Who: Texas Tech (2-1, 0-0) vs. Kansas (1-2, 0-0)
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m. (CT)
Media: Fox Sports 1 (TV), Texas Tech Radio Network (radio)
Returning Starters: Texas Tech (12), Kansas (12)
2015 Records: Texas Tech (7-6, 4-5), Kansas (0-12)
Coaches: Texas Tech (Kliff Kingsbury 21-20), Kansas (David Beaty 1-14)
Series History: Texas Tech leads 16-1
Last Meeting: (Texas Tech 30, Kansas 20, October 17, 2015)
Parking Note: Link to important info
When Kansas Has the Ball
A Jayhawk offense that is much worse than its stats would indicate, will joust with a Texas Tech defense that may or may not be as awful as its statistical profile. Thus, somebody will lose a mask in this one.
The KU offense is No. 79 nationally in scoring offense and No. 95 in total offense—unimpressive positions—but the truth is actually much worse. Those numbers are skewed by the Jayhawks’ opening game in which they pasted Rhode Island, one of the worst FCS programs in the country, by a score of 55-6, putting up 570 yards of offense in the process.
In the real world, Kansas’ quarterback situation, featuring Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis, is as bad as any I’ve seen in college football. Statistically, neither quarterback seems that dreadful, but part of that has to do with the Rhode Island effect, and that neither quarterback has thrown the ball all much. Combined, Cozart and Willis have passed the ball 98 times; Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes has thrown it 132 times, and he barely saw the field in the second half of the Stephen F. Austin game.
The reality, which Texas Tech’s defense had better make apparent, is that Willis has limited ability, while Cozart seems lost most of the time and panics badly under pressure. Combine this reality with the fact that KU has only two receivers—Steven Sims and LaQuvionte Gonzalez—in triple-digits for receiving yardage, and it becomes clear that the Jayhawks will have to run the football to have a ghost of a chance in this game.
Backs Ke’aun Kinner and Khalil Herbert average 5.6 and 7.6 yard per carry respectively, but they have only 36 carries between them. Still, that duo, playing behind a very competent offensive line, looks like a better deal than counting on Cozart and Willis to suddenly become good college quarterbacks.
If the Texas Tech defense, which presently ranks No. 124 both in total and scoring defense, cannot shut down Kansas, the remainder of the season will not be pretty.
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders have no such questions or worries on the offensive side of the football.
Led by quarterback Pat Mahomes, who may very well be the best player in college football, Texas Tech ranks near the top of the stack in most significant offensive categories. The Red Raiders rank No. 14 in red zone TD conversion, No. 2 in scoring offense, No. 1 in passing offense, and No. 2 in total offense. And while Texas Tech’s rushing rank is in triple digits, that ground game has punched in 10 touchdowns, which is a very respectable No. 27 in the nation.
Stopping Mahomes is a supreme challenge for great defenses, and for poor defenses an impossibility. He averages 498 passing yards per contest, has thrown 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions, and completes 71 percent of his passes. He has also rushed for 138 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 4.2 yards per carry. As a quarterback, there’s little he can’t do.
Mahomes has plenty of targets, too. Texas Tech has eight receivers who already have triple-digit receiving yardage. They are Jonathan Giles, Devin Lauderdale, Cameron Batson, Dylan Cantrell, Justin Stockton (a running back), Derrick Willies, Ian Sadler and Reggie Davis.
Kansas is actually No. 5 nationally in pass defense, and No. 13 in pass defense efficiency, but the Jayhawks haven’t faced a passing attack remotely as explosive and deep as Texas Tech’s. After playing Mahomes and the Red Raiders, those rankings will have plummeted like a zinc Frisbee.
Texas Tech’s ground game is a bit of an afterthought that sometimes gets lost in the fumes created by the Red Raider aerial assault. But in Demarcus Felton, who rushed for 123 yards on only 16 carries against Louisiana Tech, coach Kingsbury may have found the missing ingredient to turn an already lethal offense into a toxic brew of strychnine, cyanide and mamba venom. All in all, it will be more than enough to spell curtains for the KU defense.