Kansas Football: Senior Day vs. Texas Preview

Nov 12, 2016; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Carter Stanley (9) throws a pass against the Iowa State Cyclones during the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 12, 2016; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Carter Stanley (9) throws a pass against the Iowa State Cyclones during the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /

The Jayhawks play their final home game of 2016 against the Texas Longhorns, and hope that the emotion of Senior Day carries them to victory. Do they have a chance?

If Kansas can make the Longhorns one dimensional, maybe

In the offseason, Texas head coach Charlie Strong decided to switch from a pro-style system to the Air Raid. Specifically, the brand that former Baylor head coach Art Briles had run to perfection in Waco. To run it, he hired then Tulsa offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. This style of Air Raid is very dependent on the running game and play action to open up vertical routes down the field. If Kansas football can hold the Longhorns running attack down, they’ll force true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele to beat them, a very good outcome for the Jayhawks.

The Texas rushing attack is a very good one. As a unit, they average 245.5 yards per game, 16th in the nation. The Longhorn running game is led by D’Onta Foreman, who’s carried 241 times for 1613 yards (6.7 per rush) and 13 touchdowns. Foreman is the kind of back the Jayhawks have struggled against recently. He’s a big, physical runner at 6’1” and 245 pounds. He’s a perfect fit for the power run game that Gilbert employs in Austin.  KU must improve on its 110th ranked rush defense to stay in the game.

When the running game is going well, Texas is almost impossible to stop because of their deep passing attack, especially off play action. They average 264 yards per game through the air, 38th in the country. The Longhorns spread the ball around through the air as well. No receiver has more than 33 catches on the year, but five have 20 or more. I’m just not sure the Jayhawks have the depth on the back end to cover them all. It’s impossible to scheme against that many capable receivers.

Injuries are taking their toll on an already thin Jayhawk defense. At his press conference today, head coach David Beaty announced linebacker Marcquis Roberts and defensive end Anthony Olobia are out for the season. Without them, fatigue will be an issue, since Texas operates at a fast tempo, running 82 plays per game, 7th most in the country.

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If this game turns into a shootout (likely), can Carter Stanley and the KU offense keep up?

The answer to that is probably yes. Even though he’s a defensive coach, Charlie Strong’s defenses have struggled mightily at Texas, and this season is no different. The Longhorns are ranked 107th in total defense, allowing 456.6 yards per contest. They’ve been much more efficient than that, however. By a better measure, yards allowed per play, Texas has allowed 5.7, up to 63rd in the country.

The Texas secondary has been especially poor, allowing 270.4 yards per game through the air, only 113th in the country. For reference, that’s worse than Kansas, at only 237. Star linebacker Malik Jefferson may also not play, as he’s currently in the concussion protocol after leaving Saturday’s game. His absence would be a boon for a Kansas offense that is still struggling to find its identity.

Stanley will definitely find openings in the Texas defense, the question is if he can exploit them. Against Iowa State, a similarly poor pass defense, Stanley worked the short and intermediate routes very well, completing 26/38 passes. I’d expect a similar line on Saturday. If Stanley can complete a few more deep shots, the Jayhawks will have good success against the struggling Longhorn defense.

The Jayhawks will probably have to run the ball well to open up the deep ball. Texas allows 186 yards on the ground per game, 79th in the country. They only allow four yards per rush, though, 40th in the country. The KU rushing game has rounded into form the last couple weeks, rushing for 150 and 244 yards the last two games. Look for a heavy emphasis on the running game to control the clock.

It’s Senior Day at Memorial Stadium. Come out and support the class!

This group of seniors has been through a lot, including three head coaches, and 39 losses so far. They may also be remembered as one of the groups that laid the foundation for future growth in the program. The class of 2017 deserves all the fan support we can offer.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is this should be a high scoring game, though I’m not sure Kansas can keep up with the high-flying Longhorns. Las Vegas as the Longhorns a 24 point favorite, and I think that’s pretty accurate. However, KU should cover the spread. I predict a final of 45-24.