It’s almost time for the annual battle with K-State’s branch campus in Austin, and to get you ready we’ve got the answers to the burning questions which needed to be asked. Joining Jon this week is Cody Daniel, co-editor of our sister site Burnt Orange Nation.
Jon: So, you're a few games into the Tom Herman era. We've got a couple of distinct questions here: first, how are you feeling about the hire thus far after seeing some actual football?
Cody: I think it's still too early to tell. Sure, he's proving to be an ace recruiter, upgraded the facilities tremendously and seems to have this team playing with a renewed sense of confidence, especially on defense. But things could look tremendously different by the end of October. 2-5 is still quite possible.
Jon: What sort of tendencies does he seem to have in-game?
Cody: The most notable tendency is Herman's willingness to go for it on fourth down, even when Texas is in field goal range. Herman has some sort of analytical company that color-codes the projected success rate of going for it on fourth down and generally follows that. The 'Horns have already kept the special teams unit on the sidelines on fourth down nine times in four games.
(Ed. note: Given K-State’s periodic issues with stoning an offense on first and second down only to give up the sticks on third or fourth, this is a concern.)
Jon: Looking ahead, how do you feel about his first recruiting class?
Cody: For the most part, I couldn't find a complaint with his first full recruiting class if I wanted to. Texas lost some guys to flips that it wasn't supposed to land anyway, but Herman has dominated in-state recruiting and surprisingly went out of state and landed some elite talents, and I don't think he's done. I'd be surprised if this class doesn't finish top three.
Jon: Quarterback is a dicey proposition for the Horns this week, with Shane Buechele once again getting beaten up last Thursday. What's the word in Austin? Should we expect to see Sam Ehlinger or, heaven forfend, even some Jerrod Heard? And even if we get Buechele, should the K-State secondary be particularly worried at this point?
Cody: Buechele should be good to go. I wouldn't be surprised if he struggles and Ehlinger comes in for him, but that would be because Buechele is already a bit banged up and his offensive line has been horrible this season. Because of the latter, Kansas State's secondary shouldn't have too much to worry about because I don't see Buechele having much time to dissect a secondary.
Jon: Aside from the situation at quarterback, what do we need to know about the offense? What are the Longhorns running under Herman?
Cody: It's still a mystery that the coaching staff is trying to figure out and until then, the offense doesn't really have an identity. Because of the line struggling, the ground game has been virtually non-existent and as a result, defenses are able to drop extra bodies in coverage. Expect Texas to attempt to establish the run, but any success will likely come from deep shots or quick pitches to allow the playmakers to get into space.
Jon: Holton Hill is a beast, and that's a concern for a Wildcat passing game which is sketchy at best. What else is going on with the Texas defense, and what sets can we look for?
Cody: If there's one extremely bright spot with Texas right now, it's the defense. With Todd Orlando dialing up multiple blitz schemes that are generally difficult to anticipate prior to the snap, bodies are getting to the backfield. The sacks haven't exactly been there, but Texas is swallowing up the ground game with opponents averaging only 41 rushing yards the last three games. Beyond that, the pressure is forcing quarterbacks into rushed decisions and as a result, guys like Holton Hill and DeShon Elliott are catching more passes than Texas wide receivers (it seems).
(Ed. note: This also means it’s possible the Texas defense will over-pursue and leave Jesse Ertz free to slash them to pieces. This will be in interesting dynamic to track on Saturday.)
Jon: It's a night game at K-State's favorite road stadium. What should our fans who come to town be doing before raiding the parking lot for tailgates, and what are your A-1 recommendations for post-game debauchery?
Cody: Austin City Limits is this weekend and if you can't make it all day for the actual fest then you could still check out some night shows. Sixth Street is always a favorite as well. West Sixth after for the college crowd. Rainey for folks who want to relax on patios in a more low-key environment. If you want a more healthy, non-alcohol related weekend then you can check out some of Austin's sights — Mount Bonnel comes to mind. Also breakfast tacos. Migas is a must.
Jon: Finally, will K-State continue to hold scoreboard over every D-I team from Texas that it's ever actually played... or will the Horns pick up a rare win over the wizard?
Cody: Because of how well Texas' defense has performed and how mightily the offense has struggled, I think this is going to be a low-scoring affair. As you said, though, K-State's passing game is shaky and the 'Horns have completely shut down opposing run games, so I think the Texas hangs on 20-17.
Our thanks to Cody for exchanging Q&As this week. For a variety of reasons, we haven’t always been able to connect with BON for these, and it’s nice to finally make it work. You can follow Cody on Twitter @CodyDanielSBN, and the Burnt Orange Nation account @BON_SBNation.