Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer -- You didn't think for one minute that any Texas player or coach would mention the 'R' word the week Kansas State comes calling? Longhorn fans are all too aware of the tailspin that resulted from last year's loss and may be more 'revenge' minded than is the 2007 football team.
It makes no sense, coaches and players insist, to revisit last year's upset as a motivational tool for Saturday's Big 12 Conference opener. It was a different team and has no bearing this weekend.
Then again, one recalls that coach Mack Brown told media just days before the 2005 Kansas game that there was no need to remind players of Jayhawk coach Mark Mangino's claims that officials gave Texas favorable calls to secure their BCS standing. Less than one hour later, Vince Young sits down with a small group of print reporters and it's obvious VY is smoldering. Seems like during the player's meeting the night before, Brown reminded athletes of Mangino's comments. Nearly 24 hours later, VY was still stoked. ("That's like somebody talking bad about your mama," VY said of Mangino's insinuations. That's when I knew Texas would lay an historic beatdown on the Jawyhawks.)
But what about their Sunflower State counterpart? The Wildcats return seven defensive starters but now operate from a 3-4 base. The Wildcats rank No. 9 nationally against the run, holding foes to 68 rushing yards per game, but those numbers have come against the likes of Missouri state, San Jose State and a less-than-vintage Auburn team. Still, look for OC Greg Davis to continue to try to open up the running game with his high-percentage, dink-and-dunk passing attack. Ideally, Davis tries to establish the vertical passing attack (with a full cadre of Limas Sweed, Billy Pittman and Jordan Shipley) since that will give Texas its best chance of beating OU.
But the rhetoric, of course, has to do with taking it one game at a time; the pre-game verbiage (publicly, at least) is that 'revenge' is not a factor.
"This is the opening (Big 12) game and we still haven't played our best game," Brown said. "Kansas State is really good. If guys can't get excited about playing the opening conference game then they shouldn't be playing anyway." Texas 27, Kansas State 16.
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor -- The Longhorns are rolling into Big 12 play a much more consistent and confident football team than they were at the start of the season, but so are the Wildcats.
Kansas State had some trouble to begin the season, losing to Auburn in a game where quarterback Josh Freeman looked less than impressive. But, like the Longhorns, they had an opportunity to work out some issues while beating a hapless opponent to within an inch of its life. For Texas, it was Rice. For K-State, it was Missouri State.
The Wildcats will be a tough opponent for Texas. The Horn's relatively inexperienced offensive line will be facing a team that runs the 3-4 very effectively. The run D for Kansas State is stout, but you also hear about the run D so much because the pass D is not nearly as great and that's what will be the difference. After a rough start to the season, Colt McCoy is ready to get his first real shot at Kasnas State.
He'll make the most of it. Texas 31, Kansas State 17
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas magazine editor -- For a change, let's attempt to go with logic as we pick the Texas-Kansas State game this Saturday. Though, like the Longhorns, I am 4-0 with picks this year, I nevertheless haven't done a very good job with the score. Going to try to change that this week. And also, like the Longhorns, my 4-0 record is not really much to brag about at this point.
Kansas State has played Auburn, San Jose State and Missouri State, and from that list of teams, the team that most closely resembles Texas is Auburn. The Wildcats controlled the game at Auburn until late, when the Tigers were able to score a late touchdown offensively and also get a defensive score with an interception to win, 23-13. The Tigers later lost to a horrendous Mississippi State team, also at Auburn, and they are not nearly as good or as experienced as usual.
The Longhorns are approximately a 15-point favorite against the Wildcats and none of us are good enough to really second guess the Las Vegas wise guys. If we were, we'd be Las Vegas wise guys. Texas will cover that spread and will likely win this one by three touchdowns.
Kansas State has shown an alarming tendency to throw the ball over and over and over again this season. And logically, since most believe Texas is vulnerable against the pass – and since the Wildcats' quarterback, gargantuan Josh Freeman, threw for three touchdowns against UT last year – this pass-first trend should spell doom for Texas.
Freeman tossed the ball 57 times against Auburn, but also had a pair of interceptions. Oh, and his team lost. Also last year, one week after torching the Longhorns, Freeman threw a couple of interceptions and fumbled twice against Kansas, so he runs hot and cold, and no way can he run as hot against Texas this year as last.
Texas historically just thrashes passing-dominant teams, and if you don't believe it, ask Mike Leach at Texas Tech or Guy Morriss at Baylor. Leach's offense was certainly impressive last week at Oklahoma State, but when the gun sounded, the Red Raiders had lost. If you primarily pass the football, and you play against a team with superior talent, you will likely lose. You'll get tired, your defense will be hacked off and spewing chunks on the sidelines and there's too much margin for error. You'll get intercepted and your quarterback will get knocked silly. That's just the truth.
This year Freeman will be facing a new defense, one that will not drop back into coverage and allow him to make plays, as it did in 2006. He'll be blitzed this year – something that did not appear to happen last year in Manhattan – and he'll be facing a third-year sophomore quarterback rather than a true freshman quarterback. He'll also be playing in 90-degree temperatures, a weather condition the Longhorns are accustomed to; the Wildcats, not so much.
Look for Longhorns to dust off their annual Texas Tech game plan against Kansas State in this one. It might be close early, because the Wildcats are decent defensively, but the fourth quarter will arrive at about 4:30 or so, when the temperatures are still nice and toasty this time of year. Texas will harass the Kansas State offense, forcing the Wildcats' defense to play hefty minutes.
In the fourth quarter, the Wildcats will grow weary of chasing Jamaal Charles, Chris Ogbonnaya and, yes, John Chiles, and the Longhorns will turn a 20-10 third quarter lead into a comfortable win. Texas 27, Kansas State 10.
Michael Pearle, Co-publisher -- It's been a roller-coaster season for Texas already, only four games in. First came the struggle with lowly Arkansas State, followed by the crushing of what everyone thought at the time was a very good TCU team. Many in the media the week of the game with the Frogs said they believed that we would know much more about Texas after that game. With a 34-13 blowout, we thought we did. Then came the near-disaster at Central Florida, followed by an expected blowout of Rice.
So in week five, I am still scratching my head a bit to figure out just who these Longhorns are. Are they a mediocre team just waiting for a decent team to expose them or are they truly top-10 caliber, putting the pieces together week by week as they build momentum and confidence heading into conference?
My sense is that this is a team that is growing up, and whose best football is still in front of them. The young offensive line is learning to play together and is improving. Colt McCoy is settling down and is getting in a groove with his top targets, particularly Nate Jones and Quan Cosby, while Limas Sweed and Jermichael Finley continue to step up. On defense, guys like LBs Roddrick Muckelroy and Jared Norton are flying around, putting heat on the starters to raise their games. The secondary is making plays. The off-the-field issues are fading into the past some and are not dominating the headlines. Injured players are coming back. And a wild card could be emerging in the form of one John Chiles, who, if used properly by Greg Davis, gives Texas an option that should scare opposing defenses to death.
So what does all of this mean for Saturday? Well, it means that Texas will be tested by a tough, confident Kansas State team that knows not only that it can play with Texas, but that it can beat them. Having hung with Auburn on the road, the Cats will not be intimidated by Royal-Memorial. As coach Ron Prince said this week, his team will play aggressive and try to make things happen early and often. They will attack the Horns on both sides of the ball. But Texas will respond with maybe its best game of the year. Although the revenge factor has been downplayed by the players and coaches all week, I believe a desire to avenge last year's loss will give Texas an edge. They should come out angry but focused. In a close game that goes down to the wire, Texas will come out on top, setting up a battle of the unbeaten in the Cotton Bowl October 6. Texas 31, Kansas State 21
Clendon Ross, Co-publisher -- I may be in the minority on this one, but I buy what the Horns have been selling this week that revenge is not a factor vs. Kansas State. I would hope, and suspect, that the Texas players have enough motivation every week to simply win the football game to achieve their current season goals, that revenge for a game in a previous season is so far down the priority list as to have negligible impact. (Yes, the Wildcats injured Colt McCoy, but not intentionally. A&M, well, that's whole ‘nother story…)
Rather than thinking revenge, I would hope, and suspect, that the K-State win in Manhattan last year has this year's Longhorns ultra focused and prepared to execute because they are quite aware of what the Wildcats are capable of when UT's focus and execution are lacking.
I also suspect that we'll see Kansas State employ the ‘kitchen sink' playbook that worked last year. Then, Gene Chizik's pass defense was wholly unprepared, surrendering 323 yards and four touchdowns (with no interceptions) through the air, three of those TDs coming from freshman QB Josh Freeman. For the entire '06 season, Freeman threw for just six TDs with 15 INTs! His TD-INT ratio looks similar this season with just two TDs and four INTs through three games, but he is averaging 275 yards per game passing. Will Duane Akina's secondary, while not as talented or experienced as last year's bunch, be better prepared to handle the inevitable aerial onslaught?
The answer to that may well determine whether Texas wins this game comfortably or is in another shootout till the final gun. And I believe Akina's bunch, which has shown improvement since week one, will indeed be better prepared. I'm still very concerned about the linebacker play (please, please let us see more of Jared Norton and Rod Muckelroy than of Rashad Bobino and Robert Killebrew) and how that could negatively affect both the play up front and in the secondary, but I expect a better overall defensive performance that what we witnessed last year in Manhattan. And I believe the Texas offense, with a healthy quarterback, a full complement of healthy receivers, and a (my fingers are crossed here) tweaked rushing attack that is going to put Jamaal Charles and hopefully also Vondrell McGee in position to consistently succeed, will almost equal its Colt McCoy-less performance of last year. And this year, that will be enough. Texas 38, Kansas State 24
Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 36, Kansas State 20