With the release of the first College Football Playoff Rankings of the season on Tuesday, basically every big game this week has been framed in that context. But don’t forget the conference races that will be decided first. The Big 12’s race towards Arlington, Texas, and the conference title game should be as compelling as any in November. These two teams, Texas and No. 16 Kansas State, are still in the running. However, neither team can afford any more losses. Their margin for error is pretty much gone. However, the Longhorns and Wildcats are approaching Saturday from two different perspectives. Kansas State is overachieving and looking to capitalize on a surprising season. Texas is trying to save its own from being completely flushed.
With so much on the line, what storylines do you need to focus on in Austin, Texas? We’ve got you covered with those, plus some expert picks both straight up and against the spread as the Longhorns look to bounce back with a big win over the Wildcats. This could be a huge opportunity for the ‘Horns to make a statement after falling out of the AP Top 25 and being out of the first CFP Rankings. Keep on reading for a full breakdown of the game, plus how to watch the Texas-Kansas State showdown on Saturday afternoon.
Texas: After their third loss of the season, a 37-27 stinker at TCU, some might be ready to turn out the lights on the Longhorns. It was quarterback Sam Ehlinger who declared Texas “back” last January, after all. But a repeat trip to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship Game is still possible. Texas gets Iowa State and Baylor later this month. It all starts on Saturday, though, and the open week right before this critical final stretch came at the perfect time. Ehlinger is coming off arguably his worst performance as a starter after throwing four picks against the Horned Frogs. Texas is getting healthier on defense, too, which is sorely needed. Safeties B.J. Foster and Caden Sterns are listed as probable while cornerback Jalen Green should be good to go as well. The Horns also expect to get freshman running back Jordan Whittington back on offense. Kansas State doesn’t exactly have the Big 12’s top passing attack — the Wildcats rank dead last in the conference — but the Horns desperately need bodies on defense.
Kansas State: At 6-2, it’s fair to say first-year coach Chris Klieman has already surpassed expectations. This team is bowl bound, has a top-notch win over Oklahoma that can define the rebuilding process and is playing with house money going into the final month of the year. Whether the Wildcats can make a legit run to Arlington will be apparent in this game. Back-to-back conference road trips are never easy, especially when the second opponent is coming off an open week. The question for K-State is whether it can continue to play the type of ball control, run-heavy, defensive-minded football that’s been its calling card over the past few weeks. Texas likes to open it up with big plays and quick strikes.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 9 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Royal Texas Memorial Stadium — Austin, Texas
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Game prediction, picks
You have to love what Klieman is doing in Manhattan, but this is a tough stretch of the season. Texas is coming off an open week and is healthier than it’s been since the start of the year. Desperation makes a dangerous team, too, and the Horns are backed into a corner. Put that all together and Texas finds a way to not only win, but cover. Pick: Texas -5.5
So what picks can you make with confidence in Week 11? And which line is way off, making it a must-back? Visit SportsLine to see which college football teams win and cover the spread, all from a proven computer model that has returned over $4,000 in profit over the past four seasons.