Texas Tech (6-1) at Kansas State (7-0) Oct 27, 3:30, FOX
Here's The Deal: Welcome to the spotlight, Kansas State.
The Wildcats got plenty of national respect with a good win over Oklahoma, and blowing away Miami early on was interesting, but it's not like Collin Klein was going to be No. 1 on too many Heisman ballots last week at this time, and no one was realistically thinking about putting them into the national title discussion. And then came a dominant, nationally-televised win over an overblown and overrated West Virginia team, helped by a near-perfect, Heisman-like game from Klein, giving the team so much juice that it jumped over Oregon into the coveted No. 3, fate-in-own-hands spot in the BCS rankings. But now Kansas State is the hunted, and now it has to prove that it can live up to the loftiest and highest expectations. Now this has turned serious. Now, Kansas State isn't just the little program that could.
Texas Tech wants what Kansas State has.
The Red Raiders aren't in the national title chase with a loss to Oklahoma a few weeks ago, but they can be front and center in the Big 12 championship hunt and Seth Doege can take over the front-runner spot in the Heisman chase with a win. Texas Tech exposed West Virginia before Kansas State did, only it didn't get the love and respect for it on a national scale – it was sort of swept under the rug, almost dismissed because of the quirky nature of the program over the years. But this time around, Tech has a real live defense to go along with a productive running game and good special teams. Tommy Tuberville has rebounded in a big way, and if beating the Mountaineers wasn't splashy enough, beating the No. 3 team in the nation on its home turf would qualify.
While it seems like the Big 12 has been around forever, Texas Tech and Kansas State, former members of the Southwest Conference and Big 8, respectively, have only played each other 12 times with the first matchup coming in 1933, when KSU was in the Big 6 and Tech was in the Border Conference. Last year, the Wildcats won a 41-34 thriller, but the Red Raiders won the previous five games, mostly in wild blowouts. If this is a double-digit win on either side, this year, it's going to be a really big deal.
Why Texas Tech Might Win: Texas Tech does a lot of the same things as Kansas State to win, only in different ways. Kansas State needs to own the time of possession battle, but the Red Raiders are terrific at controlling the clock, holding on to the ball almost as much per game. The Wildcats live on third down conversion percentage, holding on to it 53.95% of the time, but the Red Raiders are fifth in the nation at it converting 54.26% of the time. Tech isn't Kansas State in turnover margin with a few too many interceptions against Iowa State and Oklahoma State, but it's not awful.
The Red Raiders might have the right fit overall to get past the Wildcats. The run defense is the real deal with a smart, strong back seven that doesn't give up a slew of big runs, and unlike West Virginia or Miami, it can actually tackle. The passing game is clicking well enough spread the KSU secondary, but there's also a good enough running game to balance out the attack if needed. This is a versatile team that's doing a little of everything right. Basically, this is West Virginia with a defense.
Why Kansas State Might Win: 143 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. That's what Geno Smith did last week against the Kansas State defense, and while he was able to move the chains a bit, he wasn't able to connect on anything big. The Wildcats allowed Smith to complete his throws and then blasted away; they can do that against the Texas Tech passing game. They had the same luck against Landry Jones and the Oklahoma passing game that came up with a few more decent plays than West Virginia could, but there weren't any gamebreakers. Yes, Texas Tech has a running game, but when the passing attack bogs down, it really doesn't work. Against Oklahoma, Doege threw three picks and sputtered for just 203 yards.
The Red Raiders might be doing all the little things right, but turnover margin will be a big deal. Kansas State just doesn't give the ball away, with a mere four turnovers on the season, while Texas Tech isn't forcing any fumbles recovering just three on the year. There were three takeaways against TCU to get the win in overtime, and there were four to get by Iowa State, but that's about it for the really big plays. Even if KSU is +1, that might be the difference in a game where even one slip should matter.
What To Watch Out For: Is Seth Doege ready to be a Heisman candidate? Texas Tech quarterbacks never, ever, ever get into the discussion no matter what the numbers, but this year, with no real candidates other than Klein, things could be different. Doege threw for 499 yards and six scores against West Virginia and last week threw seven scoring passes in the overtime win over TCU. With five touchdown passes in four of the seven games this season – he only threw five touchdown passes once last season - he's putting up the numbers, and now he has a chance to come up with the big win to get everyone's attention. Last year he threw for a 2011-high 461 yards against the Wildcats, but he threw three picks with just one score in the loss. This year, it's Klein's Heisman for the taking, but it could be Doege's to take away.
What Will Happen: Kansas State will get by, but it'll be a major fight. Doege will get his yards, but he'll also throw two key picks that'll end up making the difference. Klein won't have a Heisman-worthy game, but running back John Hubert will pick up the slack on offense and the defense will do just enough to slow down the Red Raider attack.
CFN Prediction: Kansas State 24 … Texas Tech 20
Line: Kansas State -7 O/U: 60
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Girl, 1 – Don't Trust The B In Apt. 23): 4.5
Week 9 - Texas Tech at Kansas State
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