AUSTIN, Texas -- Don't look now but there appears to be some optimism around No. 23 Texas.
Oh wait, that's just Kansas.
Yep, the Big 12's panacea is up next. And the game couldn't come soon enough for Texas. The Longhorns, fresh with perhaps a false sense of confidence after not-so-thoroughly dispatching Baylor, 56-50, need a game in which the defense can rule the day as well as perhaps playing some young guys.
Kansas sets up perfectly for just that. The Jayhawks, coached by Charlie Weis, who Mack Brown said is a great, not good coach, are actually not all that great. Statistically, at least. Or in the record books. Kansas is 0-4 in the Big 12. The Jayhawks are 89th in total offense and 85th in total defense. The thing they do the best is run the ball. They are 49th nationally in rushing yards per game with 180 yards per game. In addition, James Sims is back after a suspension and rushed for 102 yards against Oklahoma.
Now that does not dovetail too great with what Texas does not do well, defend the run. The Longhorns have given up 1,065 rushing yards in just the last four games. But again, there is some optimism.
While Texas did give up 255 yards on the ground to Baylor, 69 of that was to the quarterback. Kansas does not have a quarterback who can run the ball. Or a quarterback at all. Dayne Crist was benched after throwing for 13 yards against Oklahoma. Redshirt freshman Michael Cummings threw for 111 yards and two interceptions in relief.
Plus, Kansas is not a team that can spread a defense out. That is where Texas has been victimized over the past four weeks, teams have spread the defense out and then gone up the gut.
The Jayhawks' offense, which Carrington Byndom classified as pro style, tries and run the ball right up the gut to set up the pass. Texas' defense is much more apt to have success against teams like that because it has more talent in a confined space. Where Texas gets in trouble is when its talent is spread out all over the field and has to figure out where to go.
This week there will be no deception and much fewer holes because the defense will be more secure in where the ball is and how to keep it in front of it. There is also the added bonus that when not faced with a physical gifted athlete or even strong athlete, Texas has proven that he can tackle. At least it did against Baylor.
"We did tackle better," Brown said. "Not to say we are a great tackling team. But it did improve."
Linebacker Steve Edmond, while being outrun by BU quarterback Nick Florence, did have his best game, according to coaches. He forced a fumble and led the team with 10 tackles. That type of game could propel him to be more confident in what he is doing on the field this week.
And it is almost a given that his confidence will only grow throughout and after the Kansas game. That is unless, that great not good coach, Charlie Weis suddenly figures out what to do on offense with a redshirt freshman quarterback. That is doubtful given that KU has not scored more than 25 points since the first game of the season when it scored 31 in a win against South Dakota State.
So it stands to reason that Edmond will enjoy some success. It also stands to reason that players such as Peter Jinkens and Dalton Santos, two linebackers who have had to try and feel their way through the more complex offenses in the Big 12, will have an opportunity to play significant minutes and gain much-needed confidence.
That should help Texas as it continues to struggle with the injury to Jordan Hicks -- Brown said Hicks is running but not ready to believe he will be back -- and as Texas tries to build at least a modicum of consistency and depth on defense before it faces teams such as Texas Tech, TCU and Kansas State.