With a win in Lawrence, Kansas, the No. 23 Texas Longhorns guarantee a 13th game in a bowl to be named later, and do not fear Horns fans, Texas will win. The Kansas Jayhawks may have a superstar head coach in Charlie Weis (a former Notre Dame head coach who also happens to have three Super Bowl rings), but they lack any real talent on the football field.
Kansas is 1-6 with loses to Rice and Northern Illinois (no offense meant to the Owls). For the Texas Longhorns, this game, despite being on the road and in the cold — forecasts have the temperature in the low 40s for the game — is an opportunity to erase some demons and build some success.
After the rather ugly win against Baylor last week, head coach Mack Brown said he was only interested in wins, not stats. And then, in his pre-game news conference this week, Mack Brown, the king of stats, did what he does best — quote stats like they were the very definition of the game.
So let's break down the stats, in Mack Brown's own words:
"We're No. 18 in the country in turnover margin. We've only committed six turnovers ourselves all year, which is seventh and the fewest in the BCS. We've forced 13 turnovers this year, and outscored our opponents on turnovers 77-10. So obviously the defense needs to keep forcing them and the offense has to keep scoring when they get that opportunity."
On taking the ball
"We're 100-14 when we score first. So for whatever reason, that does make a difference."
On third down efficiency
"[Against Baylor] we were 10 of 16 at 63 percent on third down. Our goal is 48 percent. Right now we're fourth nationally in the country on third down efficiency — 55 percent. We have made 57 of 103 third down conversions, which is an unbelievable stat. Really, really proud of that. So much higher than last year."
On scoring in the red zone
"We're No. 11 nationally, scoring 33 of the 36 trips in the red zone inside the 20. We have scored 30 of the 36 trips — we've scored touchdowns. So unlike last year, we've turned that trend around and we're averaging 44 points a game, which is No. 6 nationally."
"We're tied for 26th in interceptions nationally, and Quandre [Diggs] is No. 22 with his number of interceptions."
On fourth down defense
"People have made 12 of 15 fourth down situations on us this year, and that's 80 percent, and that's unacceptable. It's killing us, and we've got to do a better job in the red zone. We've got to do a better job on those fourth down situations. We beat West Virginia if they're not 5-for-5 on fourth downs. That's something that has to improve and has to improve fast."
On the season so far
"If you've seen the fastballs you've seen the best in the country. And when I say we've got four of the best five passing efficiency quarterbacks in the country, and four of the last five teams we've had have had the best offenses in the country, and Oklahoma wasn't one of them. I mean, we take that for granted and we kind of let it fly by and just cuss the defense. But we've played some great teams."
Stats tell one story, watching the games tells another. The Texas offense is over-performing and still getting better every week (let's just leave the OU game out of this discussion), but the Texas defense is awful, maybe the worst ever, and while they're taking "baby steps" (Brown's words), defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has some explaining and some coaching to do.
Brown makes a point. Texas has played some outstanding offenses and some outstanding quarterbacks.
We're playing Heisman Trophy quarterbacks each week. I'm glad. I'm going up to every one of them, 'Geno [Smith], glad you're gone. Thank you, don't have to see you again.' It's just been every week. It's been that way. 'Landry Jones, great. Landry, great career. Leave, get out of here.' I told [Baylor receiver] Terrance Williams I was so sick of seeing him Saturday night. 'Terrance, great. Have a great pro career, I don't have to see you again. Nick Florence, seems like you've been at Baylor 12 years. Leave.' Collin Klein. I mean, they're all over the place. There's senior quarterbacks that hang you so good, they're just doing a great job. It is what it is. I'll be glad when we have an elder quarterback.
So will Longhorn fans.
Still, Brown's justification rings hollow. Texas Tech and Kansas State both figured out West Virginia and beat them badly. Kansas State also figured out Oklahoma, beating them in Norman.
The Texas coaching staff is getting out-coached and in their loss to Oklahoma their team didn't even show up. Playing the Jayhawks this week and then Iowa State at home next week will help balance this team and grow their confidence. A loss in either game would be disastrous. Texas will not lose these games, but the problems on defense remain and it's time to see progress on that front.
What to watch for
- Stop the run: The Texas defense has a way of making even average running backs look like Heisman trophy candidates. Kansas will run the ball early and often. Man up defense.
- Score first, score often: Texas is taking the ball to start games now and when the Horns score first they rarely lose. Early in the season the offense tended to start slow, they seem to have fixed that issue. Now they need to take advantage.
- Own the clock: Kansas plays slow. They run the ball, they huddle before every play, all to use up the clock and keep the ball out of their opponent's hands. If Texas owns the clock, they win.
Texas Longhorns at Kansas Jayhawks
Time: 11:00 a.m. at Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kansas
Television: Fox Sports Net
Radio: KVET-FM 98.1 / KVET-AM 1300