Texas Tech (3-1) (1-0)
Similarly to Kansas State, Texas Tech has gained positive recognition from fans after an upset win. The Red Raiders defeated the Texas Longhorns 37-34 in an overtime victory. It was the third time they faced off against a ranked opponent this season and their second win against one. They have played in two overtime games already and are no stranger to competition thus far. With a high powered offense led by quarterback Donovan Smith, the Red Raiders will come to Manhattan ready for another potential battle to the end with the No. 25 ranked Wildcats.
Kansas State (3-1) (1-0)
K-State is coming off a season-changing win against Oklahoma. The offense helped lead the team as they took down the Sooners 41-34. While the defense has been the face of the team, it was quarterback Adrian Martinez who starred against the then-ranked No. 6 team in the country. It was the first time the K-State defense found themselves being pushed back by an offense this season. The team is in for another test with the Red Raiders bringing in the fifth most passing yards per game in the country.
Key Matchup to Watch: Donovan Smith vs. K-State Secondary
Smith has helped lead the Red Raiders to becoming one of the best passing offenses in college football. Throwing the ball at a high rate has led to nine touchdowns but also plenty of interceptions. Smith has thrown five interceptions this season, two against North Carolina State and three against Houston. The Longhorns were unable to pick off Smith as he bounced back in the upset win.
This up-and-down passing game consistency faces off against the Wildcats defense, which has caught seven interceptions this season. The secondary is led in interceptions by safeties Kobe Savage and Cincere Mason, each with two. Alongside them are safeties Josh Hayes and Drake Cheatum. All four have proven their ability to track the ball down the field and make a play. On the outside are veteran cornerbacks Julius Brents and Ekow Boye-Doe. Neither have an interception this year, but both have collected a deflected pass this season.
As Smith looks to throw the ball downfield, he will have to keep in mind the athletes on the backend waiting for him to make a mistake. Smith’s athleticism also brings the possibility of him running down the field from the pocket. This will force the secondary to continue their success as tacklers, as well as ballhawks in this matchup.
Wide Receiver Myles Price: Price enters the game after collecting 13 catches against the Longhorns. He will likely be Smith’s main target, as he leads the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. The passing attack will heavily rely on Price’s ability to be open and his timeliness to make big time plays when needed.
Defensive Lineman Tyree Wilson: Wilson has been the focal point of the defense, leading the team in tackles — tackles for loss and sacks. He is a heavy contributor in stopping the run and the pass game by reaching the quarterback. Quarterback Adrian Martinez and running back Deuce Vaughn will need to be on the lookout for Wilson near the line of scrimmage while he utilizes power against the Wildcat offensive line.
Safety TJ Smith: At his press conference on Tuesday, head coach Chris Klieman said Smith can expect more playing time on Saturday than he has been previously getting. In his time against the Sooners, Smith recorded three solo tackles. He may play a key role in both the run and pass game against the Red Raiders offense.
Wide Receiver Malik Knowles: Knowles’ biggest impact this season came in the first week when he scored a 75-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the year. Since then, he has not had a huge statistical game, but still leads the team in receptions and receiving yards; he has also left an impact on the return game. If the Texas Tech offense finds a way to push through the Wildcat defense, Knowles may be needed to make a few big plays — either to keep up, or ensure the Red Raiders stay behind.
Whoever wins this game will likely find themselves placed in the top 25. Each team has played in big moments and has come out on top. The game has a chance to be similar to the teams’ previous high scoring matchups. Texas Tech has the ability to keep up with the Wildcats’ newly found offensive rhythm. Martinez and Vaughn will need to keep the running game going in a similar fashion to last week’s performance where they combined for 264 rushing yards. This could lead to Smith throwing the ball all over the field and risking the chance of Wildcat takeaways.
This game has potential to come down to the final minutes of action. The main factor will be how the battle between Smith and the Wildcat defense flows throughout the night. While covering the 7.5-point spread for the Wildcats may be an issue, limiting mistakes should keep K-State ahead when the clock hits zero.