<
>

Texas facing tricky challenge in Lawrence

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

The most important Big 12 game today will be the first one. Texas travels to Kansas in the only game in the conference today with any real Bowl Championship Series consequences.

The Longhorns need a convincing win over the Jayhawks and some style points along the way wouldn't hurt. And Texas struggled in an almost identical situation four seasons ago.

In 2004, Texas needed some heroics from Vince Young and a questionable offensive pass-interference call on Charles Gordon to escape with a 27-23 victory in that game. Kansas coach Mark Mangino complained bitterly and was even fined by the Big 12 for his postgame comments, but the Longhorns kept winning and later advanced to their first BCS berth that season.

It will be a similarly bitter-cold day at Memorial Stadium, but I'm betting that's where the coincidences end. The Longhorns should have a decided advantage in the trenches, even though they will be missing starting center Chris Hall with a sprained knee. Freshman David Snow gets his first career start.

Texas sack specialist Brian Orakpo is listed as questionable for the game, as is Lamarr Houston. But I still think Texas' substitutes should be able to generate enough pressure to keep Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing discombobulated, particularly if the Jayhawks don't protect him any better than they did against Nebraska's defensive front last week.

The Kansas game is also important because of the North Division title ramifications for later in the evening. If Texas can win, it will provide Missouri a chance to wrap up its second-straight Big 12 North title-game berth by winning at Iowa State.

So I'm betting that the Longhorns have a lot of fans in the "Show-Me State" for the next few hours.

Kickoff is just around the corner, so let's go check it out.