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Kansas Jayhawks vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders Preview and Prediction

Kilff Kingsbury

Kilff Kingsbury

Kansas faces Texas Tech Thursday night in the first Big 12 conference game for both teams. The Jayhawks hope to snap their 12-game losing streak in league play, but must slow down one of the nation’s most potent offenses to do so. A win also would halt a string of 39 consecutive road losses, a streak that dates back to 2009.

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Kansas at Texas Tech

Kickoff: Thursday, Sept. 29 at 8:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FS1

Spread: Texas Tech -28

Three Things to Watch

1. Texas Tech’s Explosive Offense
The Red Raiders have scored 61.0 points and tallied 678.7 yards of total offense per game this season, both of which lead the Big 12 and rank second nationally. Tech leads the nation with 547.7 passing yards per contest and ranks third in the country with an explosive average of 8.05 yards per play.

Quarterback Patrick Mahomes leads the country with 497.7 passing yards per game and ranks in the top five nationally in touchdown passes (14), yards per attempt (11.3) and completion percentage (71.2). Mahomes has completed 94 of 132 pass attempts for 1,493 yards with only two interceptions through three games. He has 138 rushing yards and a team-leading four touchdowns.

Simply, Mahomes is off to a historic start. No quarterback in the nation has accounted for more total yardage through the first three games of a season since 2000.

Though he has connected with an astounding 17 different receivers thus far in 2016, Mahomes’ favorite target this year has been Jonathan Giles, who leads the Red Raiders in receptions (19), receiving yards (346) and TD catches (5). Giles had six receptions for 186 yards and three scores in the 59-45 victory over Louisiana Tech last week.

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2. Signs of Improvement for Kansas
Kansas entered the season on a 15-game losing streak, but promptly trounced FCS member Rhode Island 55-6 in Week 1. The Jayhawks averaged an impressive 7.8 yards per play and racked up 570 total yards of offense. The Kansas defense held Rhode Island to 219 total yards (3.5 yards per play) and forced three turnovers. Though Kansas fell to 1-2 following a 37-21 loss to the Bobcats and a 43-7 drubbing at the hands of Memphis in Week 3, the Jayhawks still made some positive strides.

Defensively, Kansas has allowed 28.7 points per game this year, which compares favorably to the 46.1 points per game opponents scored last season, including 41.0 in non-conference play. The Kansas defense also recorded five sacks last week against Memphis – the most for the team since registering the same number against Texas Tech in 2015.

Kansas has limited opponents to an average of 4.86 yards per play this season compared to a 6.96 in 2015. The Jayhawks held just one opponent to fewer than 6.0 yards per play last season but has yet to allow that number to any opponent this year.

On offense, Kansas is averaging 5.9 yards per play, which is a nice improvement over last year’s average of 4.4. The squad also has scored 12 touchdowns, which is halfway to the total the Jayhawks posted a season ago. Eight of those scores have come through the air. Last season, Kansas QBs combined to throw just 12 touchdowns.

Kansas should have plenty of opportunities to score given Texas Tech’s struggles on defense. The Red Raiders have allowed 43.3 points per game (which ranks 124th nationally), 6.43 yards per play (No. 115), and 5.0 yards per rush (No. 106) this season.

3. A Quick Start for the Red Raiders
Texas Tech has outscored opponents 56-12 in the first quarter this seaosn. The Red Raiders also have scored at least 35 points in the first half in each of their three games and have averaged 38.0 points per game through the first 30 minutes. There are 68 teams nationally that have averaged fewer than 38.0 points over the course of an entire game in 2016, including Kansas (27.7 ppg).

And, the Red Raiders don’t let halftime stop their momentum. Tech has scored a touchdown on each of its initial second-half series in all three games this season.

Final Analysis

Kansas played one of its best games last season against Texas Tech, holding the Red Raiders to just 30 points – the second fewest Tech scored in a game in 2015. And, through three games, Kansas looks like an improved squad overall, particularly on defense. Still, Texas Tech will score early and often and the Red Raiders are a heavy favorite to pick up an important, opening Big 12 win.

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Prediction: Texas Tech 55, Kansas 31

— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.