Texas football vs. Kansas: 4 reasons the Horns dominate in Lawrence

Xavier Worthy, Texas football
Xavier Worthy, Texas football /
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Jaylan Ford, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman via USA TODAY NETWORK
Jaylan Ford, Texas football Mandatory Credit: Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman via USA TODAY NETWORK /

Texas’ ability to limit big plays bodes well against a boom-or-bust Kansas offense

One area where Texas matches up really well with the Jayhawks is on defense. Granted, with the way Texas’ defense played last week in the tough loss to the Horned Frogs, I think this unit could match up well with any offense in the Big 12.

Texas held the high-powered TCU offense to just 17 points and well under 300 total yards. Texas’ scoring defense held TCU to less than half the number of points it was averaging coming into Week 11.

Moreover, it’s not just the ability of Texas’ defense to limit the points on the board in terms of why I feel good about how this unit matches up against the Jayhawks.

Especially on the ground, Kansas largely operates as a boom-or-bust offense. Kansas relies on hitting the big play every so often to keep it in games. According to CFB Stats, Kansas ranks eighth in the FBS in scrimmage plays of at least 20 yards, with a whopping 67 on the season.

Kansas uses a lot of motion/misdirection and different option concepts to disorient opposing defenses. Skill guys can often get lost due to pre-snap motion and misdirection, allowing busted coverages and misread plays in run defense when facing this complex Kansas offensive scheme.

But I have confidence that the Texas defense should be able to match up with the Jayhawks pretty well in this regard. Texas ranks in the top 40 in the FBS this season in defensive rushing and passing play explosiveness. And Texas has allowed just seven run plays of at least 20 yards on the season, good for 18th in the FBS.

Since Kansas makes its living in the last two weeks mainly on explosive run plays, Texas’ sound run defense should be able to match up well in this regard.

Moreover, Texas does need to find a way to limit the red-hot running back Devin Neal in this game. In the last two weeks, Neal has rushed for north of 400 yards and one rushing touchdown on just over 50 carries. But with roughly 60 percent of Neal’s rushing yards coming on explosive plays in the last two weeks, the path to success is clear.

If Texas can limit the big play from Neal, the Kansas offense as a whole will be much less effective.

And a good example of just how boom or bust this Kansas offense can be on the ground, just look at the percentage of plays that either turn into explosive runs or stuffs. In a measurement we came up with called boom or bust rate (which measures the percentage of run plays that fit into the categories of the aforementioned explosive rushes or stuffs compared to all rushing plays on the season), Kansas leads the Big 12.

This also shows me that if Texas can limit the big plays from Kansas’ offense, then the rest should take care of itself.

We should also note that a big looming question mark for the weekend is also the health of the Kansas quarterbacks. There’s the possibility that dual-threat quarterback Jalon Daniels could make his return from a shoulder injury for the first time since Kansas’ Oct. 8 loss to TCU.

But if Daniels isn’t able to go, there’s still an injury concern to note for the Jayhawks. Backup quarterback Jason Bean took a hit to the midsection that forced him out of the game in Kansas’ loss last weekend to the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He wouldn’t return after he took that hit in the fourth quarter.

And it sounds like Bean was at least limited in practice early this week due to that injury he suffered against Texas Tech.

The injuries of note for the Kansas quarterback room would limit a lot of the potential concerns I have concerning the dual-threat aspect of the position. Otherwise, Kansas’ offense could have a tough time against this standout Texas defense this weekend.