For the first time in the Mack Brown era, the Texas Longhorns enter Big 12 conference play with a losing record, having not started the season with a 1-2 record since Coach Brown's 1998 debut season in Austin. But the Longhorns game against the Kansas State Wildcats feels less like 1998 and more like 2010 deja vu. We'll get to the deja vu in a couple of slides.
Kansas State is Mack Brown's kryptonite—Brown is just 2-7 against K-State with his last win happening a decade ago in 2003. (Note, the teams played two years on and two years off when the Big 12 had 12 members. Mack Brown is 0-5 against K-State since 2003.) In years where Brown's Longhorns played in BCS bowls (2004, 2008) and the BCS National Championship (2005, 2009), Texas did not play Kansas State.
This Saturday, the Longhorns have more to prove than just their ability to beat the Wildcats. A win against Kansas State could be the shift in momentum Texas needs in order to turn around the season.
Can Texas show up Saturday night and break the five-game losing streak to K-State? Let's take a look...
When: Saturday, September 21, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
Austin Radio: KVET 98.1/1300
SiriusXM Satellite Radio: XM 117; Sirius 202; Internet 969; Spanish 970
Spread: Texas (-5.5), per VegasInsider.com
The Last Meeting: December 1, 2012, Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas
The Last Outcome: No. 7/7 Kansas State 42, No. 21/23 Texas 24
Game previews normally provide offensive and defensive keys to victory, but with the Longhorns defense in shambles and the injuries/uncertainty on offense, per Orangebloods.com, the only true key to a Kansas State victory over Texas is to run the read-option.
Even Mack Brown had a sense of humor when asked if stopping the option is the Longhorns' biggest defensive challenge this season. "Kansas State will run the option," Brown said Monday (Texassports.com). "I told our defense this morning, if they didn't run it, they will put it in."
BYU backup quarterback Daniel Sams said (KStatesports.com): "Texas knows what we do as a team. They know we are running the quarterback run game. ... I'm sure they are prepared more against what we do than what happened against BYU." But Texas expected to see Ole Miss run the read-option and still could not stop it.
Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder always seems to have the perfect game plan when he faces Texas and the read-option will likely be the plan Saturday night.
Stopping the read-option
The Texas defense has allowed 1,128 total yards against its last two opponents; 822 of those yards were on the ground. BYU was the first team to run the read-option against Texas and rushed for a school-record 550 yards, with quarterback Taysom Hill picking up 259 of those yards on the ground.
Ole Miss took a page out of BYU's playbook and ran a combination of read-option and sweep-read to rush for 272 yards in the Rebels' 44-23 win over the Longhorns.
Needless to say, the Longhorns' run defense will be put to the test every week until it can prove it's capable of stopping the run. The combination of backup quarterback Daniel Sams and running back John Hubert will likely be called upon Saturday night to test the Longhorns' read-option/run defense.
In order for Texas to have a chance against the Wildcats, the defense has to stop the read-option.
Outscoring the Wildcats
With the Texas defense being a big question mark, the weight of Longhorns success will fall on the offense's ability to outscore the Wildcats. An offense outscoring its opponent sounds like common knowledge, right? But nothing is common knowledge for Texas right now.
As of Tuesday evening, quarterback David Ash (concussion) has not been released to practice, which means backup quarterback Case McCoy may be called upon for the second straight week.
McCoy started last season's game at Kansas State and threw two interceptions, which ultimately led to 14 points for the Wildcats. McCoy had a good first half against Ole Miss, completing 11 of 13 passes for 104 yards and one touchdown. But McCoy only completed 56.5 percent of his passes in the second half.
If McCoy starts against Kansas State, offensive coordinator Major Applewhite will need to heavily rely on the Texas running backs and short passes to wide receivers Jaxon Shipley and Kendall Sanders, if Mike Davis (ankle) is not cleared to play.
Quarterback Daniel Sams
Let's start with the 2010 deja vu aspect of this game (as addressed in the intro slide).
In 2010, Kansas State quarterback Carson Coffman led the Wildcats for the first eight games of the season. But in Game 9 against Texas, Bill Snyder threw the Longhorns a curveball and gave backup quarterback Collin Klein his first career start as a Wildcat.
Klein was one of the biggest offensive weapons for K-State against the Texas defense, rushing 25 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the 49-13 win over the Longhorns. Prior to facing Texas, Klein had only appeared in five games and rushed 15 times. Klein was Snyder's secret weapon, and Daniel Sams could be that same weapon.
Sams' ability to run the ball is the exact talent the Wildcats need to test Texas' ability to defend the read-option. Sams is averaging 7.5 yards per carry and has scored a rushing touchdown in all three of the Wildcats' games. Expect to see Sams taking the majority of the snaps Saturday night against the Longhorns.
Running back John Hubert
Kansas State running back John Hubert played a large role in the Wildcats' 2012 win over Texas, scoring three of K-State's six touchdowns. He will once again be called upon to take on the Longhorns.
Hubert picked up 168 total offensive yards and a touchdown against Massachusetts and will likely work with Sams to test the Longhorns' ability to stop the read-option. The duo has the ability to be the biggest difference-maker for Kansas State this weekend.
The Texas defense will be faced with another ground attack Saturday night.
For the second straight week, not a single defensive player can be pointed out as a player to watch because the entire unit has a lot to prove.
Texas has been unsuccessful stopping the read-option for two weeks and will have yet another test Saturday night against Kansas State. There are only so many times one can talk about the lack of performance from this unit before it is just repetitive, but maybe a third time facing the option will be a charm for the Texas defense.
Kansas State's defensive line is the least experienced unit of the Wildcats defense. The defense has given up 171 yards on the ground in the first three games of the season.
With quarterback David Ash listed as day-to-day, Texas cannot rely on Case McCoy's ability to throw the deep ball. Running back Johnathan Gray is listed as the Longhorns starter, but the trio of Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will likely be called upon to make up for the offense's lack of ability in the passing game.
Last year, Malcolm Brown scored two of the Longhorns' three touchdowns against the Wildcats and finished the game with 83 yards of total offense. The running backs will once again be a key component in the game plan if Ash is not ready to play.
Texas head coach Mack Brown on his losing record against Kansas State: (Texassports.com)
We haven't played very well against Kansas State. They have been more physical than we have. This is a good time for us to face a challenging physical team to see what we can do.
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder on Texas' uptempo offense: (Texassports.com)
We have to do a great job of being able to get aligned and make quick adjustments to make sure we don't get outnumbered. What takes place before the snap becomes very vital to us.
Texas safety Adrian Phillips on K-State's record over Texas: (KStatesports.com)
It is frustrating. With us being 1-2, people are questioning our whole team. It's time to break that hold Kansas State has on us. They have had it for a few years. I don't know why and I couldn't tell you why. We just have to get a win Saturday.
Kansas State offensive lineman B.J. Finney on playing in Austin: (KStatesports.com)
Texas is a tough place to play. Texas plays hard and are a good football team. They have great athletes and their crowd gets into the game, so that makes it especially difficult to play.
There is no telling what this game will be without knowing the status of Texas quarterback David Ash. Until Ash is cleared to practice, the prediction of this game will be based upon a game plan without the Longhorns starting quarterback.
Kansas State is not the Big 12 champion team it was in 2012, and that was apparent in Week 1 when the Wildcats were upset by D-II North Dakota State. But the amount of talent on K-State's roster does not seem to matter when facing Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns.
One of the most shocking upsets the Wildcats handed the Longhorns was in 2007 when K-State beat No. 7 Texas 41-21 in Austin. It finished the 2007 season with a 5-7 record, which goes to show the Wildcats, losing record or not, have Mack Brown's number.
At Big 12 media days, K-State linebacker Tre Walker said Texas laid down against the Wildcats in 2012 (per Mike Finger). It may be harsh to say, but Texas has laid down to Kansas State for five straight games.
If Texas has to rely on Case McCoy Saturday night, it's nearly impossible to think the Longhorns offense will outscore Kansas State. Until the Texas defense can, you know, defend, the Longhorns do not deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Kansas State 35, Texas 24
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.