Here are five key matchups to watch Saturday:
SHANE BUECHELE VS. THE KANSAS SECONDARY
Buechele’s last completion against West Virginia — a 20-yard pass to Collin Johnson — gave him the first 300-yard game of his career and Texas’ freshman-season passing record. Colt McCoy’s 2,570 yards are now in his rearview mirror; Buechele has thrown for 2,575 yards and 20 touchdowns, and now faces a Kansas secondary that has not yet allowed a 300-yard passer. (To be fair, two Texas Tech quarterbacks topped 270 yards on Sept. 29).
TEXAS’ OFFENSIVE LINE VS. KANSAS’ PASS RUSHERS
Buechele was sacked four times in last week’s 24-20 loss to West Virginia, and one of those takedowns led to a critical fourth-quarter fumble and temporary fear that the Longhorns’ starting quarterback had been injured. By allowing 2.4 sacks per game, Texas ranks in a tie for 86th in the country. Kansas averages a respectable 2.3 sacks per game, and sophomore Dorance Armstrong Jr. has a team-high eight sacks.
TEXAS TURNOVERS VS. THE SCOREBOARD
Texas is allowing 28.3 points per game in the six contests since Charlie Strong took over as defensive coordinator, but the biggest improvement has come in the turnover department. After forcing only one turnover under Vance Bedford’s watch, Texas has 16 takeaways behind Strong. Those 16 turnovers have only led to 24 points, though. Kansas has committed 31 turnovers, so can Texas make the Jayhawks pay for those kind of mistakes?
MICHAEL DICKSON VS. KANSAS RETURNERS
If D’Onta Foreman wasn’t contending for a Heisman Trophy, you could argue that Dickson might be Texas’ MVP. He’s a front-runner for the Ray Guy Award, and the Australian sophomore is averaging 47.8 yards per punt. Fifteen of Dickson’s 49 punts have been fair-caught, and eight have gone for touchbacks. Don’t expect the Jayhawks to return many of his kicks. Kansas has only returned five punts this year, and it has totaled minus-5 yards on those plays.
STRONG’S HOT SEAT VS. BEATY’S HOT SEAT
Saturday features two coaches whose job security have been the subject of speculation this season. Strong is 16-19 over his three years, while David Beaty has won only once since his hire in December 2014. A youthful Texas team has shown improvement, but a loss to Kansas may force a change. Meanwhile, an upset of the Longhorns would certainly give Beaty a foundation of some sorts in his rebuilding project in Lawrence.