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Kansas Looking For Respect in Conference Opener at Texas Tech

Previewing and predicting the Thursday night matchup between the Jayhawks and the Red Raiders!

Getty Images - Joe Murphy/John Weast

November 8, 2014. Not a particularly noteworthy date unless you were born on that day, or happen to be a Kansas Jayhawk fan. That just so happens to be the date of their last Big 12 Conference victory.  Head Coach David Beatty is still looking for his first conference win in his second year in Lawrence.

Texas Tech enters the contest, as they have for the past several years, with a high-powered offense and just hoping to play enough defense to win. It worked against Stephen F. Austin and Louisiana Tech, but not so much against Arizona State who rang up 68 points on the Red Raiders. For them to be anywhere near the top of the Big 12 standings at the end of November, they must find a way to slow down opposing offenses. In a weird twist, one way may be to slow down their own offense which scores quickly and often, but more on that in a minute.

Date/Time: Thursday, September 29, 2016  7:30 PM
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas
Forecast: Partly Sunny 70 degrees, winds ESE 7 mph
Betting Line: Texas Tech -29, O/U 80

Kansas Jayhawks (1-2) 

Progress comes in many shapes and sizes and if you are the Kansas football program, any win is a good win . So after Kansas opened the season with a 55-6 win over Rhode Island, which snapped a 15 game losing streak, they could hardly be blamed if they celebrated a bit. Which they did. They have since dropped consecutive games, bowing to Ohio 37-21 and then were blown out by Memphis 43-7. A bye week last week was a much-needed reprieve to try to get the train back on the track, and work on an offense ranked #79 in the country averaging 27.7 points per game.

The Kansas defense meanwhile, although ranked #80 in scoring at 28.7 points per game, is ranked 5th in the country against the pass allowing only 135 yards per game. Needless to say, it has not seen an offense like Texas Tech will put on the field, and the test to stop them is an enormous one. How big? The Red Raiders have the #1 passing offense in the country averaging 547.7 yards per game. That big.

Keys To The Game For Kansas

Sustain Drives – Kansas needs to shorten the game. They can’t survive a shootout with Tech. The best defense against a good offense is to keep them from having the ball. The Jayhawk rushing attack averages just 106 yards per game led by Ke’Aun Kinner with only 44.7 yards per game. That has to improve. Getting a good game on the ground from Kinner would help sustain drives, eat clock, and keep third downs manageable.

When not running, the Kansas offense can also use a control passing game to help work the clock and score points. Kansas has used two different quarterbacks to start the year with junior Montell Cozart (48-71, 484 yds, 5 TDs) seeing the most time. Sophomore Ryan Willis (17-27, 232 yds 2 TDs) should also see some time. The Tech defense is #124 in the country, so there would appear to be opportunities for Kansas to keep drives alive, hold on to the ball and score. With that being said….

Hold On To The Rock – With an offense as potent as Tech’s, Kansas cannot afford to give them extra opportunities to score. Through 3 games they have turned the ball over 11 times which at almost 4 per game is way too much to overcome against Tech. Not turning the ball over is paramount to any chance for victory.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore – For a team that has not won many games the past few years, playing on the road can be really tough, especially if you get behind early. Kansas has not won a conference game away from home since 2008 against some team named Missouri (remember them?) and that was a neutral site rivalry game. It is imperative that Kansas try to keep the historically rabid Lubbock crowd out of the game as much as possible, as they can make it especially hard on opposing offenses when riled up.

Texas Tech (2-1) 

At Texas Tech the name of the game is score, score again, and when in doubt, score some more. And in between scoring, put some guys out on the field while the offense catches its breath. The Tech offense, led by quarterback Pat Mahomes II, is the #1 passing offense and #2 scoring offense in the country at 61.0 points per game. Mahomes leads the nation in total offense at 543.7 yards per game including 497.7 passing. The offense is an equal opportunity outfit as 17 different receivers have caught at least one pass with five having double-digit catches. Jonathan Giles leads the team in receiving with 19 receptions for 346 yards and 5 touchdowns.

When it comes to the Tech defense its pretty much same song different year. The defense is ranked near the bottom of FBS at #124 out 128 teams. That is not good. They are #101 against the run and #123 against the pass. That is not good. The Kansas offense is #95 in total offense. That is not good. Both sides will look to get well and improve its stats at the expense of the other. Something has to give. Somebody is going to feel a little better about themselves after this match-up.

Keys To The Game For Texas Tech

Mahomes For Heisman – As Pat Mahomes goes, so goes the Red Raiders. Mahomes is arguably the best quarterback in the Big 12, maybe the country, and an early contender for the Heisman Trophy. It is imperative that the offensive line keep him upright and his jersey clean. If Mahomes has time, no one is stopping Tech’s offensive machine.

Can ANYBODY Make A Tackle? – It is hard to overstate how bad the defense has been through the first three games of the season. They haven’t stopped anyone through the air or on the ground and they don’t create turnovers with just three in 3 games. But at #124 in total defense they have actually IMPROVED 3 spots from where they finished last year. Being near the bottom of the rankings in defense every year is no way to win games or increase job security if you are Kingsbury. If they are ever going to figure it out and right the ship, this is the week against a less than stellar Kansas offense.

Hit ‘Em Early And Often – Kansas is a young team with a young coach who has not had much success the past few years. The kind of team without a whole lot of self-confidence that will get down on itself if jumped on early and doubt creeps in. A couple of quick scores and the stands start rockin’ and it could be over before halftime. Conversely, letting a young team make plays early, have some success and gain momentum can make for a long afternoon when you have a porous defense prone to giving up points. A couple of quick strikes early could go a long way toward taking the fight out of the Jayhawks.

Game Prediction 

A conference opener brings with it hopes for a great season no matter what the out of conference games have shown. The promise of a conference title still resides in the hopes of every player. Optimism is in the air along with the first hint of fall. The first game can set the tone for the rest of the schedule, raising hopes or crushing dreams.

The difference in this game will be the difference in most games Texas Tech plays this year and that is Pat Mahomes II. Kansas has no one on its side of the field that can match him play for play nor do they have the weapons he has at his disposal. Kansas will make some plays and score some points against a bad Tech defense. But in the end, Tech will just be Tech and score, score, score.

This will be no field of dreams for Kansas.

Texas Tech 52- Kansas 31

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