No. 15 Texas Tech at No. 4 Kansas State
Saturday, 3:30 PM, Fox
Line: Kansas State -7
In the preseason, one could make the case for Kansas State being a top team in the new look Big 12 conference.
If you tried to make the same claim about Texas Tech, though, you might have been laughed at.
However, a share of first place is on the line Saturday afternoon in Manhattan, as the red hot Red Raiders head into Bill Snyder Family Stadium to face the Wildcats.
Both teams recently spanked West Virginia, but Kansas State managed a victory over Oklahoma. The Red Raiders lost at home to the Sooners 41-20. A win by the Wildcats would have them alone in first place with tiebreakers in place over Tech and Oklahoma. A win by the Red Raiders potentially muddies the picture down the road.
For Texas Tech to win: Make Collin Klein one dimensional. If Tech is going to have a chance in this game, it will be making the Red Raiders a team that has to throw the football. Kansas State is currently 90th in passing yards per game at 201 yards per game. It seems odd saying that Tech needs to make a quarterback who just went 19 for 21 for 323 yards and three touchdowns throw the football, but Klein has not really demonstrated that he is a regular pocket passer. He needs to demonstrate that the game against West Virginia was not an anomaly before he can become truly dominant. Tech needs to smother the running game, contain Klein in the pocket and force him to stand tall and beat the team with his arm, not his legs.
For Kansas State to win: Mix it up. The Wildcats want to run the ball. You know it. Opponents know it. Kansas State knows that their opponents know it. The Wildcats have rushed the ball 300 times to date versus 141 pass attempts. It's a better than two to one ratio of run versus pass. The Wildcats may not need to change the formula, but they might want to change the execution points of the formula. They don't have to go to a run and shoot look, but mixing in a few more throws earlier in the game to keep Tech off balance so that the Red Radiers can't just load up the box should provide enough cover and misdirection to keep the Wildcats ground attack humming.
Key Player, Texas Tech: Seth Doege, QB. Most of the attention heading into this game has been on the Kansas State quarterback, especially given that Collin Klein accounted for seven touchdowns in last week's evisceration of West Virginia. But Doege, a senior, has played very, very well this season as the number one quarterback. Doege is completing over 70 percent of his passes and has a 4:1 touchdown to interception ratio (28 TDs, 7 INTs). He also accounted for seven touchdowns last weekend in a thrilling triple overtime win over TCU. The only game that Texas Tech has lost this season, against Oklahoma, is when Doege had his worst game, tossing three interceptions and completing only 61 percent of his passes. As Doege goes, so goes the Red Raiders offense. He will need to have a solid, mistake free game for the Red Raiders to be competitive.
Key Player, Kansas State: John Hubert, RB. Collin Klein gets most of the pub, but the Wildcats junior running back will be a critical player. Hubert is actually the team's leading rusher, although the last two weeks he has averaged less than four yards per carry and hasn't found the end zone in either contest. Granted, when the quarterback is scoring with reckless abandon, you don't have to find the end zone. However, it would be in Kansas State's best interest for Hubert to find the end zone a couple of time and have a game more like the contest against Oklahoma (23 carries, 130 yards, one touchdown) than the game he had against West Virginia (16 carries, 52 yards).
Key Stat: +13. That is the turnover margin for the Wildcats this season, which places them seventh overall nationally and at number one in the Big 12. Texas Tech's turnover margin is -1, placing them in a tie for 68th overall.