This Saturday, Kansas will take on its toughest challenger thus far as the Red Raiders will make the journey to Lawrence to take on the Jayawks. Before the game kicks off, here are five things you need to know about Texas Tech…
1. Texas Tech’s passing game is no joke
408.5 yards per game. That is the current average for the Texas Tech passing offense, good enough for third in the country. The Red Raiders have scored 12 of their 17 offensive touchdowns through the air and have had seven different receivers record a touchdown catch. Texas Tech is not afraid to go deep, as nine of their receivers have already recorded a 30+ yard catch and six of said receivers have recorded a 45+ yard catch. Tech will spread the ball around to players such as Bradley Marquez, who is leading the Red Raiders with four receiving touchdowns and Jace Amaro, who is leading the team in both receptions (29) and yards (367).
While Baker Mayfield has been the primary starter for Tech, David Webb saw a majority of the playing time last time out, as he connected on two touchdowns in a lopsided victory against Texas State. Who Tech will rely on at quarterback remains to be seen, especially if the game is close, but the Jayhawks absolutely must use the Raiders’ quarterback uncertainty to their advantage. The Jayhawks must get to the quarterback(s) early and often if they want to have a chance in Saturday’s game.
One additional thing to note: Michael Brewer could also step in to play quarterback for Texas Tech, as he has been progressively recovering from a back injury. One of the biggest questions for Kansas going in to this game will be how to prepare for a possibility of facing three different quarterbacks.
2. Texas Tech boasts one of the nation’s top defenses
This year Texas Tech has held opponents to a mere 13.3 points per game, which ranks tenth in the nation. Tech has picked off four passes on the season, and if Jake Heaps isn’t careful, that number could easily double in size. Texas Tech has the kind of defense that can absolutely tear a team apart so Weis will need to have the Jayhawks well prepared as they take on the undefeated Red Raiders.
One of the more scary parts about Texas Tech’s defensive statistics is the fact that Tech has actually played fairly decent competition. Rather than facing four schools that have no business being on the field with them, Tech has already faced SMU and a ranked Texas Christian University. The other two teams they have faced are SF Austin and Texas State (currently 3-1 and in third in the Sun Belt Conference).
The Jayhawks have struggled to put up points the last few weeks, and haven’t broken the fifteen-point barrier since their week one win against South Dakota. The Jayhawks will have to perform offensively at a much higher rate than their current average of just 19.3 points per game (105th in the nation) if they are going to even have a chance, but Texas Tech isn’t the type of team that will let them get on track as the game goes along. Kansas will need to find some way to score early if they will pull off the improbable upset. Special teams will be vital for Kansas as winning the field position battle will be an absolute necessity.
3. Texas Tech’s run game is a three-headed monster
If Texas Tech does have a weakness, it has to be in their ability to run the ball; the Red Raiders aren’t even in the top 100 in rushing yards per game. However, this doesn’t mean that they are without capable running backs. Much like the Jayhawks, the Red Raiders tend to split carries between a few different running backs. Baker Mayfield (who began as the primary quarterback for Tech) is currently leading the team with 39 carries but DeAndre Washington and Kenny Williams have been impressive as well.
Washington is a 5’8″ sophomore from Missouri City, Texas and so far he has struggled to get in to a rhythm this season. Washington has rushed for 103 yards on 30 carries, and has only scored one touchdown. Kenny Williams, on the other hand, is just one inch taller than Washington, but he does outweigh him by 40 pounds. Williams has racked up three total touchdowns on the season, two of which have come on the ground. However, like Washington, Williams has struggled to find any consistency rushing, especially on the road where he averages just 0.8 yards per carry. In fact, Texas Tech as a team only averages 48 yards per game on the road, and on a mere 1.78 yards per carry. If Kansas allows the Texas Tech run game to get going, then this game could turn into a blowout, quickly.
4. History will likely repeat itself
The Jayhawks’ history against the Red Raiders has been almost entirely one sided. Kansas is an all time 1-13 against Texas Tech, with 10 of the 13 losses coming by double digits, and two of the last four losses coming by 20 or more points. The Jayhawks’ lone win against Tech came in 2001, when the Jayhawks stunned the Raiders in double overtime, 34-31. KU will be looking to pull off the upset of the season when they take on Texas Tech, but it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. This NCAA season has featured numerous upsets, from Kansas State losing to North Dakota State, to Towson going on the road and shocking the University of Connecticut, a team that would then go on to lose by just three to a 15th ranked Michigan squad. While it seems unlikely that Kansas will hang around, there certainly is a chance.
5. Consistency, consistency, consistency
Ryan Bustin, kicker for the Red Raiders, is the Drew Brees of college kickers. Bustin has made an impressive 90% of his field goal attempts and has yet to miss from less than forty yards, but the most brilliant example of his accuracy is his proficiency in converting PATs. Not only is Bustin 18-for-18 on extra points this year, for his career he is a monstrous 77-for-77. To put that number in to reference, Mason Crosby, one of the greatest college kickers of all time, never made 77 consecutive PATs, and in fact missed eight of his first 77 attempts while at the University of Colorado.
Let’s say the average college kicker makes PATs at a rate of 95% (although that number is clearly higher than the true average); the odds of that kicker making seventy-seven straight would be just a hair over 1.926%. To take it a step farther, the odds of being struck by lightning are approximately one in 500,000, which calculates to .0002%. Now lets take Steve Smith, one of the greatest free throw shooters in NBA history, with a career success rate of 84.52 %. The odds of an 84.52% free throw shooter making 77 straight shots from the charity stripe is approximately (you guessed it) .0002%, or one in 500,000. In fact, Mark Price (who is tied with Steve Nash as the greatest NBA free throw shooter of all time) only made 77 straight in his career one time, and, if you were wondering, he missed number 78. Hopefully, we won’t get the chance to see if Bustin will continue his streak this Saturday. However, it is likely that he will be given the opportunity to push his streak to 80, or even higher.
Overall, I expect that Kansas will struggle against a well rounded Texas Tech side, but with the uncertainty at the quarterback position for the Raiders, and lack of any road run presence, Tech is certainly very vulnerable and very beatable.