Kicking the Tires: Texas Tech Red Raiders

For the first time this season, K-State plays an opponent I don't know a whole lot about. Baylor was receiving national press and Robert Griffin III was setting the world on fire before the first game. Missouri is a local team that receives a lot of coverage in Kansas City. But Texas Tech is neither. The Red Raiders are a pedestrian 4-1, with no notable wins and a wild home loss to hated Texas A&M.

A lot has changed at Tech since the last time the two teams hooked up. In 2009, Tech routed K-State, 66-14, in Lubbock in Mike Leach's last year on the South Plains. Leach was fired for not treating Adam James like the special little snowflake that he and his daddy think he is, and Tommy Tuberville took over. Tech's uptempo, pass-heavy offense hasn't changed, however. Neither has its penchant for shooting first and not even attempting to play defense later. Despite its defensive deficiencies, Tech will still give K-State all it can handle on Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium.

Players to Watch

K-State

Rushing: John Hubert, 86 carries, 469 yards, 1 TD, 5.5 yards/carry, 93.8 yards/game

Passing: Collin Klein, 58-101-3, 593 yards, 6 TDs, 118.6 yards/game, 5.9 yards/attempt

Receiving: Chris Harper, 19 receptions, 226 yards, 2 TDs, 11.9 yards/reception, 45.2 yards/game

Defensive Line:Jordan Voelker, 16 tackles, 5.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks

Linebacker:Arthur Brown, 38 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 INT

Secondary: David Garrett, 28 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 0.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery

Texas Tech

Rushing: DeAndre Washington*, 22 carries, 107 yards, 2 TD, 4.9 yards/carry, 21.4 yards/game

Passing:Seth Doege, 162-227-1, 1,706 yards, 17 TD, 341.2 yards/game, 7.5 yards/attempt

Receiving: Eric Ward, 30 receptions, 289 yards, 9.6 yards/reception, 8 TDs, 57.8 yards/game

Defensive Line: Kerry Hyder, 15 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sacks

Linebacker:Blake Dees, 21 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery

Secondary: D.J. Johnson, 35 tackles, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery

*Tech's starting running back to this point, Eric Stephens, is out for this game with a knee injury.

And there it is, in high relief. K-State, the methodical, plodding team who prefers to run the ball, and Tech, the pass-heavy, high-scoring team. Granted, Tech isn't exactly an explosive offense, as you can see by the per-carry and per-attempt numbers above, but as compared to K-State's ball-control offense, it looks almost Leachian.

Impressively, as we'll look at more closely in a minute, Tech does a very good job protecting the ball. Doege has two fewer interceptions in 126 attempts more than Klein. Although I haven't seen much of Tech on TV or film this year, in a lot of ways its offense seems to resemble Leach's. The Red Raiders like to line up with a lot of wide receivers and run quick, short passing routes and look for a high completion percentage and a lot of yards after catch. Probably the biggest difference is I don't see a Michael Crabtree or even a Detron Lewis on this roster. Not to say Tech doesn't have some good athletes, but the talent level appears to have fallen off some from Leach's heyday.

Defensively, Tech's problems are pretty apparent. Its two leading tacklers are both safeties, and they rank only seventh in the Big 12 in sacks. Tech's secondary is so busy making tackles that the Red Raiders have only one interception on the season, and that was by linebacker Blake Dees, who I hope is the son of Rick Dees and the Weekly Top 40. On the other hand, Tech is tied for the Big 12 lead in fumbles recovered. Maybe their troubles against the run are that they try to strip the ball rather than make a tackle.

Team Statistics (from NCAAFootball.com)

Rushing Offense

K-State: 26th, 208.6 yards/game

Texas Tech: 46th, 170.0 yards/game

Passing Offense

K-State: 115th, 127.0 yards/game

Texas Tech: 6th, 354.6 yards/game

Total Offense

K-State: 97th, 335.6 yards/game

Texas Tech: 7th, 524.6 yards/game

Rushing Defense

K-State: 16th, 92.4 yards/game

Texas Tech: 115th, 224.2 yards/game

Pass Efficiency Defense

K-State: 41st

Texas Tech: 67th

Total Defense

K-State: 17th, 298.8 yards/game

Texas Tech: 96th, 420.2 yards/game

This week, I'm also going to take a look at the "hidden-yardage stats," or the numbers that show the little things K-State does to level the playing field.

Turnover Margin (via CFBStats.com)

K-State: 43rd, +2

Texas Tech: 5th, +8

Penalties

K-State: 30th, 42.8 yards/game

Texas Tech: 100th, 67.8 yards/game

Field Position

K-State: 33.0 yard line

Texas Tech: 34.1 yard line

Third-Down Conversions

K-State: 26th, 47.6 percent

Texas Tech: 9th, 54.3 percent

Red-Zone Conversions

K-State: 53rd, 84.0 score percent

Texas Tech: 4th, 96.6 score percent

Time of Possession

K-State: 1st, 35:56/game

Texas Tech: 68th, 29:21/game

As you can see, Tech does well in most of the categories that K-State uses to make up ground on some teams. And as weak as Tech's schedule looks at first glance, it is actually stronger than K-State's schedule according to Football Outsiders.

Of course, there are a few things that call Tech's numbers into question. Tech's opponents' average total defense rank is 96th (New Mexico 119th, Nevada 46th, KU 120th, and Texas A&M 99th...and Texas State is an FCS team). Of course, it would only be fair to note that Tech has faced some pretty decent offenses (New Mexico 74th, Nevada 21st, KU 24th, Texas A&M 12th).

Anyway, this will likely be another high-scoring game for K-State. It will be very important for K-State to get pressure on Doege in this game. The Wildcats rank fourth in the Big 12 in sacks this year with 13. While the overall K-State defense is improved, Doege will shred it if he has time to stand in the pocket and go through his reads. In a controlled-passing offense like Tech runs, they will find soft spots in zones and will exploit bad matchups in man.

Other than pressure on the quarterback, another key will be limiting Tech's yards after catch. The Red Raiders are 14th in the country in long passing plays, with 67 for 10+ yards. That, combined with Doege's 71 percent completion percentage, indicate to me that Tech has done a good job of getting receivers open on short, high-percentage routes, and then relying on them to break tackles and pick up yards. I'm not too worried about Arthur Brown and David Garrett, but are Tysyn Hartman, Ty Zimmerman and Nigel Malone going to hit and wrap up, or are they going to let a bunch of five-yard completions turn into 20-yard completions?

So it's likely Tech is going to score points. But K-State is probably going to score its share, too. Tech ranks too high in long rushing plays by its opponents, at 22nd in the country with 33 plays of 10+ yards. The Red Raiders can expect a steady diet of Klein and Hubert, and with Angelo Pease apparently available, there will be some Wildcat formation, too.

Along with that is K-State's other strength, which is time of possession. The Cats lead the country in this area, while Tech is below average. Tech ran more than 100 plays against Texas A&M last week, an astounding number by anyone (somewhere in Alabama and West Virginia, Gus Malzahn and Dana Holgorson cried tears of joy upon seeing that number). Don't be surprised if they struggle to run two-thirds of that number of plays this week.

With those 1,200 words in the books, this game will probably come down to turnovers. K-State is good at protecting the ball; Tech is incredible. As mentioned before, Doege is really good at throwing the ball to his guys, and Tech forces a lot of fumbles. Ball security will be at a premium for Hubert, Klein, and the receivers downfield. If K-State can win the turnover battle, it will have a very good chance to come away from this game with a win.

Alas, I just can't see it. I'm sure you're all tired of my pessimism, but Lubbock is a house of horrors for K-State (although nothing like it is for Aggy). I know Leach isn't there anymore, and that he was the architect of the current five-game winning streak for Tech, but TTU still does a lot of things on offense that have given K-State's defense problems. It will be a close, exciting game, but Tech will pull it out, 34-31.

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