October 15, 2011

The Nickel: Kansas State

Texas Tech takes on No. 17 Kansas State tonight at 6 p.m. inside Jones AT&T Stadium.

Here are five storylines to keep in mind while watching Tech-Kansas State from the stadium or Fox Sports Net:

How does the running game respond?

The Red Raiders lost Eric Stephens for the season last week after he suffered a dislocated knee. Now it's up to fifth-year senior Aaron Crawford and true freshmen Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington to sustain the best running game Tech has had in a decade.

The key is Crawford, a guy who looked great his true freshman year but hasn't been able to keep healthy since.

Can Crawford keep healthy? Is he capable of being the Red Raiders' lead tailback?

Additionally, can Williams and Washington make limited mistakes. The Red Raiders can't afford turnovers against Kansas State.

Ball control

If Kansas State has a shot against Tech, it will need to hold the ball as long as possible. The Wildcats have been successful in this regard all season but it's safe to say they will be going up against an offense that will throw more than it has in the past this season and they're not the greatest team against the pass.

If Baylor can put up 346 passing yards against Kansas State, Seth Doege and Tech's offense can do more. Scoring should not be a problem for the Red Raiders but a turnover or two could allow Kansas State to hang around with time consuming scoring drives.

If Tech can capitalize on most of its possessions, and not turn the ball over, the Red Raiders will win today's ballgame.

Can Doege continue to work his magic?

Going along with limiting turnovers against Kansas State, can Doege continue to put up such good numbers without turning the ball over.

The junior quarterback has just one interception in 227 passing attempts and he's completed more than 70 percent of his throws. He has the attention of the Maxwell Award committee.

No Tech quarterback has kept that up forever though. Even Graham Harrell threw seven picks in his senior season in 568 passing attempts.

If Doege can continue to throw, throw effectively and throw without turning the ball over, he might be the best on a long list of great Tech gunslingers.

Would you feel more comfortable with anyone now that the Red Raiders will have to lean on the throw even more than they do now?

Win it in the redzone

All that talk to say the fifth-ranked Red Raider redzone offense needs to make the absolute most out of their drives against the fourth-ranked redzone defense.

With Kansas State's ball control offense, opponents have only had 10 opportunities to score in the redzone. The Wildcat defense has allowed five touchdowns and a field goal when the ball is snapped inside the 20-yard line.

Something has got to give. Winning in the redzone is a must for the Red Raiders, but it's not as scary as it sounds. Neither Baylor or Missouri, both Kansas State wins, are in the top 40 in the offensive redzone category.

Is this the week Tech stops the run game?

With defensive end Scott Smith claiming to be back to earth after playing with too much adrenaline against Texas A&M and Leon Mackey on the same defensive line along with some other pretty good players, is this the week the Red Raiders finally stop a run attack.

If it is, Kansas State will be completely sunk. Most of the Wildcats offensive success comes on the ground and they even seem reluctant to put the ball in the air.

Not only would stopping the Kansas State running game give the Red Raiders a big win against a ranked opponent, but it would also give the Red Raider some defense heading into a back-heavy conference schedule.

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