Who: Texas Tech (3-1, 1-0) vs. Kansas State (2-2, 0-1)
Where: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kansas
When: Saturday, October 8, 6:00 p.m. (CT)
Media: ESPNU (TV), Texas Tech Radio Network (radio)
2015 Records: Texas Tech (7-6, 4-5), Kansas State (6-7, 3-6)
Coaches: Texas Tech (Kliff Kingsbury 22-20), Kansas State (Bill Snyder 195-103-1)
Series History: Texas Tech leads 9-7
Last Meeting: (Texas Tech 59, Kansas 44 on Nov. 11, 2015)
When Kansas State Has the Ball
K-State’s offense is not awful, but it is, on the whole, mediocre. The Wildcats have reasonably competent skill position players, but nobody who jumps out at you like a Collin Klein, a Darren Sproles, or a Kevin Lockett. There just isn’t much about KSU’s offense that strikes fear in the heart of defensive coordinators, but the Wildcats have just enough ammo to make Texas Tech’s habitually porous defense uneasy.
K-State’s offense, which scores 32 points per game and is No. 109 nationally in total offense, leans on the running game. Quarterback Jesse Ertz, who is typical of KSU signal callers in that he runs zone reads and option plays effectively, leads the Wildcats in rushing with 170 yards and a 4.6 yards per carry average. Charles Jones is a nondescript back in the mold of what we’ve seen from Oklahoma State of late. He has 143 rushing yards and averages 4.3 yards per tote.
Jesse Ertz is not much of a passing threat at all, and his completion percentage (48), and passing efficiency rating (117) corroborate what one sees in his performances.
The only KSU receiver who has double digits in catches is Deonte Burton, who has snagged 10 balls for 149 yards and a couple of TDs.
Despite the fact that K-State has only thrown the ball 102 times, the Wildcats are No. 88 nationally in sacks allowed. The KSU offensive line is still very much a work in progress.
Texas Tech should expect to see from Kansas State what they’ll see from most offenses, until the defense proves it can stop an offense with a pulse. And what that means is that the Wildcats will stick to their bread and butter, daring the Red Raiders to shut it down. K-State will attack with their sophisticated ground game, probing all areas of the line of scrimmage. Expect Tech to have seven or eight players in the box a good bit of the time, daring Ertz to make the Red Raiders pay.
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
As much as the Wildcat offense will attempt to slog it out in the trenches, Texas Tech’s scoring unit will air it out with tremendous frequency. The Red Raiders throw the rock 65 percent of the time, and many of the team’s rushes are pass plays in which Pat Mahomes elects to scramble.
Speaking of quarterback Pat Mahomes, the nation’s third most efficient passer seems unlikely to play against the Wildcats after suffering a shoulder injury last week against Kansas. But given the way backup Nic Shimonek played in Mahomes’ stead, Mahomes’ absence may be cold comfort for coach Snyder’s boys. Having played in only two games, Shimonek’s passer rating of 169 would put him at No. 13 nationally if he had enough passing attempts.
Shimonek is not the improvisation magician Mahomes is, but he knows and understands Kliff Kingsbury’s system almost as well as the coach himself, and will go deep into his reads before cutting one loose. Shimonek’s patience and confidence in the pocket could be almost as valuable as Mahomes’ miracles.
In Jonathan Giles, Texas Tech’s quarterbacks are fortunate enough to be throwing to the next Red Raider superstar receiver. Giles is presently No. 4 nationally in receiving yards per game (141), and No. 3 in touchdown receptions with seven. He’s fast, reliable, and an exceptional route-runner.
Texas Tech has assembled perhaps the nation’s most dangerous offense despite not fielding much of a ground game. The Red Raiders are No. 118 nationally in rushing offense with 117 yards per game.
Demarcus Felton leads Tech in rushing with 204 yards and 6.2 yards per carry. At this point it’s probably too early to say what Tech has in Felton, but if Mahomes is unable to return to the fold soon, Felton will certainly assume the overwhelming bulk of the carries.
Thus far in 2016 K-State has been all about defense. The Wildcats are No. 7 in scoring defense, No. 7 in rushing defense, No. 12 in pass defense, and No. 4 in total defense. KSU is also No. 2 in passing plays over 20 yards allowed, which suggests that explosive plays in the passing game may be scarce for Texas Tech, although the Red Raiders are at or near the top of the pile nationally in every explosive passing play metric.
One thing is sure--Texas Tech and Kansas State will know much more about their offense and defense respectively after this game is complete.