This is a tale of what might have been.
Furious because the team had its first No. 1 ranking since 1998 with dreams of national championships dancing in their heads, and was crushed by the Baylor Bears two weeks ago.
For two weeks the Wildcats have stewed and can only dream of what might have been.
No more — Notre Dame now takes their place and will play the winner of the SEC title game for the National Championship.
K-State is on the outside looking in.
Baylor’s defense, believe it or not, is worse than Texas’ and Baylor was able to slow the Wildcat running game just enough to win.
The Longhorns know what that feels like
The football planets were nearly aligned for Texas. Even with two losses, a conference championship was possible and a BCS bowl was still within reach.
And then the Frogs came to town — the latest of the plagues to visit the Texas Longhorns this season — ruining Thanksgiving for Longhorn Nation.
On Saturday these two teams, still licking wounds that won’t heal until spring, meet for pride with the stakes dramatically lowered. With a win K-State can sow up the Big 12 Championship and will likely play in the Fiesta Bowl — a BCS bowl, yes, but not the game.
Texas is a likely candidate for the Cotton Bowl, perhaps against Texas A&M or more likely LSU, if they can beat Kansas State.
That’s a big if — the Wildcats have won four straight against Texas. K-State head coach Bill Snyder knows how to beat the Longhorns, and he knows how dangerous two weeks of droopy dog, woe-is-me can be for a team that had nothing less than the big prize before them.
Make no mistake, Texas can win this game
Longhorn fans should keep one thing in mind: Going into the last game of the regular season, Texas stands at the precipice of nine wins.
Baylor showed them how to do it and Colin Klein, the Heisman candidate and all-everything K-State quarterback, is hurting.
The Longhorns walk into Kansas with very little to lose except for their pride. Having nothing on the line can be very dangerous to a team with something on the line, like a BCS bowl berth and a conference championship.
Case McCoy will hold the reins at quarterback given David Ash’s poor, inconsistent play — um... I mean injured ribs, sorry, slipped there.
The Texas running backs are healthy, the offensive line has matured and the receivers hit their stride weeks ago. The Wildcat defense is strong and physical but as Baylor clearly demonstrated, they can be beaten badly through the air.
The Texas defense — well, who knows? The TCU game revealed the systemic problems that have plagued this team all season: poor tackling, inability to stop the run, getting burned by big plays. Play like that and K-State will kill Texas.
The Horns will need to do something they have not achieved all year — stop the run. K-State averages over 200 yards rushing per game. Baylor’s defense, believe it or not, is worse than Texas’ and Baylor was able to slow the Wildcat running game to 106 yards and ran up over 300 yards on the Wildcat defense.
In this game, dreams will not come true and regret will fill the stadium no matter the outcome. The winner will be determined based on which head coach can push their team to see a brighter tomorrow against a dreary today.
What to watch
- Defend against the run: The Horns show no ability to do this one fundamental defensive strategy.
- Stay in the game: Texas must stay close. If the game is a shoot-out the Horns have a chance. Texas is in trouble if they end up behind early and have to adapt a “score fast” offense.
- Win turnover margin: Whatever other stat is thrown around, this one is the most important. Texas must take the ball away from K-State and hold on to it themselves. Lose the turnover battle on the road and you lose the game, almost every time.
Longhorn fans should keep one thing in mind: Going into the last game of the regular season, Texas stands at the precipice of nine wins. A Texas win Saturday means the Longhorns finish the season 9-3. No Longhorn fan will tell you this season has been nine-win satisfying, and yet, nine wins is the barometer generally reserved for identifying the good teams against the not-so-good.
Despite all the poor play, these Texas Longhorns will have achieved something substantial — if they win.
Texas Longhorns at Kansas State Wildcats
Time: 7:00 p.m. at Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas
Radio: KVET-FM 98.1 / KVET-AM 1300