Jarret Johnson has Texas Tech covered at RaiderPower.com, so we went right to the source for ideas on slowing Tech's potent offense, as well as some up-to-the-minute feedback on its defense and the mood of the fanbase in Lubbock.
Q: Texas Tech's defense has obviously been a problem this year. Have you seen any signs of improvement, or items that the Red Raider coaching staff can build upon for the remainder of the season?
Johnson: Texas Tech's defense has been historically bad for years and has had its fair share of trouble this season, especially against Arizona State in Tempe. That being said the defense has indeed shown improvement recently. That may be due to playing Kansas and Kansas State the past two weeks, but the Red Raider defense has surrendered just 49 points combined in those games as the Wildcats scored touchdowns on a pick-six and a 99-yard kickoff return. After surrendering 43 points a contest last season, this is a sign of improvement.
The defensive line is actually better and deeper than it has been in years, especially on the interior. Not many teams are gashing Tech up the middle but are definitely having a lot of success off tackle, which is how I expect Holgorsen to attack Saturday.
The linebackers are very young but true freshman Jordyn Brooks has started every game, leads Tech in tackles and is improving week-to-week. There is very little depth here so any injury here could be catastrophic for the Red Raiders.
The secondary got a boost from the return of cornerback Paul Banks last week. He and nickel Justis Nelson are both solid. Whomever plays the other corner spot can be got. Safety Jah'Shawn Johnson is one of Tech's leaders on defense and Kisean Allen has done an adequate job at the other safety spot filling in for injured starter Keenon Ward.
The Red Raiders have to start creating more turnovers (only five this season) if they want to take the next step.
Overall, the feeling is Tech's defense did enough to win last week in Manhattan and is improving. I want to see how this defense performs against Oklahoma (Oct. 28) before I am fully convinced.
Q: Is there one key to the Tech offense, or to at least slowing it? Dropping extra defenders into coverage doesn't seem to help, but it did look like Kansas State was able to get some pressure in the second half of last week's game that contributed to some of the Wildcats' success.
Johnson: The only way to stop Tech in my opinion is to get pressure on Mahomes, but you have to be disciplined. If you get out of your rush lanes he'll either dance behind the line of scrimmage and bomb away to a very talented stable of receivers or scamper for first downs all night long. It's very important to get pressure up the middle on him and then clean up with rushers, either defensive ends or blitzers, off the edge.
Despite putting up amazing numbers, the offense by Tech's standard has struggled some, especially in third quarters. Mahomes is also battling back from a shoulder injury suffered against Kansas and was obviously not the same in the second half last week against Kansas State as he was in the first half.
Tech's offensive line has been wildly inconsistent as it has allowed too many sacks and while at times leaned on teams in the running game, has also struggled in key short yardage situations.
The receiving corps as I mentioned above is outstanding. If any position group has performed well, it's been this one. It's at least three-deep at all four positions stacked with absolute playmakers.
The key this week is if those receivers will be able to get off the line of scrimmage against West Virginia's press man coverage. If so, Tech will light up the scoreboard, if not, it's going to be a long day for Mahomes and Co.
All that being said, when Mahomes is healthy and the offense is clicking nobody in college football does it better.
Q: What is the general mood of the Tech fan base? Is there satisfaction with the offensive fireworks, and will that keep support in place even if the defense continues to struggle?
Johnson: No, Texas Tech fans are numb to all the gaudy offensive numbers, they want wins. Not just wins, but wins against quality opponents and Big 12 rivals.
This is a big game for Tech on Saturday. The Red Raider fan base has a lot of respect for West Virginia, but expects to beat the Mountaineers at home if they have any chance of being competitive with the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, TCU and Baylor left on the schedule.
Consecutive losses to Kansas State and West Virginia would be a huge blow.
The Red Raider fan base is one of the very best and most supportive in the country, but still Kliff Kingsbury is 22-21 overall and just 11-18 against the Big 12 as head coach.