Know Your Opponent: Texas and the return of the 3-3 defense

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Both K-State and KU fans cheer on their football teams during the K-State vs. KU game in David Booth Memorial Stadium on Nov. 2, 2019. The Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks in this year’s sunflower showdown with a final score of 38-10. (Emily Lenk | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State Wildcats head to Austin, Texas, Saturday to take on the 5-3 Texas Longhorns, another team in the logjam middle of the Big 12.

Historically, K-State is one of the few schools that have played Texas more than 10 times and still have a winning record against one of college football’s winningest programs.

The Wildcats are 10-9-0 against Texas mostly because they did not start playing regularly until the Southwestern Conference folded in 1996, right around the time former head coach Bill Snyder really got rolling in Manhattan.

This year’s Texas team, as always, is very talented. The Longhorns boast highly-touted recruits across the board and started the season ranked 10th in the AP Poll. They have since dropped out of the poll.

On offense, the Longhorns tend to be more balanced in their approach than some other Big 12 programs, but they do the most damage through the air. It’s really a basic spread offense.

They have attempted 317 passes and 302 rushes this year, but they average 308 yards per game through the air and only 168 on the ground.

The offense revolves around junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who both K-State head coach Chris Klieman and sophomore defensive end Wyatt Hubert compared to Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts in the mid-season press conference.

The comparison seems to be a good one based on watching the two play. Hurts may be a slightly more accurate and efficient passer, but they are similar in their running styles.

They both are more bruising-style runners who are hard to bring down and do not mind lowering their shoulder and bowling a defender over for more yardage.

Ehlinger has one of the top targets in the conference in senior wide receiver Devin Duvernay, who averages exactly 100 yards per game on 8.6 receptions with seven touchdowns this season.

On defense, Texas helped pioneer the base nickel defense in the Big 12. They were one of conference’s early adopters of the safety/linebacker hybrid that can serve both duties and is kind of between the two positions, size-wise.

They do that, like several Big 12 schools, in a 3-3 defense. One may remember the 3-3 gave K-State’s rushing offense fits against Baylor and Oklahoma State.

The 3-3 is just a bad match-up for power-run offense because it is hard for offensive lineman to make the reads that they typically might and they struggle to block as effectively.

PREDICTION: K-State has really been rolling on offense the last three games and the offensive line has solved a lot of their issues from earlier in Big 12 play, but will struggle to run on Texas. I think K-State does just enough on defense to win this game 35-31.

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