Kicking the Tires: Texas Tech

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

K-State travels to Lubbock riding a two-game winning streak. The Wildcats will face Texas Tech, which has last two straight after opening up 7-0.

First, a programming note. There won't be a Charting post again this week. I got caught up by getting the West Virginia game charted this week, but that's so old it's not topical. My hope was to get Iowa State charted, too, and do a combined post. I'll do my best to get back on schedule next week.

Anyway, time to turn our attention to Texas Tech. Despite the youngest coach in the country and an injury to their starting quarterback, the Red Raiders took advantage of a favorable early schedule to start 7-0. The Red Raiders rose to No. 10 in the BCS standings before dropping a tough game at Oklahoma. Last week, Tech fell behind big early at home against Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders clawed their way back into the game, but ultimately were no match for the Cowboys.

So Saturday's game features two teams currently headed in opposite directions. After an 0-3 start in Big 12 play, K-State has taken advantage of home games against West Virginia and Iowa State to get a couple wins and build momentum. But it's a fragile momentum, built on home wins against two of the league's three worst teams. Taking that momentum on the road against an above-average Big 12 opponent would represent another step forward.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Jake Waters, 95-150-5, 1,391 yards, 9.3 yards/attempt, 7 TDs, 173.9 yards/game

Rushing: John Hubert, 114 carries, 549 yards, 4.8 yards/carry, 7 TDs, 68.6 yards/game

Receiving: Tyler Lockett, 44 receptions, 658 yards, 15.0 yards/reception, 4 TDs, 94.0 yards/game

Texas Tech

Passing: Davis Webb, 185-300-9, 2,237 yards, 7.6 yards/attempt, 15 TDs, 279.6 yards/game

Rushing: DeAndre Washington, 83 carries, 363 yards, 4.4 yards/carry, 4 TDs, 40.3 yards/game

Receiving: Jace Amaro, 79 receptions, 1,035 yards, 4 TDs, 115.0 yards/game

There it is. Tech's best player is tight end Jace Amaro, and the numbers show it. Amaro reminds me of former Missouri tight end Chase Coffman, or basically a really big wide receiver. At 6'4" and 230 lbs., Amaro is too fast for most linebackers, and has three inches and 25 lbs. on safety Ty Zimmerman. If K-State can hold Amaro in check, Zimmerman deserves Big 12 defensive player of the week honors. It would also make a win much more likely.

You also see from the above stats that Texas Tech really doesn't even try to run the ball. Not only does their leading rusher average only 40 yards per game, but their primary quarterback has 300 passing attempts through nine games. With receivers like Eric Ward and Amaro, that's not a bad strategy.

K-State Advanced Stats

F/+: 32nd

Offensive S&P+: 26th

Rushing S&P+: 37th

Passing S&P+: 29th

Drive Efficiency: 24th

Standard Downs S&P+: 29th

Passing Downs S&P+: 53rd

Defensive S&P+: 25th

Rushing S&P+: 66th

Passing S&P+: 10th

Drive Efficiency: 25th

Standard Downs S&P+: 37th

Passing Downs S&P+: 10th

Special Teams F/+: 7th

Texas Tech Advanced Stats

F/+: 42nd

Offensive S&P+: 19th

Rushing S&P+: 60th

Passing S&P+: 23rd

Drive Efficiency: 18th

Standard Downs S&P+: 56th

Passing Downs S&P+: 8th

Defensive S&P+: 77th

Rushing S&P+: 75th

Passing S&P+: 98th

Drive Efficiency: 62nd

Standard Downs S&P+: 81st

Passing Downs S&P+: 101st

Special Teams F/+: 97th

We've already established that K-State mostly employs a bend-but-don't-break defense. When K-State is able to get opponents off schedule, the Wildcats are very good (10th nationally on Passing Downs). But against Texas Tech, that hasn't necessarily been a recipe for success this season, with the Red Raiders ranking eighth in the country on Passing Downs.

This will be a key matchup tomorrow. With one of the better passing defenses in the country (10th nationally in Passing S&P+), K-State is going to force some incompletions on early downs and force Tech into Passing Downs on third down. Can K-State get off the field consistently in those situations?

Now, look at those defensive numbers for Texas Tech. Overall, 77th. Rushing, 75th. Passing, 98th. K-State should be able to move the ball against the Red Raiders. The key will be finishing drives. Despite overall bad numbers on defense, Tech is approximately average nationally (62nd) in Drive Efficiency. For its part, K-State is 24th nationally in Drive Efficiency.

Finally, despite the #FireSeanSnyder siren call, K-State once again ranks among the country's best on special teams. Texas Tech is also among the worst in that regard. Two years ago, K-State went to Lubbock as a big underdog, and won the game almost solely on turnovers and special teams. If Lockett and Thompson consistently give K-State a field-position advantage against Tech's leaky defense, it will be that much easier to finish drives.

Conclusion

K-State is a three-point underdog according to Vegas, while Bill Connelly's F/+ projections peg K-State to win by three, with a 62 percent win probability. For some reason, I'm shockingly confident about this game. Not "we gonna win" confident. More like "we're going to be in this the whole way and will have a chance to win in the fourth quarter" confident. Tech's defense is among the worst we've faced this year, with only Louisiana-Lafayette and Massachusetts worse.

With a healthy Lockett and Thompson, a rejuvenated Hubert, and the two-headed quarterback monster, this offense should be able to put some points on the board. Lockett and Thompson should find some room to roam on kickoff and punt returns, and Tech has given up a kickoff return touchdown on the season.

This game will likely come down to how well K-State contains Jace Amaro and the Texas Tech passing game. More specifically, K-State needs to prevent big plays. Force Texas Tech to sustain long drives, maintain the timing in their passing game over eight or nine or ten plays, and hope for a few bad throws or a tipped ball that could result in an interception.

This game is the difference between 6-6 and 7-5 this season, although Oklahoma is looking increasingly beatable. It's also looking increasingly like a 7-5 type of season.

K-State 38, Texas Tech 30

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