Despite another strong season, the Longhorns remain a half-step behind college football’s elite teams. Texas will likely finish the season among the top-15 or top-20 teams in the country, but they still have work to do to take the next step. That was evident once again in last week’s loss to No.6 ranked Oklahoma. Both of Texas’ two losses have come against teams currently ranked in the top-5 (LSU & Oklahoma) and both games were decided by just a single score. Still, the Longhorns’ season is far from being a wash. The Longhorns can force a rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game if they can run the table beginning this weekend. Will the Longhorns be able to regain their focus at home versus Kansas on Saturday?
Texas will try to rebound from a tough 34-27 defeat versus No.6-ranked Oklahoma last week. Sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger completed 26 of 38 passes for 210 yards with no touchdowns and no turnovers on the day, while freshman running back Roschon Johnson took his eight carries for 95 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort for Texas. Trailing by just three points at halftime, the Longhorns’ defense was unable to get off the field in the second half. Poor reads and missed tackles helped Texas give up 276 rushing yards to the Sooners -- the most given up in Todd Orlando’s 33 games as defensive coordinator. The defense is on pace to finish the most yards per game allowed (453.3 yards per game) and most passing yards per game (310) allowed in school history.
It took Jayhawks' head coach Les Miles only six games to fire his offensive coordinator, Les Koenning, who was dismissed from the program following the team’s 45-20 loss to Oklahoma. Brent Dearmon will be promoted to offensive coordinator in the interim. Dearmon, a former D-III coach, spent last season at Bethel University, where his team went 10-0 and averaged 55.0 points per game. The Jayhawks would gladly take that kind of offensive production, especially after averaging just 22.8 points per game so far this season. Since exploding for 48 points in their upset versus Boston College, the Jayhawks have lost three straight games, while scoring just 19.3 points per contest.
Dearmon expected to bring more RPOs to Jayhawks' offenseThe Jayhawks welcomed Dearmon as the team’s new offensive coordinator last week and his contract suggests that he’s going to be around for a while. Dearmon’s deal has a guaranteed pact through the next 2 ½ seasons with school options for the 2022, 2023, 2024, and 2025 seasons. In each of those instances, KU must alert Dearmon in writing of its intentions by Feb. 15 — roughly six months before the next season begins. With Kansas fresh off a bye this week, it will be interesting to see how the offense under Dearmon’s direction. Dearmon is an RPO-expert, so expect a few more run-pass options in this week’s contest versus the Longhorns.
Pooka Williams Jr., human or cheat code? pic.twitter.com/d468cmnuZi— Derek Duke (@DerekDuke25) October 5, 2019
The presence of Dearmon should also help sophomore running back Pooka Williams Jr., who rushed for 1,125 yards and seven scores last season. Williams has been held in check for the most part in 2019, running for 445 yards and scoring two total touchdowns through six games. However, the sophomore running back is fresh off a season-high 137 yards versus No.6-ranked Oklahoma and senior quarterback Carter Stanley passed for three touchdowns and no interceptions in that game. Stanley has shown continued improvement under center this season and now has 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions since the team’s upset win over Boston College on Sept. 13.
The Jayhawks opened the week as 23.5-point underdogs on the road in Texas, but the sharp money has been pouring in on Kansas since the start of the week. The spread has already moved two points in Kansas’ direction, despite 62 percent of the total bets coming in on the Longhorns.
On defense, expect Les Miles and company to dial up the pressure in an effort to get to Texas’ gunslinger Sam Ehlinger. The Longhorns have already proven to be vulnerable against the blitz this season and the Sooners had nine sacks against Texas last week. The Jayhawks’ defense comes in allowing 29.7 points and 444.5 yards of total offense per game. They will have to key in on stopping the run though, as they’ve given up 220.8 yards per game on the ground so far this year.
Ehlinger better suited to return for senior seasonEhlinger’s development under center has been one of the main reasons that Texas has continued their climb towards elite status. The junior signal caller has thrown for an impressive 1,658 yards to go along with 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions, while completing 69.2 percent of his passes through six games. The dual-threat quarterback has also moved the chains with his legs, rushing for 227 yards and five scores as well. He was named a top-five draft eligible quarterback by Phil Steele prior to the season, but at least one NFL scout believes that Ehlinger would be better served returning for his senior season.
"Ehlinger is a terrific college quarterback," Pro Football Focus’ Tony Pauline wrote. "However, he needs a lot of work on his game before he will get any real consideration as anything other than a late-round pick/UDFA (undrafted free agent) in the scouting community.” Pauline believes that “it would be a mistake for him to enter the NFL Draft unless there is some miraculous development in his game over the next two months."
I think we need to stop comparing Sam to Tim Tebow. While they have similar builds and physical running styles, Sam makes NFL caliber throws with a good release, something Tebow never had. Ehlinger should be an early pick, whereas Tebow shouldn’t have pic.twitter.com/i3eOt7hXFT— Tyler Forness (@CCSTheRealForno) September 26, 2019
When head coach Tom Herman approached freshman Roschon Johnson about moving from quarterback to running back just before the season, there was some skepticism about how effective he could be in the backfield. However, if there was one eye-popping number from the team’s 34-27 loss to Oklahoma, it was that Johnson has suddenly emerged as the team’s most effective runner. Through six games, Johnson has posted a team-high 363 rushing yards on 5.8 yards per attempt and he’s compiled 218 yards over the past two games combined. While he still isn’t listed as the team’s starter, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back appears poised for more touches as the season wears on. After compiling 34 carries over the first four games, Johnson has racked up 29 rushes over the past two weeks, while finishing as the team’s leading rusher on both occasions.
Perhaps most concerning for Texas entering the week -- the Longhorns could be without as many as 10 regulars in this game. With the defense banged up and a tough matchup versus TCU looming next week, this projects as a bad spot for Texas. The Longhorns come in averaging 39.3 points per game and allowing 27.8 points per game on defense. However, Texas ranks 50th in opponent rush success and 74th in rushing yards allowed per attempt.
- Jayhawks are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing more than 40 points in their previous game.
- Jayhawks are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games following a straight up loss.
- Jayhawks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games in October.
- Longhorns are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games following an ATS win.
- Longhorns are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games after allowing more than 450 total yards in their previous game.