Welcome to what’s becoming almost a tradition here in Wildcatland: K-State desperately needing wins in November just to become bowl eligible. The first step on this journey is Saturday morning in Lubbock, and to find out more about what K-State is up against we checked in with Jay Burrous of our sister site Viva the Matadors to learn what we need to know about Texas Tech.
Jon: Tech appears to be in the same boat as K-State now, looking for two wins to get bowl eligible. Unlike the Cats, Tech at least seems to have one they can pencil in, but a loss on Saturday would necessitate upsetting TCU or facing a must-win game at Texas. How nervous are you guys?
Jay: As a fan, it's been such a roller coaster season that I've done my best to avoid the emotions going into this weekend. You're absolutely right, if we don't win Saturday, the cards are absolutely stacked against us to make a bowl. In terms of the team, I haven't seen much from the players to slant one way or the other, but Kingsbury's demeanor against Oklahoma showed a lot. He's so heavily invested in this school/team, and I'd speculate he's nervous as hell for Saturday. To tell you the truth, I'm not chalking that Baylor game up to a gimme either. The Bears have showed more fight than Kansas, and could likely beat anyone in the conference if they weren't on their game.
Jon: Somewhat surprisingly, Tech made two changes on the coaching staff offensively, but only one to help address a beleaguered defense. How would you grade out the new guys thus far?
Jay: The two offensive coaches are for the offensive line, Brandon Jones, and Running Backs, Jabbar Juluke. These guys likely inherited the worst units on the offense, so it's hard to grade them fairly. If you want to look at it from an improvement standpoint - I'd say we're a lot better today than we were in August. What's a bit interesting though is that neither of these guys are technically new. Juluke was actually our Running Back coach for a few months before departing to LSU, and Brandon Jones is a former Red Raider (Mike Leach era). I'd give them both a B-.
On defense, Terrence Jamison is our new defensive line coach, and I love this guy. Our defensive tackles actually hold up the offensive line, and clog the middle. Our defensive ends have gotten a pass rush, and get their arms in the passing lanes - it's incredible. I'd give Jamison an A.
Jon: We have to ask, what with Tech's continuing struggles on defense and a three-game skid: what's the temperature of Kliff Kingsbury's chair right now?
Jay: We struggled on defense against Oklahoma, but few fans would put the blame on the defense for Iowa State and West Virginia. To tell you the truth, the offense is what's causing everyone heartburn right now. Nic Shimonek has been erratic at best, and you never know which version of our run game is going to show up. We're the definition of inconsistency.
Regarding Kingsbury: It's a well known fact in Lubbock that should Kingsbury not win at least six games, he's gone. And, honestly, how he wins those six games will also heavily weigh into what the Athletic Director does. Personally, I've chosen to wait out the season (or until we're no longer eligible for a bowl), and form my final opinion there. Beat KSU, BU, and steal one against UT - we'll praise the team growth. Lose to KSU, barely beat Baylor, and squeak by TCU? I don't know what you do there.
Jon: Has anything changed from what we're used to with the Red Raider offense, aside from Pat Mahomes no longer being around to torment everyone? Who do we need to keep an eye on?
Jay: Every DC in the conference has dropped eight, and rushed three - to be frank, they had smashing success with that scheme. That is, until Tre King ran all over Oklahoma and forced them into a four man front again. We're a noticeably better team when our running game is humming and we can depend on 150-190 yards out of that group. From what we've all seen, Shimonek can't win a game on his own. I'd pay attention to what sort of push we get up front, and what sort of success Tre King has. Limit him, win your matchups across the middle, and the Wildcats are going to leave Lubbock with a win. All that to say, this isn't a typical Tech offense.
Jon: What has the staff tried to do to fix the defense this year? Are there any real playmakers to be concerned about?
Jay: We turn people over really well, limit big plays, and have top tier linebackers. Dakota Allen is a beast, and Jordyn Brooks will be an NFL player next year. The X-Factor Saturday will be Riko Jeffers though. He's a true freshman linebacker, and he's our third guy for that group. He doesn't play a ton, because we're in a 4-2-5 or 3-3-5 (with a rush end) for the most part - but I see us going more 4-3 Saturday to limit Alex Delton. If Jeffers can clean up his areas/gaps, we'll limit Kansas State's offensive attack a lot. The other key player is whoever we trot out at safety in the first half. Unfortunately, 3-year starter Jah'Shawn Johnson is suspended for the first half Saturday due to targeting. My speculation is you'll see either Douglas Coleman there, or we'll slide slot corner Justus Parker up to safety. Nevertheless, Johnson's loss will be felt.
Jon: We always ask this for road games, and it's always interesting because after a couple of years it's often someone completely different answering the questions. What are your Friday night and post-game Saturday recommendations for folks swinging into Lubbock for the weekend? What's the tailgate scene like for a morning kickoff?
Jay: Friday Night: Caprock Cafe for burgers and cold schooners. Those same people own another spot called Orlandos, which is a great Italian spot. Do one of those for dinner, and then venture over to Blue Light for elite Texas Country and an intimate/fun venue in a cool area. Check out Triple J's Steakhouse if you're vibing that scene over burgers/Italian.
Gameday: We've had so many 11am games this year, and the fan base isn't exactly fired up right now. Given that, Pancake House near campus is fantastic. If you're into breakfast tacos, Josie's is pretty ok, but I'm a big fan of grabbing Rudy's BBQ's tacos. Tailgating wise, I'm sure there will be plenty of action on the West Side of the stadium, so fans can likely roam those areas and I'd bet they're invited in for a drink or two.
Post Game: One Guy From Italy if you like pizza, Evie Mae's for BBQ (top 10 in Texas), and tons of people hype Walk-Ons for beers (never been). Last, but not least, my favorite spot is Chimy's - get a margarita with nachos or a chimichanga. It will not disappoint.
Jon: Lastly, how do you see this game unfolding?
Jay: Vegas says the Red Raiders are going to win, but I tend to believe 11am kick offs favor the road team. My brain says K-State wins, but my heart won't let me put that into writing. Texas Tech wins 28-24.
Our thanks to Jay for taking the time to answer our impertinent queries. You can follow Jay on the Twitters at @JayBurrous, and follow our friends at VtM at @vivathematadors.