Both the Kansas Jayhawks and Texas Tech Red Raiders seem to be building positive momentum in 2018. When the two meet in Lubbock, they’ll have a chance to show that those trends can have tangible results.
The Red Raiders are coming off a big upset win over TCU, a victory that moved them to 2-1 in conference play. The 17-14 win was highlighted by a long touchdown run by third string quarterback Jett Duffey. It was also marked by good defensive play from Texas Tech, which took advantage of multiple Horned Frog turnovers.
The Kansas Jayhawks entered conference play with a winning record, having routed the two FBS teams they played in their non-conference contests. Even though Kansas has since lost three Big 12 games in a row, there are some positive signs for the Jayhawks on both sides of the ball.
A win here would be almost as big of a step forward for Kansas as it would be a setback for Texas Tech. Both teams appear to be headed in generally positive directions, and getting a win in this game – no matter the score – would mean a lot for their respective 2018 campaigns.
Kansas Jayhawks (2-4, 0-3)
The biggest news coming out of Lawrence has been the firing of offensive coordinator Doug Meacham. Head coach David Beaty is taking over Meacham’s duties, leaving a bit of mystery as to what the Jayhawks will look like on offense from here out.
A surprising strength for Kansas has been their running game, with freshman Pooka Williams leading the charge in that department. Williams is averaging 6.4 yards per carry in conference play, and has shown himself to be one of the better runners in the Big 12.
Though there’s experience throughout the Jayhawks’ offense, Kansas has had problems moving the ball through the air. They’re averaging 180 yards per game in that metric, and have had trouble settling on a quarterback.
Expect the pro-style senior Peyton Bender to start, but backups Carter Stanley and Miles Kendrick could both get reps. Each has more athleticism than Bender, and have been used this season to spark the offense.
The defense has really been carrying the water for Kansas this season, helping them to lead the nation in turnover margin. The Jayhawks are +13 in that statistic, thanks to an opportunistic secondary. Kansas has eleven interceptions on the season, thanks to an experienced group that can get pressure without having to blitz.
A real bugaboo for the Jayhawks defense has been their performance against opposing ground games. Kansas is giving up 177.2 yards per game against opponents, something that has kept them from turning more losses into wins in 2018.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-2, 2-1)
On offense, the Red Raiders come into this game with some notable injuries. The biggest issue there is with the quarterback position.
It’s likely that freshman Alan Bowman, who most think is the best quarterback on campus at Texas Tech, will have to sit this game out. Bowman is still recovering from a collapsed lung he suffered the Red Raiders’ loss to West Virginia in their second conference game.
That means that Jett Duffey will most likely get the start again at home this Saturday. Duffey’s had issues with ball security and mental mistakes in the past, but he appeared to make progress against TCU in Forth Worth.
Duffey is a dual threat who is more dangerous as a runner than a passer, although he has targets in the passing game. Antoine Wesley, T.J. Vasher, and Ja’Deion High are all receivers who came up with crucial plays last week against the Horned Frogs.
Despite multiple injuries on the offensive side of the ball, the players who will take the field inside AT&T Jones Stadium are all capable. Expect Kliff Kingsbury to use Duffey’s athleticism in order to open up the passing game, something Texas Tech was able to do last Thursday.
In their last outing, the Red Raiders’ defense was aggressive and tackled well in space. In particular, players like linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Dakota Allen had standout games against TCU.
The rushing defense has really been solid for Texas Tech, only giving up 122.7 yards per game in Big 12 play. Although cornerback Adrian Frye leads the conference in passes defended, overall the Red Raiders have been vulnerable against opposing teams’ air attacks.
Keys To The Game For Kansas
Get First Downs – Kansas’s ability to win a game like this is going to depend on their ability to move the chains and maintain possession of the football. They have a couple of good running backs in Pooka Williams and Khalil Herbert, and both of those players need to be able to find holes in the running game and pick up positive yardage. If the Jayhawks can move the chains and run the clock, they’ll keep this one close.
Win The Turnover Battle – The Jayhawks come into this contest as heavy underdogs, but the one thing that could swing this game in their favor is their ability to take the ball away. If Kansas get two or three turnovers and set the offense up with good field position, that should translate into points up on the scoreboard.
Play For Field Position – It’s tempting to take chances on fourth down when you’re on the road against a team like Texas Tech, one known for high powered offense. The Jayhawks need to trust their defense to be able to get stops in this one, though, and take as few chances as necessary. If they can get in good enough field position, Kansas might set up some good chances for kicker Gabriel Rui.
Keys To The Game For Texas Tech
Start Fast – With Duffey at quarterback, Texas Tech didn’t get going on offense until the second half. If the Red Raiders want to try and get out ahead on Kansas, however, their first drive will really be key. It benefits Kansas for this to be a slower kind of game, so try to come out of the gate hot.
Play Aggressive, Disciplined Defense – The Red Raiders have been solid in defending the run this season, and there’s no reason why they can’t have success again on Saturday afternoon. They’re facing an offense that might be most one-dimensional group they’ll see all season. For that reason, stopping the running game will be a major factor for Texas Tech, and doing that starts with showing the same discipline and aggressive play we’ve seen throughout 2018.
Continue Good Special Teams Play – Against the Horned Frogs, the Red Raiders did a good job of putting TCU in bad field position. That ended up making a huge difference in a game decided by three points. With so many injuries on both sides of the ball, Texas Tech can make the lives of their defense a lot easier by pinning the Jayhawks deep whenever possible.
This is potentially a scary game for the Red Raiders for a couple of reasons. Texas Tech is hosting Kansas at homecoming, and those types of games – while great for fans and the families of players – tend keep coaches up at night because of all the potential distractions that come with them. Don’t get me wrong, mums and floats and traditions are what make college football great, but it can sometimes cause a team to start slow.
Having a bad start with your third string quarterback at the helm would be tough for the Red Raiders, and be a great advantage for Kansas. If the Jayhawks can stay in this game into the fourth quarter, then they will really have a chance to use some momentum as a road team.
In general, though, it’s hard to do that as an underdog. I see this game as one that might be close early, but Texas Tech will eventually pull away to cover the 18-point line. Kingsbury’s teams are very reliable as home favorites, and the matchups in this one seem to favor the Red Raiders. I don’t know that both teams can combine for 60 or more points, but I’ll take Texas Tech by 19.