Posted: Tuesday December 20, 2005 3:44PM; Updated: Tuesday December 20, 2005 3:44PM
Bowl Breakdown: Fort Worth
No. 11 Kansas (6-5) vs. Houston (6-5)
Dec. 23, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Amon G. Carter Stadium (44,003)
Fort Worth, Texas
SI.com's Cory McCartney analyzes the matchup.
Breaking down Kansas
All-Big 12 defensive end Charlton Keith (right), led the conference with 1.68 tackles-for-loss per game.
Defensively, not many teams are better than the Jayhawks. Linebacker Nick Reid and defensive end Charlton Keith lead a unit that's ranked 19th in the nation in total defense and is third against the run. But the offense has been missing in action all season; Kansas averages just 310 yards per game, 102nd in the nation.
Jason Swanson, who was intercepted 10 times and threw just three touchdown passes, will remain the Jayhawks' starting quarterback -- even after Brian Luke rallied the team to its bowl-clinching win over Iowa State. KU's most dynamic player, cornerback/receiver/punt returner Charles Gordon, may miss the game with a shoulder injury.
Breaking down Houston
The Cougars are everything that Kansas isn't -- on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Houston is 14th in the nation, averaging 456.5 yards a game behind quarterback Kevin Kolb,who has thrown for 3,034 yards and 19 touchdowns. While Kolb may be one of the nation's top passers, he's also one of its most erratic; he's thrown 12 interceptions and can be forced into making bad plays.
Houston's wide-open offense is at its best when it can find a balance, and that will be pivotal against a tough Kansas defense. That means getting Ryan Gilbert, who ran for 1,030 yards and nine touchdowns, the ball early and often. Kolb & Co. must take pressure off a Cougars defense that has given up 384.6 yards a game.
This is a big game in the new-look Conference USA's search for respect, but the Jayhawks' defense will give Houston's wide-open attack fits. Kansas held pass-happy Nebraska to 138 total yards and kept Texas Tech 131 yards below its season average.