Texas nearly lost to Kansas last year, needing a last-minute Case McCoy-led touchdown drive to top the last-place Jayhawks in Lawrence. The Longhorns get them in Austin this time and need to take an early, lopsided lead to avoid another scare.
Texas has always had winning the Big 12 as one of its main goals this season but, after losing two of its first three games, the Longhorns have had to develop a much different mindset to keep their hopes of capturing a conference crown alive.
Marcus Johnson has burst onto the scene while Quandre Diggs is settling into his nickelback/rover role and Anthony Fera continues to be an extremely reliable place-kicker and punter. While Case McCoy and Johnathan Gray continue to keep the offense moving, McCoy needs to complete more passes and Gray will be looking to score more touchdowns.
Baylor is still atop the Big 12 power rankings but the Bears are about to begin a grueling end to their regular season. The Bears' high-powered offense will be tested, first by Oklahoma next Thursday, then by Texas Tech and Oklahoma State the two weeks after that.
If Tyrone Swoopes gets plenty of snaps like most Longhorns fans are clamoring for him to, Kansas might be able to close the gap enough to cover the lofty four-touchdown spread set for Texas' game this weekend.
James Sims could have another 1,000-yard season this year, especially if he has a game against Texas like the 129-yard, two-touchdown one he had against Oklahoma last month. Jimmay Mundine leads the Jayhawks with four touchdown catches and Isaiah Johnson has a team-high 53 tackles this year.
It all starts up front, according to the man who has turned Texas' defensive fortunes around — defensive coordinator Greg Robinson. The Longhorns' front four has been the Big 12's best since conference play began, and it hasn't been close.
Jake Heaps lost his job at starting quarterback for the first time in his career when Riley Nelson replaced him atop the BYU depth chart two years ago. Now with Kansas playing for Charlie Weis, Heaps returns to Austin to take another shot at taking down the Longhorns he nearly beat in 2011.
Stanford lost a defensive leader in Ben Gardner for the season this week while Connor Shaw is questionable this week for South Carolina and Florida Atlantic head coach Carl Pelini, Bo's brother, resigned, along with his defensive coordinator.
Being a four-touchdown favorite this weekend, Texas predictably has a big edge over Kansas at virtually every position. If it weren't for the Longhorns' below-average kickoff coverage, they would have the advantage over the Jayhawks at each spot.