June 16, 2024

Jayhawks closing in on an opportunity to shake up the Big 12 race

Kansas Jayhawks Football

(Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

Saturday’s matchup between Kansas and Texas will be one for the ages for many reasons.

After all, it’s going to be the first time in the series that both teams are ranked in the AP Poll. Not to mention the Jayhawks and the Longhorns are undefeated. Both teams won their conference openers last week, and are riding a big wave of momentum.

It’ll also be the last time the two teams play in the near future, unless they meet in the Big 12 Championship Game in December. So there’s no denying the anticipation is as high as it has ever been.

Kansas (4-0) is playing at a high level, and has one of the best offenses in the conference. Quarterback Jalon Daniels is healthy, and as long as he stays that way, the Jayhawks are capable of beating any team in the league. However, Kansas could be potentially walking into a snake pit Saturday afternoon.

Darrell K Royal packs 100,000-plus fans, making it the largest stadium in the Big 12. Regardless, the 24th-ranked Jayhawks are no stranger to the venue, considering they won there in 2021. Kansas’ last two trips to Austin resulted in offensive shootouts. Both teams scored in the 50’s in 2021, and the Longhorns won 50-48 in 2019.

This game has the same ingredients for another offensive shootout. Daniels didn’t play in the season-opener against Missouri State, but since his return he’s been lights out. The gunslinger ranks 17th nationally in passing efficiency. Daniels is also second in the Big 12, and eighth in the FBS in completion percentage. He’s a quarterback that makes others around him better, and the rest of the offense builds off Daniels’ energy.

Daniels don’t have to do it all alone either. Running back Devin Neal is a workhorse, with 400 yards on the ground and five touchdowns through four games. The No. 3 Longhorns have some studs on offense too. Quarterback Quinn Ewers is performing like a Heisman contender, and finally living up to his five-star billing. On top of that, Ewers has weapons all around him.

Wideout Xavier Worthy, and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders are arguably one of the nation’s best at their position. Ewers will also be operating behind the best offensive line in the Big 12. It’s no mystery that Texas (4-0) is averaging 35 points per game.

With so much offensive firepower on both teams, they could easily hang 50-plus points apiece on the scoreboard again. In a game like this, the offense that has the ball last usually wins. Which is why it’s going to be important for the Jayhawks to be mentally ready for this hostile environment. Kansas’ defense may have a slim margin for error.

The Jayhawks have some playmakers on defense though, including veteran safety Kenny Logan Jr., who’s a tackling machine. The Longhorns have played with tenacity on defense, and are led by linebacker Jaylan Ford, who was the Big 12’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Both defenses will likely be out on the field for a ton of plays.

Field position and time of possession are going to be vital. Lance Leipold matching wits with Steve Sarkisian is intriguing as it gets. Everyone is overlooking the Jayhawks, and are all on the Longhorn bandwagon. Still, Leipold has a chance to shock the College Football world, by upsetting a top-three team on the road.

It’s going to be up to his players to embrace the spotlight, take advantage of it and officially put the Jayhawks on the map.