Texas Tech Passing Offense vs. Kansas St. Passing Defense
Texas Tech Pass Offense: This is going to be a bit tricky for Texas Tech. As much as everyone loves the backup quarterback, QB Steven Sheffield certainly has his deficiencies. He doesn't have the arm that Taylor Potts possesses, but I think the offense is in fine hands with Sheffield. What Sheffield does bring to the game is more mobility and because he doesn't have the big arm, he's going to rely on the short quick passing game, which if it looks anything like it did last week, then you can expect to see quite a bit more of Harrison Jeffers catching passes out of the backfield. Right now, it's a grab-bag of receivers and I think this is going to be what you see week-in and week-out. Someone is going to have a big day, whether it's Tramain Swindall, Lyle Leong, Alexander Torres, or Detron Lewis. And that's the rub, there is no Michael Crabtree drawing a double-team every play and these receivers need to work their tails off to get open each and every play. The fact that the offensive line will have Brandon Carter back is significant for this group. Although the line stumbled last week against New Mexico, giving up 5 sacks for 54 yards. That's uncharacteristic of this group, but that's the sort of thing that happens when an offensive line coach is trying to fill gaps on the line.
Kansas St. Pass Defense: The Wildcats have the 7th best passing defense in the nation, but this is a tad bit decieving. First, anytime you're in the top 10 of anything and the college football season is 5 games deep, there is something there, but in the case of Kansas St., of their 5 opponents they're not exactly throwing the ball around. UMass is 22nd in FBS, La-Lafayette is 74th, UCLA is 102nd, Tennessee Tech is 83rd and Iowa St. is 106th. Kansas St. hasn't quite played a true passing team so it will be interesting to see how the Wildcats hold up. K-State is led by SS Tysyn Hartman, who seems to do just about everything, but he's leading his team with 26 tackles, 3 interceptions and 4 pass break-ups. CB Joshua Moore is 4th on the team with 22 tackles, 1 interception and 3 PBU. The rest of the secondary is rounded out by CB David Garrett and FS Emmanuel Lamur. I mentioned the other day that K-State is having a tough time getting to the quarterback and thus far, the entire team has only managed 4 sacks for the year. I would imagine that K-State is going to do something to change that this weekend, or Sheffield is going to have plenty of time competing passes.
Advantage: K-State's been good thus far, but I'll put my money on Texas Tech.
Texas Tech Rushing Offense vs. Kansas St. Rushing Defense
Texas Tech Rush Offense: The rushing offense, despite the 120th ranking is improving. The problem is those pesky sacks getting included in the rushing totals. Last week, Harrison Jeffers (8 : 29 : 3 TD) and Baron Batch (8 : 47 : 1 TD) combined for 16 carries and 76 yards and 4 touchdowns. That's not too bad of production from this group and at the very least, it's better than what it was before where there was literally no production. I'll take 16 carries, although I'm still a proponent of more carries, especially when the running backs are having some success running the ball. Just as there will be an upgrade at right guard with the return of Brandon Carter, you can also expect to see the line struggle a bit with Justin Keown at center, if Byrnes is unable to go. I'm not as worried about Keown in the rushing game as I am in the passing game, but Keown is responsible for making the necessary reads and going into the meat of conference play with a brand new center is tough.
Kansas St. Rush Defense: A surprising (at least for me) 38th in the nation in stopping the run. Thus far, against their opponents, the Wildcats have allowed 110 (UMass); 102 (La.-Lafayette); 173 (UCLA); -19 (Tenn. Tech); and 207 (Iowa St.). Although statistically, K-State is pretty good against the run the numbers don't necessarily bear this out, especially when there are 2 games of over 170 yards. The defensive line and linebacking groups are led mostly by upper-classmen. LB's John Houlik and Ulla Pomele are seniors, while Troy Butler is a junior. DL Jeffrey Fitzgerald, Daniel Calvin and Hansen Sekona are all seniors, while DT Raphael Guidry is a sophomore. I'd like to think that a coach like Bill Snyder is going to try to take advantage of some young personnel along the offensive line and I'll be interested to see what, if anything, KSU does to stop the run against Texas Tech. Right now, the advantage goes to Kansas St.
Advantage: Just based on production alone, this goes to K-State.
Kansas St. Passing Offense vs. Texas Tech Passing Defense
Kansas St. Pass Offense: Some things are going to change with Grant Gregory at quarterback. I recall watching Case Coffman against Texas Tech last year and being relatively impressed, but I think Snyder likes the senior leadership that Gregory brings and it gives Coffman another year to take things in. I don't blame Snyder for wanting to win now and Gregory does seem give K-State a more steady signal-caller, but I do think the passing game takes a bit of a hit. Coffman's biggest problem was that he's already had 4 interceptions in only 95 attempts (that's 1 INT per 23.75 attempts, compared with Potts, who was just awful with 1 INT per 39.16 attempts). In any event, Gregory still seemed to find his play makers last week against Iowa St. in the speedy Brandon Banks (4 : 66 : 1 TD) and Lamark Brown (3 : 66 : 1 TD). Banks (23 : 289 : 2 TD) is clearly the game-breaker of the bunch as the rest of the receiving crew has 160 yards or less, but I think Red Raider fans would be wise to be mindful of TE Jeron Mastrud. Tight ends are something that Texas Tech really hasn't seen thus far this year and it will be interesting to see how that matchup will work.
Texas Tech Pass Defense: CB Jamar Wall and CB LaRon Moore were pretty good last week against New Mexico, enough to earn my defensive co-MVP, but I'm not sure how much these guys will get tested this week. I know what Ruffin is going to do defensively, and it's going to drive me insane, and I know that it should work against a quarterback that's not a game-breaker with his arm. That's not to say that Gregory can't beat a team, but Ruffin's going to make damn sure that doesn't happen. I'm not sure what McNeill is going to do at safety, but if neither Cody Davis or Franklin Mitchem are ready to play, I think you'll see a steady diet of Brett Dewhurst, Brent Nickerson and Will Ford willing in the safety positions. Julius Howard, despite being promoted to 2nd team linebacker with Blake Collier taking a leave of absense, could see a number of different positions on Saturday. The one thing I'd like to see the defensive line do this week is work on containment when K-State's Gregory goes back to pass.
Advantage: Push. Both have struggled to either really stop anyone or gain some yards through the air.
Kansas St. Rushing Offense vs. Texas Tech Rushing Defense
Kansas St. Rush Offense: The backbone of the K-State team is their rushing offense. Led by RB Daniel Thomas, who sits at 16th in the nation with 105.8 yards a game and 4 touchdowns. Add to that dual-threat QB Gregory and you've got me worried. Again, Gregory only had 29 yards last week against Iowa St., but from what I've read about Gregory, he's an athletic quarterback that can run if he wants. Behind that rushing attack is solid mix along the offensive line. The left side is led by LT Nick Stringer, a senior, and LG Zach Kendall a junior. The right side of the line has two sophomores leading the way, Colten Freeze and Clyde Aufner while C Wade Weibert rounds out the rest of the line. To speak a bit to K-State's efficiency in running the ball, Daniel Thomas has only had 19 lost rushing yards in 116 carries. When K-State gets a push, they move forward.
Texas Tech Rush Defense: Statistically, this group has made the most improvement over the past year and stopping opponents against the run is one of the biggest indicators of a successful team. Last year, the rushing defense was giving up 100.00 yards a game, good for 25th in the nation, against 2 FCS teams and SMU and Nevada. This year, playing against just 1 FCS team and 2 top 20 teams, the Red Raiders sit at 28th in the nation at 105.40 yards a game. I know you're thinking that this is not improvement, but this group has been better and Ruffin McNeill has done a good job of working in plenty of depth, regardless of whether or not he was forced to do it. The linebacker crew continues to play well, but there's room for improvement. I should also say that my favorite trait in watching Daniel Howard play is that he has a motor that just doesn't quit and the more I watch the defense, I keep thinking that the rest of the group has adopted that philosophy in just continuing to work the offense, play after play. Eventually, the offense is going to wear down or make a mistake.
Advantage: Kansas St. is the clear winner here.
Ed. Note: I've been a little busy this week and this is all I had the time to write.