It’s a battle between two teams that are fighting for bowl relevancy. Kansas State snapped its three-game losing streak last week with a 30-20 win over Kansas. But the Wildcats didn’t look pretty in the process. They gave up more than 400 passing yards to Carter Stanley, while getting outgained by the Jayhawks in total yards. The quarterback situation remains a mess as backup Alex Delton left the game with an injury, which turned things over to third-stringer Skylar Thompson (4-for-6, 40 yards).
Meantime, Texas Tech’s 4-1 start is a thing of the past, as the Red Raiders have dropped three in a row, all by double digits, against West Virginia, Iowa State and Oklahoma. Granted, all of Tech’s losses this season have come against teams ranked or receiving votes, but Kliff Kingsbury’s seat is slowly starting to warm back up, especially if the collapse continues through the month of November.
Kansas State at Texas Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Texas Tech -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Who’s at quarterback for K-State?
Quarterback Jesse Ertz has been out of action for a couple weeks. In his Monday teleconference, head coach Bill Snyder (above, right)denied a report that Ertz was done for the season, while insisting Ertz will play again this year. But Snyder’s credibility on this topic is suspect as he implied last week Ertz would play against Kansas. He never did.
Now they have backup Alex Delton dealing with an injury after he left the game against Kansas. Will it be Skylar Thompson getting the nod? Thompson flashed some wheels last week against Kansas, with 10 carries for 39 yards. Against KU, Kansas State only attempted 13 passes, compared to 43 rushes. Regardless of who is under center for the Wildcats, expect a heavy dose of running back Alex Barnes.
2. Kansas State secondary vs. Tech’s passing offense
The Wildcats were supposed to have one of the best secondary units in the Big 12, if not the country. But that has been far from the case. As mentioned earlier, K-State gave up more than 400 passing yards to Kansas last week, the same Kansas team that had a total of 21 yards against TCU the week prior.
Since conference play began, Kansas State is allowing 359 passing yards per game, which is the worst mark in the Big 12 by more than 40 yards. By comparison, we know Kliff Kingsbury wants to throw the ball, and Tech QB Nic Shimonek will look to build on his 322-yard passing day against Oklahoma last week, which included four touchdowns and just one interception.
3. Exploiting the inexperienced
Texas Tech is second in the Big 12 with a plus-seven turnover margin. While K-State is likely to focus on its running game, Tech needs to try and take advantage of any mistakes made by the young Kansas State quarterback(s). Tech’s 10 interceptions are the second most in the Big 12 this season and their 17 turnovers gained are tied for the most in the Big 12.
On the other side, Shimonek does need to be careful as he’s thrown five of his six interceptions since conference play began. While the Kansas State secondary has been leaky, there is still solid talent in the back end with D.J. Reed, Duke Shelley and Kendall Adams.
These are two teams who are not playing very good football at the moment. But they both realize that the winner of this game has a much better chance of making a bowl game. It’s been a series dominated by the Wildcats of late, as Kansas State has won five of the last six meetings against the Red Raiders.
But with the issues K-State is having on defense and at quarterback, combined with the fact that the Wildcats have to go on the road with an early start time, it’s hard to believe Bill Snyder’s team is going to head to Lubbock and pick up the victory.
Kansas State is going to want to run the ball as much as possible. In past years, that might have worked, but this Texas Tech run defense has been slightly better than in years past, ranking seventh in the Big 12. The Red Raiders have been more vulnerable through the air, but unfortunately for the Wildcats, K-State doesn’t appear like it will have the player, specifically at quarterback, to exploit that weakness on Saturday.
Prediction: Texas Tech 34, Kansas State 24
— Written by Pete Mundo, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as well as owner and operator of HeartlandCollegeSports.com, a site for Big 12 fans. Mundo also is a sports anchor at CBS Sports Radio and can found on Twitter @PeteMundo. Follow Heartland College Sports on Twitter @Heartland_CS.