Kansas State Wildcats football Big 12 Texas Quinn Ewers Steve Sarkisian Bijan Robinson Chris Klieman Collin Klein

GET TO KNOW THE LONGHORNS

2021 records: 5-7 (3-6)
Big 12 Standings: Seventh (Tie)
Best wins: Louisiana (13-1, AP No. 16, FEI/SP+ No. 44), Kansas State (8-5, FEI/SP+ No. 19), Texas Tech (7-6, FEI/SP+ No. 47)
Notable losses: They lost 55-48 to Oklahoma, 31-24 to Baylor and 57-56 to Kansas.
Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian. It will be his second season at Texas after a year as offensive coordinator at Alabama and a year as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. He previously spent time at USC as head coach for two seasons before being fired for off-the-field issues. Before that, he was the head coach at Washington for five seasons. Sarkisian finished with an overall record of 34-29 in Seattle. His best conference record with the Pac-12 program was 6-3.

Steve Sarkisian (Getty)

THE NUMBERS

Texas finished No. 40 in the FEI/SP+ ranking, which consisted of being No. 31 on offense, No. 67 on defense and No. 9 on special teams.

It was the fourth season for the Longhorns to finish under .500 in the last eight years. Texas lost six straight games before defeating Kansas State in Austin to end their season.

The offense was solid and finished No. 47 in total offense (424.4 yards per game), No. 49 in offensive success rate (44.6 percent), No. 18 in scoring (35.2 points per game) and No. 25 in points per drive (2.77).

Their run offense was the strength. It finished No. 26 in yards (199.0 yards per game) and No. 44 in rushing success rate (46.1 percent). Texas finished No. 72 in passing yardage (225.4 yards per game), No. 29 in passing efficiency and No. 60 in passing success rate (43.2 percent).

They were No. 31 in third down conversions (43.8 percent), No. 4 in red zone conversions (93.6 percent) and No. 21 in points per drive inside the opponents’ 40 (4.44).

Texas’ defense was a problem. They finished No. 100 in total defense (425.6 yards per game), No. 102 in success rate allowed (46.1 percent), No. 99 in scoring defense (31.1 yards per game) and No. 95 in points per drive allowed (2.59).

The pass defense was No. 62 in yards allowed (224.0 yards per game), No. 80 in pass efficiency defense and No. 105 in passing success rate allowed (46.0 percent). The run defense finished No. 114 in yards allowed (201.6 yards per game) and No. 94 in rushing success rate allowed.

Sarkisian’s Longhorns were No. 101 in third down conversions allowed (41.9 percent), No. 91 in red zone conversions allowed (86.3 percent), No. 109 in points per drive allowed inside their own 40-yard line (4.32) and No. 97 in havoc rate (15.6 percent).

Special teams was a bright spot, especially with punt coverage and punt returns. Texas finished No. 5, nationally, in both. Their kickoff efficiency was also solid and finished No. 18. Kickoff coverage was No. 69 and kickoff returns finished No. 96.

Quinn Ewers

Quinn Ewers (Getty)

The Longhorns were picked fourth in the Big 12 media preseason poll. The preseason SP+ ranking has them at No. 31. They are also No. 19 on offense and No. 47 on defense in that statistical metric.

In terms of returning talent, they rank No. 53 overall, and that accounts for being No. 77 on offense and No. 37 on defense.

Texas lost their starter at quarterback from most of 2021, but they returned a top-five recruit and brought in a transfer that was considered by most to be the top high school recruit in the nation.

They also return their top three running backs and their top two receivers. The defense has the top three tacklers back and seven of the top nine.

All of Sarkisian’s coordinators are back for their second season.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Flood spent time with Sarkisian at Alabama and with the Falcons, and before that, spent 10 years at Rutgers. Co-defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski spent seven years at Washington and eight years at Boise State.

Co-defensive coordinator Jeff Choate had a four-year stint as head coach at Montana State, which included advancing to an FCS semifinal, plus he also worked with Kwiatkowski at Washington and Boise State.

Bijan Robinson

Bijan Robinson (Getty)

KEY RETURNS

OFFENSE

1. RB Bijan Robinson (6-0/220): Preseason All-Big 12 and a 2021 first team All-Big 12 pick. Robinson is one of the Big 12’s more explosive players. He ran for 1,127 yards on 195 carries with 11 touchdowns. He also caught 26 balls for 295 yards and four more scores.

2. WR Xavier Worthy (6-1/163): Preseason All-Big 12 and a 2021 first team All-Big 12 selection. Worthy was the Longhorns’ leading receiver last year with 981 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 15.8 yards per catch.

3. RB Roschon Johnson (6-2/221): Johnson was a good compliment to Robinson and ran for 569 yards and five touchdowns, plus another 83 yards receiving on 11 catches.

4. WR Jordan Whittington (6-1/203): Whittington caught 26 passes for 377 yards and three touchdowns.

5. OL Christian Jones (6-6/328): Jones is the leading returner on the offensive line with 22 starts in the last two seasons.

6. QB Hudson Card (6-2/201): Card played behind Casey Thompson last season, but he has a year in the system for Sarkisian and was a top-five quarterback recruit out of high school. However, he did lose the starting job to Quinn Ewers.

DEFENSE

1. LB Demarvion Overshown (6-4/224): Preseason All-Big 12, and a 2021 honorable mention All-Big 12 selection. Overshown led Texas in tackles with 74 and also had 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

2. DL Keondre Coburn (6-2/343): 2021 honorable mention All-Big 12. Coburn is a massive defensive lineman that controls the middle of Texas’ defensive front. He finished with 15 tackles and two tackles for loss in nine games last season.

3. LB Luke Brockermeyer (6-3/226): 2021 honorable mention All-Big 12. He finished second on the team with 72 tackles, plus had five tackles for loss and two interceptions.

4. S Anthony Cook (6-1/195): 2021 honorable mention All-Big 12. Cook had three passes defended and finished with 47 tackles and three tackles for loss.

5. DL Moro Ojomo (6-3/281): 2021 honorable mention All-Big 12. Ojomo had 29 tackles and three tackles for loss last season.

6. LB Jaylan Ford (6-2/238): Ford was third in tackles with 53, plus led the team with six tackles for loss.

7. LB Ovie Oghoufo (6-3/242): He finished with 42 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

SPECIAL TEAMS

1. KR/PR D’Shawn Jamison: Jamison returned 18 kickoffs with a 22.9 yard average and 12 punts for 105 yards.

2. PR Xavier Worthy: He averaged 15.7 yards per punt return on three attempts.

Luke Brockermeyer

Luke Brockermeyer (Getty)

KEY ADDITIONS

OFFENSE

1. QB Quinn Ewers (6-2/205): Ewers spent one season at Ohio State, signed with the Buckeyes as the No. 1 QB in the country and No. 3 overall players according to the consensus rankings.

2. TE Jahleel Billingsley (6-4/219): An Alabama transfer, Billingsley caught 37 balls for 559 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons.

3. WR Tarique Milton (5-10/192): Milton finished with 99 receptions, 1,519 yards and averaged 15.3 yards per catch at Iowa State over his career.

DEFENSE

1. CB Ryan Watts (6-3/206): He had limited snaps at Ohio State but is expected to contribute at corner for the Longhorns.

PREDICTIONS

FAN: Kansas State wins if…

the Wildcats don’t repeat their 2021 performance against Texas, which was arguably their worst game of the season and a lackluster effort on the offensive end against a poor defense.

They must have some balance on offense and stop what will likely be a potent Texas running game. Texas is supposed to be back every year, but they are definitely a talented group that could provide a breakthrough season for the Longhorns.

Prediction: Texas 31, Kansas State 27

DY: Kansas State wins if…

Collin Klein’s offense is the real deal and Texas isn’t hitting on all cylinders. The injuries to Isaiah Neyor swear Junior Angilau hurt the Longhorns before their season even gets started, but the recipe is there for them to actually meet the hype if Quinn Ewers is ready and plays well.

I have some doubts on that final part since Hudson Card was expected to be named the starter by many and was reportedly outplaying Ewers according to anyone who had watched any amount of practice.

Because of that, I think the K-State defense can do just enough since they are at home, should be in front of a raucous crowd that could pose challenges for the Longhorns and that should take some of the pressure off the offense.

In any event, I anticipate it being one of the best games of the year, which is essentially the opposite of what we saw in Austin last season.

Prediction: Kansas State 31, Texas 30

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