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Kicking the Tires: Texas Tech Red Raiders

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K-State begins the final third of its regular season with a trip to Lubbock. Beat the Red Raiders, and K-State will take a big step toward securing bowl eligibility.

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

It's a little difficult to believe that K-State still has one-third of its season in front of it. A five-game losing streak will do that to you.

We talked about it before the year. The schedule did no favors to a young team trying to find its footing. And that was before injuries. Now in the next four games, we'll find out whether this team's problems through eight games are due to injuries and an unfavorable schedule, or whether there are deeper issues with K-State's program.

The discovery process begins Saturday in Lubbock, when K-State takes on Texas Tech at 2:30 p.m. CST. The Red Raiders are 5-5 on the year, and thereby need a win in their final two games to achieve bowl eligibility. They close their season at Texas on the day after Thanksgiving, so this is probably their best bet of the two games.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Joe Hubener, 78-166-6, 1,114 yards, 6.7 yards/attempt, 6 TD, 139.2 yards/game

Rushing: Charles Jones, 76 carries, 378 yards, 5.0 yards/carry, 3 TDs, 47.2 yards/game

Receiving: Deante Burton, 22 receptions, 278 yards, 12.6 yards/reception, 3 TD, 34.8 yards/game

Texas Tech

Passing: Pat Mahomes, 281-436-13, 3,527 yards, 8.1 yards/attempt, 28 TDs, 352.7 yards/game

Rushing: DeAndre Washington, 168 carries, 1,034 yards, 6.2 yards/carry, 9 TDs, 103.4 yards/game

Receiving: Jakeem Grant, 74 receptions, 960 yards, 13.0 yards/reception, 6 TDs, 96.0 yards/game

As you'll see below, Texas Tech has one of the best offenses in the nation. They rank second in S&P+ offense. Running the ball, their usual weakness, is actually their strength this year. Washington averages 6.2 yards per carry and Mahomes is a threat to take off, too. With Grant wide, this offense is a load to handle and will stress every aspect of K-State's defense.

Big plays and rushing efficiency will tell the tale for K-State's defense. The Wildcats have won four straight against Tech by taking away deep throws, rallying to the underneath passes to prevent yards after catch, and thereby forcing Tech to execute those throws in tight windows over the course of drives longer than eight plays.

The front six held Baylor in check by limiting Baylor to 3.5 yards per rush. A similar effort against Texas Tech, while also preventing the big plays Baylor used to kill the Wildcats, and K-State likely gets out of Lubbock with a win. The good news is that Tech's offensive design is less lethal than Baylor's, and their secondary weapons after Grant are less concerning. But this is still an inexperienced secondary, and breakdowns and missed tackles remain a possibility.

Charts

The offenses have the advantage in this one. Let's hope K-State's defensive profile is trailing its current production. An interception would be nice, too.

Texas Tech Offense vs. Kansas State Defense
Kansas State Offense vs. Texas Tech Defense

Conclusion

Bill Connelly's S&P+ projections peg Tech as a favorite not only to win, but to cover the -5.5 spread. But the win probability is only 62.5 percent, and I'm strangely optimistic about this one. With more quarterbacks healthy, K-State can unleash its full running game against a very bad Red Raider defense. The offensive line is playing well and the run-game variety should keep Tech on its toes. Remember 2013, when K-State bounced back from a rough start to the season by beating Tech 49-26, while Jake Waters threw only 10 passes? I'm sensing that kind of game this time.

If not, then the questions surrounding K-State football will multiply.

Wildcats 38, Red Raiders 31