Know your opponent: Texas Tech

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The Kansas State Wildcats play the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan. on Oct. 8, 2016. (Archive photo by Emily Starkey | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State football team will head to Lubbock, Texas, to take on Texas Tech this Saturday.

Texas Tech and K-State are both sitting at 4-4 records this season, and the winner of this game will have an inside route to bowl game eligibility. What can the Wildcats expect from the Red Raiders this weekend?

The Red Raiders currently boast a similar offense to the old Texas Tech teams coached by Mike Leach that caught the Big 12 by surprise in the late 2000s. In fact, current head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s time as quarterback for Texas Tech overlapped with Leach’s tenure as head coach.

Kingsbury’s offense is reminiscent of the “Air Raid Offense” that Leach and Hal Mumme developed. It is a speed-based passing offense that focuses on getting the football out to a talented receiver on the edge.

Texas Tech’s offense is usually a bad matchup for the K-State defense. This year, it looks especially bad for K-State.

Senior quarterback Nic Shimonek’s intelligence and decision-making are what make this offense work so well. K-State will have to pressure Shimonek into making bad reads, but if K-State has to blitz linebackers and safeties to get pressure on Shimonek, the Wildcats will struggle all day.

This means the Wildcats will have to do something they have struggled with all season if they want a chance: they will have to pressure the quarterback with the defensive ends.

If the defensive ends can get to the backfield, that will free up the linebackers to help make tackles on short outside passes. That support will allow the cornerbacks and safeties to feel more secure and go after the ball.

It would also be beneficial to play a more of a press coverage — the cornerbacks closer to the line of scrimmage — to stop bubble screens and disrupt the timed routes of the Texas Tech offense. Expect junior cornerback D.J. Reed to be used in an attempt to shut down Texas Tech’s leading receiver, Keke Coutee.

On defense, Texas Tech’s defensive coordinator, David Gibbs, is in his third year. He has been coaching in the NCAA and the NFL for 24 years — 10 of those were as defensive coordinator, the rest as a defensive back’s coach.

Considering K-State’s uncertainty in the quarterback position, the offense’s matchup actually bodes well for the Wildcats. The running backs are a strength for K-State, and with the possibility of redshirt freshman quarterback Skylar Thompson making his first start, K-State should play to that strength.

Thompson would only start if sophomore quarterback Alex Delton hasn’t recovered from the injuries that knocked him out of the game against the University of Kansas. Head coach Bill Snyder has given no indication that Delton has lingering injuries.

Even with Delton at the helm, K-State will still need to run the ball and strike a balance between the quarterback run and the running back run game.

Gibbs’ defense sits at seventh in the Big 12 conference in rushing defense, allowing 184 yards per game. However, K-State has the number three rushing offense in the Big 12 conference, averaging 181 yards per game.

K-State will need to score early and play with the lead. If the Wildcats have to air the ball out, Gibbs’ defense — which ranks second in the conference in interceptions — will likely have a field day with the young quarterbacks.

My prediction: K-State struggles to stop the Texas Tech offense, but keeps it close. Texas Tech wins 35-31.

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