The Kansas State Wildcats pulled off the biggest upset in the Big 12 — and one of the biggest of the college football season — by beating Oklahoma 48-41 in October. K-State then beat Kansas the following week to secure bowl eligibility. However, following back-to-back losses, the Wildcats are now 6-4 overall and 3-4 in conference play heading into Saturday’s matchup with the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Texas Tech, which comes in with a 4-6 overall record including a 2-5 mark in Big 12 play, must win each of its final two games to become bowl eligible. The Red Raiders lost to TCU 33-31 last week, which marked their fourth loss in five games.
Kansas State vs. Texas Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas Tech -2.5
When Kansas State Has the Ball
The Wildcats rely heavily on running the football. K-State has run the ball on a higher percentage of offensive plays (63.06 percent) than any other team in the Big 12 and ranks No. 4 in the conference and No. 38 nationally in rushing offense (191.10 yards per game).
Running back James Gilbert leads the team with 618 rushing yards and ranks second to quarterback Skylar Thompson (who has run for 10 touchdowns) with six scores on the ground. Gilbert, who posted three 100-yard rushing games before he missed two games in early November due to injury, returned to the lineup last week and gained 60 rushing yards and scored one touchdown on 13 carries. Thompson has run for 350 yards on 89 carries, both of which are good for second on the squad. Jordon Brown (264 rushing yards, 3 TDs), Harry Trotter (258, 3) and Tyler Burns (148, 2) have also earned significant playing time and have contributed to the rushing attack.
Kansas State ranks last in the Big 12 and 101st in the country in passing offense (192.5). However, the Wildcats have been relatively effective when choosing to throw, averaging 7.7 yards per pass attempt, which ranks sixth in the league and No. 58 in the nation. Thompson has completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 1,888 yards and 10 touchdowns with three interceptions, and he has averaged 7.8 yards per attempt.
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
Texas Tech throws far more often than Kansas State. The Red Raiders have passed on 54.8 percent of their offensive plays, and they lead the league with an average of 42.3 pass attempts per game. Only three FBS teams (Washington State, Hawaii, and Purdue) have averaged more pass attempts than Texas Tech. However, the Red Raiders rank No. 14 in the country in passing offense (312.9) and No. 67 in yards per pass attempt (7.4).
Quarterback Jett Duffey has started each of the last six games for Tech. Duffey, who took over for the injured Alan Bowman, has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 2,107 yards and 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Duffey has averaged 8.1 yards per pass attempt.
The Red Raiders have incorporated a long list of receivers into their passing attack, led by T.J. Vasher and Dalton Rigdon. Vasher leads the team in receptions (37) and touchdowns (6) and ranks third with 473 receiving yards. Rigdon leads the team in receiving yards (486) and is second on the team with 34 receptions and five touchdown catches. Unfortunately, Vasher has missed the last two games because of suspension, and Rigdon has been in the concussion protocol this week. Both players are questionable to play.
If neither Vasher nor Rigdon is able to face Kansas State, R.J. Turner will be the most productive receiver available to Duffey. Turner has recorded 34 receptions, 478 yards, and two touchdowns. Erik Ezukanma has posted similar numbers, having caught 32 passes for 460 yards and two scores.
At running back, SaRodorick Thompson has emerged as Tech’s top ball carrier, Thompson leads the Red Raiders with 595 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on a team-high 123 carries. Ta’Zhawn Henry ranks third on the team with 340 rushing yards and is tied with second-leading rusher Armand Shyne (374 rushing yards) with three touchdowns. Duffey has gained 169 rushing yards and one touchdown on 56 carries.
Kansas State and Texas Tech operate with very different offensive strategies, impacting the defenses of both teams. The Wildcats rank No. 5 in the Big 12 and 43rd overall in total defense (362.0), while the Red Raiders rank last in the conference and 124th on the FBS leaderboard (478.2). Much of that gap can be attributed to the offensive pace of play of each team, as the two units are much closer in yards allowed per play, with the Wildcats ranking No. 8 in the Big 12 and No. 103 nationally at 6.26, and Texas Tech (6.52) ranking last in the conference and No. 114 in the country.
Therefore, neither defense has a huge edge, statistically speaking. But K-State has done a better job limiting its opponents’ offensive possessions. If the Wildcats are able to repeat that effort Saturday, and given the relative health of Kansas State’s top offensive players compared to Texas Tech's, the Wildcats have an opportunity to dash Texas Tech’s bowl hopes.