Much of the attention around the Texas football program heading into Week 10 has been focused on the quarterback position.

And that’s understandable. With starter Quinn Ewers injured, many fans hollering to see famed prospect Arch Manning step in, and the coaches instead giving the job to a different 5-star signal-caller in Maalik Murphy, there is certainly a lot to talk about.

But when the No. 7 Longhorns take the field against a dangerous No. 23 Kansas State team on Saturday (Noon ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), it could very well be a running back who makes the difference.

The player in question is Jonathon Brooks, who stepped in for departed star Bijan Robinson and hasn’t missed a beat. 

Brooks is averaging 115 yards per game for Texas and, according to PFF, has forced a Division I-leading 58 missed tackles, which leads all Power 5 running backs.

“As much as he’s running really good, hard yards between the tackles, he’s a home run hitter for us now, too,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said earlier this week. “I don’t know if everybody appreciated that about him coming into the season.”

Longhorns fans will appreciate Brooks plenty if he helps lead the Longhorns to victory in a weekend filled with massive postseason implications, including in the Big 12.


FOX Sports college football experts Michael Cohen, Laken Litman and Bryan Fischer share what they’ll be looking for in this game, plus a host of other great Week 10 matchups on Saturday.

No. 25 Kansas State at No. 7 Texas (Noon ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app)

Laken Litman: Is the Big 12 up for grabs? Depending on what happens this weekend in Austin, it might be.

Up until Kansas pulled off an upset over Oklahoma last week, most of the talk when it came to this conference was centered around Texas and OU. The Longhorns and Sooners are on a farewell tour through the league before they leave for the SEC next year, and up until this point, they also appeared to be on a collision course for a rematch in the Big 12 championship game.

But Kansas State, the reigning conference champion, looks dangerous right now. It’s 6-2 with losses against Missouri (7-1, ranked No. 12 in the first College Football Playoff rankings) and Oklahoma State (6-2, ranked No. 22). The Wildcats have a two-quarterback system between veteran Will Howard and freshman Avery Johnson that’s been working well, they boast the nation’s No. 5 rushing attack (226.0 yards per game) led by DJ Giddens and Treshaun Ward, and have a defense that just shut out Houston 41-0 last weekend.

“This is a really hot team right now,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said this week. “They’ve been playing as good as anybody in the country in all three phases for the last 2-3 weeks.”

Chris Klieman has his team clicking as it enters November. Kansas State has won in Austin before, and could very well do so again if the Longhorns aren’t careful.

Bryan Fischer: If you gave truth serum to Texas fans while asking questions about the move to the SEC, chances are they might mention that one of the best benefits might be not having to play Kansas State anymore. The Wildcats have seemingly been a thorn in the side of the ‘Horns since the Big 12 was formed, and the fact that six of their last seven games have come down to one possession underscores that. 

It also feels like KSU is catching Texas at the right time, with the former hitting their stride with the league’s top-scoring defense, complemented by an offense that has scored 38-plus in three straight. This group is looking and playing better than it did a year ago and is the best red-zone team in the Power 5.

Texas, meanwhile, is not quite at full strength given the injury to QB Quinn Ewers. Backup Maalik Murphy has been solid as a fill-in — and has a cannon of an arm — but isn’t the reason why the offense was able to roll last week against BYU. He will have to elevate his game considerably against a stout defense if UT wants to continue the program’s best start since 2009.

RJ Young previews No. 23 Kansas State vs. No. 7 Texas

Michael Cohen: Despite the fact that Saturday’s game will be played in Austin, everything about the matchup between Kansas State and Texas feels ripe for an upset. The Wildcats (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) were a trendy preseason pick to win the Big 12 after securing the school’s first league title in a decade last season, and it was easy to see why: The Wildcats have one of the best coaches in the country in Klieman, who won four FCS national titles at North Dakota State; they returned an experienced quarterback in Howard, whose touchdown-to-interception ratio exceeded three-to-one last season; and they are in Year 3 of the 3-3-5 defensive system implemented by Klieman and defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman in 2021. 

But then Kansas State lost its third game of the year at Missouri and its fifth game of the year at Oklahoma State — two losses that, at the time, looked far worse than they do now. In hindsight, neither of those losses is particularly damning.

Even with those defeats, it’s difficult to dispute how statistically sound and balanced Klieman’s team has been this season, which is generally a harbinger of long-term success. Through eight games, Kansas State is scoring more points (36.9 points per game) and allowing fewer points (18.1 PPG) than the team that won the Big 12 title last season. The Wildcats are one of just five Power 5 programs with a top-15 scoring offense and a top-15 scoring defense, pairing them with Georgia, Michigan, Oregon and Penn State. (Notre Dame, which is not affiliated with a conference, is also in that group). K-State has won three straight games by at least 15 points with a turnover differential of plus-6 during that span. The Wildcats have outscored their last two opponents — Houston and Texas Christian — by a combined score of 82-3. 

The Longhorns have plenty of reasons to be wary.

No. 14 Missouri at No. 1 Georgia (3:30 p.m. ET)

Bryan: By ranking, it would seem that Missouri would have one of the best chances to knock off Georgia, but this is a sport that is also based on timing, and it feels all wrong for the Tigers to do just that. Don’t get me wrong, Eli Drinkwitz has been great in leading his team to its first-ever CFP ranking. Honestly, Brady Cook might be the best quarterback in the league to this point, and will certainly be the best the Bulldogs have faced this year.

The problem, again, is timing. This Mizzou team gave Georgia one of their few scares on the way to the national title, something Kirby Smart is bound to bring up. Smart is also likely to fire up his team by noting they didn’t come in first in those CFP rankings — underscoring a current of doubt that seems to be present in the program despite little external doubt about how good they are. And finally, the game is in Athens, where Mizzou last won in 2013 — their only win over UGA.

‘Georgia is scary’ – Joel Klatt on Carson Beck

Michael: In a business where coaches are judged on wins and losses, discussions about moral victories or hard-fought defeats are often brushed aside before they can really begin. It’s certainly more humbling to lose by 40 than it is to lose by four, but the “L” on the schedule counts the same in both cases. Still, it’s fair to wonder if Drinkwitz will draw some motivation from last year’s 26-22 loss to No. 1 Georgia, the only one-score game the Bulldogs played throughout the entire regular season. Perhaps that game proved the Tigers are good enough to pull an upset against a 2023 Georgia team that most agree is not as talented as the ones head coach Kirby Smart had the last two years.

But history suggests a win over the Bulldogs, who are favored by more than two touchdowns, might be a bridge too far for Missouri, even though they’ve already beaten Kansas State and then No. 24 Kentucky this season. The Tigers are 0-17 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 in the country. The victory Drinkwitz and Co. are most likely to score this weekend might be of the frustrating moral variety.

Laken: A year ago, Missouri nearly pulled off the upset of the season by beating Georgia. The Bulldogs finished with a perfect 15-0 record, which was capped by a second consecutive national title. 

While The Dawgs haven’t looked that dominant, quarterback Carson Beck has the offense rolling despite not having star playmaker Brock Bowers (ankle) available. Receiver Ladd McConkey and backup tight end Oscar Delp have stepped up in Bowers’ absence and made plays.

However, the Tigers are 7-1 and ranked No. 12 in the CFP. Their lone loss of the year was in a back-and-forth affair against LSU. They have a veteran quarterback in Cook, who is completing nearly 70% of his passes, has thrown 15 touchdowns to just three interceptions this year, and can make plays with his legs. 

This could be a close one. But Georgia, ranked No. 2 in the first CFP rankings, has something to prove against the best team it has faced all year.

Georgia dominates on both ends of the field against Florida

No. 9 Penn State at Maryland (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app)

Michael: Can one throw change the trajectory for Penn State quarterback Drew Allar? A ballyhooed former five-star recruit, Allar laid an egg in his team’s biggest game of the season at Ohio State two weeks ago. Allar, who is in his first season as the Nittany Lions’ starter, completed just 18 of 42 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown against the Buckeyes and fought back tears in his postgame news conference. A good chunk of his yardage and his only passing score of the afternoon came on Penn State’s final drive. 

A week later, Allar made perhaps the best throw of his career in a surprisingly narrow 33-24 win over Indiana. With the game knotted at 24-24 in the waning moments, Allar uncorked a 57-yard touchdown to wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith against tight coverage for what proved to be the winning score. It was the kind of throw Penn State fans have been waiting for amid a season of conservatism from Allar, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich and head coach James Franklin. Perhaps that throw will be remembered as the moment that elevated Allar to the next level in his development.

Laken: Penn State needs a convincing win this weekend before it hosts Michigan the next. The last two games haven’t been the Nittany Lions’ best performances, with a rough loss to Ohio State followed by a sloppy win over Indiana.

Maryland, meanwhile, is coming off an embarrassing 33-27 loss to 4-4 Northwestern last Saturday. The Terrapins have a middling defense that’s giving up 231.3 passing yards per game, so this would be an ideal time for Allar to make a few plays through the air and gain confidence before the Wolverines come to town.

Bryan: This feels like a perfect “get right” spot for both these teams who were trendy dark horses in the Big Ten East coming in. Penn State’s defense has helped carry the team, but the offense has really looked like it has no solutions in the passing game and Allar is still figuring out how to be the guy. Maryland has lost three straight and gone from eyeing a potential nine-win breakthrough campaign to suddenly being a tad nervous about getting to a bowl. The Nittany Lions better not be looking ahead to that Michigan game, and it will be interesting to see just how focused they come out for this one in a tricky spot.

Drew Allar comes up big for Penn State vs. Indiana

No. 10 Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (3:30 p.m. ET)

Laken: The worst thing about conference realignment is the dissolution of some of the sport’s best rivalries. Saturday marks the final Bedlam until further notice because Oklahoma is moving to the SEC next year. We know how Mike Gundy feels about this, which means we also know that this showdown is going to be spicy.

What makes it even better is that both teams are ranked. In the first CFP rankings of the year, OU is No. 9 and Oklahoma State is No. 22. The Sooners are coming off an unacceptable loss to Kansas last week, while the Cowboys had a bumpy start to the season with losses to South Alabama and Iowa State before turning things around. Now that each side has experienced some adversity, it’s ready to begin November with a clean slate. And bragging rights are on the line.

Bryan: I’m more sad tuning in for this one than anything, knowing just how much Bedlam means to alums of both schools and having been to a number of in-state rivalry games that have ended over the years due to conference realignment. On top of the emotions that are sure to be present in Stillwater, this is also what amounts to a Big 12 title game semifinal given some of the tie-breakers in play, too. Sooners LB Danny Stutsman’s availability will be key to stopping an offense that has really found a grove behind Ollie Gordon II’s ability to rack up yards between the tackles. Anything feels like it can happen in this one and even if OU were at full strength for kickoff, it may be that the team which has the ball last is going to be the winner.

Michael: One of college football’s oldest and most iconic rivalries is gearing up for its final chapter ahead of Oklahoma’s move to the SEC next season. The “Bedlam” series between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State dates back to 1904 — which is three years before Oklahoma was admitted to the Union — and has been played every season since 1910. That places “Bedlam” in a tie for the second-longest uninterrupted rivalry in the country (113 years) behind MinnesotaWisconsin (116 consecutive years), and level with Wake ForestN.C. State.

But the irony of the series between the Sooners and Cowboys is that it’s always been a heavily one-sided affair. Oklahoma holds an overall edge of 91-19-7, highlighting the power imbalance between the programs. Recent results have been no different, with the Sooners winning 17 of the last 20, including seven of the last eight, and outscoring Oklahoma State by an average of 13 points per game during that stretch. So if there was ever a time for Cowboys’ head coach Mike Gundy, who is one of the most colorful figures in the sport, to open his bag of tricks in search of a famous victory, Saturday’s game in Stillwater would be the perfect opportunity to punctuate the rivalry.

No. 5 Washington at No. 24 USC (7:30 p.m. ET)

Bryan: Which Washington are we going to see for this one? If it’s the one that was blowing teams out of the water with an unmatched aerial attack thanks to the arm of Michael Penix Jr., then watch out because this could get really ugly, really fast. If it’s not that version of the Huskies, then they are clearly ripe for the upset based on recent form against ASU and Stanford. As bad as the Trojans defense has been, the offense has held USC back just as much. It wouldn’t shock anybody if Lincoln Riley and Caleb Williams embrace the prime-time lights and a packed L.A. Coliseum to pull off the upset if UW isn’t at their best.

Michael: A penny for the thoughts of USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch this week as he prepares to face the No. 1 passing offense in the country (399 yards per game) while getting lambasted by fans and media members across the country for the Trojans’ horrific performances on that side of the ball. USC’s defense enters the weekend having surrendered an average of 42.6 points per game over its last five games — an inexcusable number that ranks second-to-last among FBS programs and last in the Pac-12 during that span. The Trojans are 105th nationally in passing defense and have allowed eight plays of 50-plus yards, which is tied for 124th overall. None of that is encouraging when welcoming Penix to Los Angeles this weekend. Among the Heisman Trophy frontrunners, Penix bounced back from his only poor performance of the season in a 15-7 win over ASU two weeks ago to throw for 369 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-33 victory against Stanford last Saturday. Washington is the only team in the country with two wide receivers averaging at least 100 yards per game this season in Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk, so the numbers Penix puts up this weekend might be terrifying against a defense bereft of confidence.

Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. links with Rome Odunze on a 17-yard TD

Laken: This one could get ugly. The matchup we have here is: Washington — the most explosive offense in the country behind Penix at quarterback — against USC, which has one of the worst defenses in the country. Grinch has put together a unit this year that’s ranked 114th in total defense (420.9 yards per game, 5.9 yards per play), 106th in passing defense (248.8 YPG, made just six interceptions, given up 22 touchdowns), 106th in rushing defense (172.1 YPG), and 113th in scoring defense (32.6 PPG).

USC may be 7-2, but its last five games have looked like this: needed triple overtime to beat unranked Arizona (who, to be fair, recently beat Washington State and Oregon State); that was followed by a 28-point road loss to Notre Dame; then a two-point loss to Utah; and last week, it beat Cal by one point.

Now, Penix comes to town.

Michael Cohen covers college football and basketball for FOX Sports with an emphasis on the Big Ten. Follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.

Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of “Strong Like a Woman,” published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets such as NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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