It's starting to feel a little more like college football season.
Both K-State and Texas Tech have played a conference game already, but now the Big 12 season is starting in earnest. K-State carries some momentum into conference play, having beat Iowa State in Ames in its conference opener. The Wildcats crushed Texas-El Paso last week, a game whose 58-28 final score wasn't indicative of how lopsided the game was.
Texas Tech travels to Manhattan amid considerably greater turmoil. The Red Raiders lost their Big 12 opener to Oklahoma State in a wild affair in Stillwater (that could be the name of a really terrible soap opera). Like K-State, Tech enters the game with a non-conference loss to an SEC West team. Tech probably feels worse about its 49-28 loss to Arkansas, a game in which the Raiders were bulldozed for 438 rushing yards, than K-State does about its close shave at home against Auburn.
Beyond the two losses, Tech starting quarterback, Davis Webb, is questionable for the game Saturday after suffering a second-half injury against Oklahoma State that ended his evening in Stillwater. And on the day K-State lost to Auburn in Manhattan, Tech's defensive coordinator, Matt Wallerstedt, resigned abruptly.
Players to Watch
Passing: Jake Waters, 69-112-3, 916 yards, 8.2 yards/attempt, 3 TDs, 229.0 yards/game
Rushing: Charles Jones, 44 carries, 228 yards, 5.2 yards/carry, 8 TDs, 57.0 yards/game
Receiving: Tyler Lockett, 17 receptions, 274 yards, 16.1 yards/reception, 1 TD, 68.5 yards/game
Passing: Davis Webb, 118-182-6, 1,356 yards, 7.5 yards/attempt, 14 TDs, 339.0 yards/game
Rushing: DeAndre Washington, 53 carries, 299 yards, 5.6 yards/carry, 1 TD, 74.8 yards/game
Receiving: Jakeem Grant, 32 receptions, 383 yards, 12.0 yards/reception, 2 TDs, 95.8 yards/game
You may be surprised to learn that Tech actually runs the ball better than you think. As you see above, DeAndre Washington has put up very respectable numbers in a system where running the ball is usually an afterthought. Of course, for a team that pushes the pace, the raw numbers for all yardage can be inflated, but as you'll see below, even the tempo-free stats show Tech is an above-average team running the ball.
But Davis Webb's health is still the key to this game. If the sophomore signal-caller is healthy, then Tech's chances of pulling an upset in Manhattan increase exponentially. His replacement would be true freshman, Patrick Mahomes. After Webb was injured in Stillwater, Mahomes took over and was 2-5-1 for 20 yards and one touchdown. But he was also sacked twice, threw an interception, and didn't look nearly as comfortable running the offense as Webb. Facing a K-State defense that gives nothing easily in Manhattan in his first start would be a tall order for Mahomes.
K-State Advanced Stats
Success Rate: 50.2% (16th)
Rushing S&P: 15th
Passing S&P: 52nd
Standard Downs: 18th
Passing Downs: 51st
Success Rate: 35.9% (31st)
Rushing S&P: 9th
Passing S&P: 46th
Standard Downs: 12th
Passing Downs: 30th
Texas Tech Advanced Stats
Success Rate: 47.8% (31st)
Rushing S&P: 37th
Passing S&P: 36th
Standard Downs: 39th
Passing Downs: 36th
Success Rate: 47.6% (110th)
Rushing S&P: 122nd
Passing S&P: 59th
Standard Downs: 96th
Passing Downs: 118th
Most of K-State's offensive numbers are going the wrong direction, but the Wildcats still stay on schedule about as well as anyone and are good on Standard Downs. Tech, meanwhile, is atrocious at keeping teams off schedule (110th Success Rate). Given the Success Rate, you're probably not surprised to hear that Tech is terrible on Standard Downs, but it's hard to believe the Raiders are even worse on Passing Downs. Not much defensive line play in Lubbock thus far, I'd say.
On paper, this shapes up a lot like last year, when K-State was able to do almost anything it wanted on offense. This K-State offense has been underwhelming thus far, but has looked really good in stretches. Like UTEP, Tech is so bad against the run that the Wildcats will probably start the game with a steady dose of Charles Jones and DeMarcus Robinson to see if Tech can stop them. Let's hope that doesn't lead to a start like the one we saw against UTEP.
This test will set the stage for the rest of the year for K-State's defense, especially if Webb plays. Tech has been solid, if not spectacular, on offense this year, and the Red Raiders spread out and are fine using the short passing game to move down the field. Kliff Kingsbury would probably prefer to take more shots deep, but his personnel doesn't permit that. If K-State shows it can stymie a spread-to-pass offense with an above-average run component, the rest of the season bodes well.
Look for a very similar approach as what we saw from K-State last year. Fly up against the run, keep all passing routes in front of them, make the passing windows as small as possible, and rally to the ball to limit yards after the catch.
Being this confident of a win over Texas Tech scares me. But last year's 49-26 romp in Lubbock, combined with Tech's turmoil and K-State's defensive improvement this year, makes it difficult for me to imagine a scenario in which K-State loses this game. With a bye next week, K-State shouldn't be caught looking ahead to the Oklahoma game. If the Wildcats are locked and loaded, then this one shouldn't be in doubt.
K-State 48, Texas Tech 21