#17 Texas Tech (6-1) @ #4 Kansas State (7-0)
- Game Time: 2:30
- TV: FOX
- Sirius Channel: 85
- The Spread: Kansas State -7.5
The Lowdown: Coming into the season, the media covering the Big 12 tabbed Kansas State for a sixth place finish in the league and had Texas Tech all the way down at number nine out of 10 teams in the preseason poll.
So here we are heading into the last weekend in October and that poll couldn't have been farther from reality. Kansas State is riding high at 7-0 with road wins at Oklahoma and West Virginia in their back pocket prompting discussions of the Wildcats playing for the national title. Texas Tech, meanwhile, has found a defense and is right behind them at 6-1.
A win by the Red Raiders would create a tie with KSU for first place in the Big 12 with Oklahoma just a game back in the win column. A win by Kansas State would put them one game closer to an outright Big 12 title heading into the final month of the season.
So what gives when the two meet in Manhattan on Saturday afternoon?
These type of things are nearly impossible to predict, but if there was ever a game were the factors lined up for a possible letdown game for the favorite, this one might be it for Kansas State.
The Wildcats are returning home after back-to-back road trips to Iowa State and West Virginia. There was plenty of build up to the game in Morgantown, the Wildcats cruised, got back late Saturday night/Sunday morning and now have to turn right around and do it again against one of the best teams in the Big 12 through the season's first half.
Of course, this is Kansas State and Bill Snyder, who usually scoff at such scenarios. But human nature is human nature and 18-22 years old can be prone to falling victim to the hills and valleys a season presents. What type of energy K-State comes out with early in Saturday's game is something to keep an eye on. Texas Tech is not a team the Wildcats want to fall behind to early.
The Red Raiders have put together back-to-back impressive wins following their only loss of the season to Oklahoma. Tech was the first team to expose the Mountaineers the week before Kansas State had their way with them. They followed that up with triple-overtime road win over TCU last Saturday.
Senior quarterback Seth Doege was at his best in those two wins. Against West Virginia and TCU, Doege was a combined 62 of 84 passing (73.8%) for 13 touchdowns against only one interception. It's hard to put up numbers much more impressive than that.
Keeping Doege under wraps won't be an easy chore for Kansas State's defense, but the Wildcats have had good success in slowing down two of the Big 12's best quarterbacks.
Kansas State was able to eliminate the big plays from Landry Jones in their game with Oklahoma and then held Geno Smith to just 143 yards passing while forcing into his first two interceptions of the season.
Doege and Tech's offense will be present an equally tough challenge, but the Wildcats should come in with the confidence knowing they've been there, done that, against some of the Big 12's best already.
Texas Tech, Keys to the Game:
1. Avoid turnovers: In Tech's lone loss this season, Doege tossed three interceptions leading Tech to a -2 ratio in turnover margin. The next two weeks, the Red Raiders turned the ball over just two times and won both games. It's not quite that simple, but when Tech takes care of the ball, they aren't any easy offense to keep out of the end zone.
The Wildcats lead the Big 12 in turnover margin at +12 which is one big reason why they've yet to lose. They've gained 16 turnovers (2nd in the Big 12) and have turned it over just four times in seven games (best in the Big 12).
2. Defend the pass. Everyone knows what Kansas State can do running the ball. There are no secrets there. All things considered, West Virginia did a decent job of slowing down the Wildcat running game holding them to 146 yards in the game, but yet still lost by 41. Why? Because Collin Klein was 19 of 21 passing.
Kansas State isn't likely to break a ton of big runs, instead they typically just grind it out. But what can break a team's back is when they hit on long pass plays. If Tech can avoid giving up big plays in the passing game, their chances of pulling the upset go way up.
3. Get the running game going. Texas Tech hasn't had to rely on the running game as much the past two weeks due to their success throwing the ball. That will need to change on Saturday if for no other reason than to keep the KSU pass rush at bay. They averaged only 2.6 yards per carry (27 carries, 71 yards) last week against TCU. Here's guessing if they have a similar stat line against Kansas State, they won't be so fortunate in picking up another victory
Kansas State, Keys to the Game:
1. Get pressure on Seth Doege. The Wildcats are second in the Big 12 with 18 sacks this season and Tech will need to do whatever it has to do to keep Meshak Williams and Adam Davis out of their backfield. The duo of defensive ends have combined for 10 sacks on the season and you can bet they'll have their sights set on getting Doege out of his comfort zone.
2. The return game. Tyler Lockett blew up last week with 194 yards receiving and two touchdowns, but let's not forget he happens to be one of the most exciting return men in college football. Lockett is averaging 30.9 yards per kickoff return good for sixth best in the country. If Lockett can answer any Texas Tech score with a big return, momentum swings right back to KSU, not to mention giving Klein a company a short field to work with.
There's plenty of impulses this week to pick a Texas Tech upset. The Wildcats have to have an off week sometime, especially after coming off the big win and long trip to Morgantown, right? Maybe, but even so, they'll find a way to win this game. Call it luck if that's how you see it, but...
Kansas State is to experienced, to disciplined, and simply too good to let this one slip through their hands. The fact Kansas State is 17-3 over the past two seasons isn't an accident. There are very few weaknesses with the team
Kansas State's balance on offense will be the difference. Stop the run and they'll throw over the top. Defend the pass, and they'll gash you time and again on the ground.
Texas Tech will hang right with Kansas State the whole way, but the Red Raiders are still a year away from winning this type of game. Seth Doege will have another solid day throwing to a host of receivers, but Tech's defense won't be able to come up with enough stops when it matters most. The Wildcats march to the Big 12 title continues.
Kansas State 34 Texas Tech 24