas running back
Last year, Sims helped to grind down the game for the Jayhawks, carrying 28 times for 176 yards. While Kansas wasn't exactly a dynamic force, Sims's consistent running meant that the Jayhawks were able to win time of possession and protect then-quarterback Michael Cummings, who only threw nine passes in the game. Sims's offensive line isn't as good this year, but he still has the ability to take over the game one four-yard gain at a time. Texas's linebacker play has been much better of late, and if Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond can do their jobs — this should also be a game where Texas can employ more Peter Jinkens — then Kansas's offense should be nipped in the bud.
Texas offensive line versus the Kansas defensive line
This one isn't so much from a pass-rush standpoint, because the Jayhawks don't really use their line to generate that much pressure. Instead, it's a measure of whether Texas can single block the pretty sizable Kansas defensive line, allowing the blockers to flow to the linebackers and opening up creases for Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. If the Kansas defensive line can eat up blockers, that will really help Ben Heeney and Jake Love clean up the Texas running game and give the Kansas defense a chance to be successful.
Texas running backs versus Ben Heeney, Kansas linebacker
It isn't any secret what Texas's offensive strategy has been of late. The Longhorns ran the ball on 72.3 percent of their plays against Oklahoma, and 72.3 percent of their plays against TCU. Gray and Brown? Oh, they've combined for a whopping 91 carries over a two-week stretch, taking those for 390 yards. Texas has pummeled its opponents with a consistent running attack, then gone to the air for big plays. But all of that stems off Texas's ability to threaten the other team with its run game. Kansas has struggled to stop the run, though the Jayhawks were consistently better with Heeney in the middle (he's missed the past two games with an injury). Heeney and Love gave Texas major issues a year ago, and Heeney is playing at a higher overall level this year. If Heeney can have a huge game stopping the run, he can go a long way toward allowing the Jayhawks to allocate more players toward stopping the pass and protecting against the big play.
Sure, you could list this one every week, but this week, it has more importance. Simply put: this is the way Kansas can stay in the game. If McCoy isn't sharp, or if the Longhorns put the ball on the turf, this could be closer than Texas wants it to be. On the flip side, if Texas wins the turnover battle, this game probably won't be close. For reference, check last year's result: Kansas won the turnover battle 2-1, and nearly won the game. If neither side has many turnovers, Texas should grind away Kansas with the Longhorns' depth. In case you're wondering, Texas is +7 on the year in turnover margin, while Kansas is +4.
Yes, Texas almost lost to Kansas in Lawrence last year. But the games between the two teams in Austin have typically been massacres, and Texas pretty much sleep-walked through last year's contest. Texas has a better defense this year, and isn't as likely to allow more than 200 yards on the ground to the Jayhawks. On the other side of the ball, Texas has become very comfortable with its offensive identity, which goes a long way. This might be close for a quarter or two, but Kansas doesn't have the offense to keep pace with Texas, which probably rolls in the second half.
TEXAS — 42
Kansas — 10