Who: Texas Tech (5-5, 2-5) versus Kansas State (3-5, 0-5)
Where: Lubbock, Texas, Jones AT&T Stadium
When: Saturday, November 14, 2:30 (CT)
Media: Fox Sports 1 (TV); Texas Tech Sports Network (radio)
Coaches: Texas Tech, Kliff Kingsbury (17-18); Kansas State, Bill Snyder (190-99-1)
Series: Texas Tech leads 8-7; most recent, 2014, Kansas State 45, Texas Tech 13
When Kansas State Has the Ball
To call the Kansas State offense ordinary would be charitable. The Wildcats, who normally run the football exceedingly well under Bill Snyder, have been pedestrian in that area in 2015. KSU is No. 72 nationally in rushing offense, and No. 88 in rushing yards per carry (4.04). Kansas State’s primary rushing threats are running back Charles Jones who has rushed for 378 yards and averages five yards per carry, and quarterback Joe Hubener (pictured below) who has 411 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns. Hubener is a tall strider with deceptive speed and the characteristic KSU toughness.
A normal defense would not be threatened by the Wildcat rushing game, but the Texas Tech defense is anything but normal. Suffice it to say that the Red Raiders are near the bottom of the heap in virtually every meaningful statistical category, and that includes run defense where Tech is ranked No. 126 and is giving up 274 rushing yards per outing. What’s more, rushing offenses that have struggled the entire season inevitably put it all together against the Red Raiders. West Virginia, which rushed for 300 yards against Texas Tech last weekend, is a case in point.
Kliff Kingsbury has stated that Kansas State is happy to “run it every down,” and will let the clock “run down to the last second.” He also noted that the Wildcats are happy to take three yards per carry, and that they “try to get you out of your game,” which in Tech’s case, means a fast pace and lots of points.
So there will be no surprises on this side of the matchup. Even though Kansas State’s rushing attack is not terribly impressive, the Wildcats will run the football and keep running it until Texas Tech proves it can stop the run. If the Red Raiders cannot, it will be an ugly game for the scarlet and black.
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
Fortunately for the Red Raiders, K-State’s defense hasn’t been a whole heck of a lot better than Texas Tech’s. And this is a bit surprising because some of those Wildcat defenders can play. Linebackers Elijah Lee and Will Davis are good; safety Sean Newlan is a physical run-stopping safety; tackles Will Geary and Travis Britz are rugged inside; cornerback Morgan Burns is a speedster; Danzell McDaniel, the other corner, hit like linebackers, and Duke Shelley may be the best freshman defensive back in the Big 12.
Still, KSU’s defense has struggled. The Wildcats are No. 84 in scoring defense (29.1 points per game), No. 119 in passing defense, No. 94 in total defense, and No. 97 in third down conversion defense. This latter is significant because Texas Tech’s offense leads the nation in third down efficiency.
K-State does play well against the run, however, ranking No. 36 nationally.
But don’t look for the Red Raiders to run it a whole lot against the Wildcats. KSU’s surprisingly porous secondary will tempt Kliff Kingsbury and Patrick Mahomes to air it out; if Tech’s unreliable receivers don’t drop too many passes, the Red Raiders will score regularly in this one.
The lone caveat here is the very real possibility that KSU’s offense scores touchdowns on the end of 15-play drives that drain seven minutes off the clock. If the Wildcats succeed in that endeavor, Tech’s offense won’t get many opportunities and may never find a rhythm.
The Pick: Texas Tech 40, Kansas State 32