Back Talented Texas to Cover vs Overrated Kansas State

Texas Longhorns teammates in field

Rainman M.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 2:03 PM GMT

Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017 2:03 PM GMT

Texas hosts Kansas State this Saturday at 7:00 PM ET. Texas opened as 5.5 point favorites, but that number has dropped to 3.5. The game total opened at 52, but currently sits at 49.5.

Kansas State Wildcats vs Texas Longhorns

The key match-up to watch is Shane Buechele vs Kansas State's secondary.

Buechele looks to end Texas' search for a starting quarterback on our NCAAF Picks. As a recruit, Buechele's athleticism and agility as a runner was most impressive. As the sophomore matures, he is improving his pocket presence, his decision-making, and his mechanical consistency. While he can always achieve massive runs, he can't overlook open wide receivers in order to scramble.

Last year, Buechele didn't have a go-to receiver.  No receiver had more than 420 yards or 3 touchdowns. This year, Collin Johnson is enriching the depth in Texas' wide receiver corps by stepping up as Buechele's primary receiver. The well-sized and athletic sophomore combined for 316 yards against Maryland and USC, one more yard than he had all of last season.

Last season, Kansas State was 122nd in passing yards allowed per game.  Buechele had his best performance in terms of QB rating at Kansas State. This season, Kansas State's secondary is without its leader in safety Dante Barnett.  

Kansas State's secondary regresses only somewhat due to the improvement of their veteran defensive backs. However, Collin Johnson is an athletic monster at 6'6 and, with the attention that his talented teammates will attract, can exploit a Kansas State secondary whose top two cornerbacks are vastly undersized at 5'9. 

The offensive line is Texas' major concern. Texas' rush attack has been anemic due to struggles in protection, which lost its All-American left tackle to the season. However, Kansas State also lost the Big 12 Player of the Year, Defensive End Jordan Willis, and its two leading tacklers from last season. The Wildcats' defensive line still boasts First Team All-Big 12 defensive tackle Will Geary and 2016 Big 12 Freshman of the Year Reggie Walker.

Buechele is a mobile quarterback who excels at eluding pressure. Texas has also resolved with success to rely increasingly on a quick-passing game. The Longhorns' offense will continue to thrive in the quick-passing game, which alleviates the worry surrounding their protection.  Kansas State's linebacking corps and secondary lack the quality to contain Texas' depth at wide receiver. Collin Johnson boasts the key match-up advantage.

Texas' biggest question on defense is its ability to contain mobile quarterbacks. 

Last season, the Wildcats relied on quarterback Jesse Ertz for 78 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns in order to defeat Texas. Texas' defense was soft and played with a cushion. The Longhorns have surely learned to not play a bend-but-don't-break defense against a fundamentally sound but conservative Kansas State offense.

Todd Orlando, formerly Houston's Defensive Coordinator, is now with Texas. Orlando imbues his players with an aggressive style of play that will help them contain Ertz, the same kind that allowed his Cougars to shut down dual-threat superstar quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The linebackers underperformed last season. But this year, former top prospect Malik Jefferson is thriving under Orlando. Jefferson utilizes his speed in pursuit to become a force in all parts of the field. He attacks opposing ball carriers with immediate explosiveness. He excels in the opposing backfield but is also athletic enough to assist in pass coverage.

Texas' ability to apply pressure in the backfield helped them to defeat Iowa State and nearly upset USC. Conversely, Kansas State's inability to prevent pressure in the backfield contributed to its upset loss against Vanderbilt.

Jefferson and Anthony Wheeler should cause significant disruption in the backfield and stop Ertz thanks to their defensive line. Poona Ford is an NFL-caliber defensive tackle who excels at achieving leverage underneath blockers, bursting through gaps and instinctually recognizing offensive schemes. Ford is complemented by depth and upside that will help create the holes to maximize the impact of Texas' partially undersized linebackers.

Texas' secondary is benefitting from Holton Hill's recovery from his sophomore slump and the improved consistency of former track star Kris Boyd, whose speed complements Hill's size and physicality. Texas contains the talent at safety, as well, to contain Kansas State wide receiving star Byron Pringle.

The Verdict

Texas' defense is equipped to contain the depth and talent of Kansas State's rushing attack.  Texas' defense also boasts the size, speed and talent, and has benefitted from a more aggressive scheme, in order to prove itself against a mobile quarterback, especially one, like Ertz, who is uncomfortable throwing down the field. 

On offense, Texas can rely on Buechele and a talented and deep wide receiving corps, now led by Johnson, to exploit Kansas State's weakness at linebacker and its lack of height in the secondary. Texas is already gaining proficiency in the short-passing game to obviate its weakness in protection.

Free NCAAF Pick: Texas -3.5Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

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