Offensive Advantage: Texas Tech
Mike Leach's offensive theory is simple. More big plays are caused by defensive mistakes than by offensive prowess. To take advantage of that belief, Tech will spread the field and employ a lot of short passes and movement designed to get the ball to a receiver with open space to make a guy miss or take advantage of misalignment.
Sonny Cumbie is the third quarterback in three years to take the helm, and he has averaged 453 yards passing per game thus far. He has hit on 61 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns and four interceptions, but the offense has struggled at times to finish off drives in the red zone. That is a common problem with a short passing attack — once inside the 20, the team just runs out of room.
Taurean Henderson is a versatile running back who will get most of the carries and catch 4-6 balls out of the backfield per game. He has four touchdowns in the three games they have played. Johnny Mack will also get some touches in both the rushing and receiving game and has three touchdowns so far. Jarret Hicks has started off the season well, averaging over eight catches and 170 yards receiving per game with three touchdowns.
Tech likes to spread the ball out, with six players who have 10 or more catches. Nehemiah Glover has 16 catches for 200 yards and is blazing quick. The offensive line won't generate huge amounts of push, and has given up six sacks in two games, but will usually give Cumbie time to pass.
Inconsistency is the word for Kansas' offensive season thus far. The Jayhawks have looked like world beaters at times and have struggled at others. The offense struggled for most of the Tulsa and Northwestern games, but was firing on all cylinders against Toledo. In the Northwestern game, the receivers ran right past the Wildcats defensive backs, but the passes were either just off or the receivers dropped them.
Adam Barmann is having a solid debut season as "the man," completing just over 60 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns, two picks and an average of 234 yards per game. The rushing game has struggled in two of the three games as Kansas averages just over 100 yards rushing per game. John Randle was the starter the past two games after running well against Tulsa and Toledo, but struggled against Northwestern and was replaced by the everbuff Clark Green, who caught a long pass out of the backfield.
Brandon Rideau has alternated as dominant or a liability in the games thus far. Nobody from Northwestern could stay with Rideau, who dropped several first half passes. He rebounded with a stellar second half in which none of the Wildcats defenders looked like they wanted to cover him. Now which Rideau will show up for the Tech game?
Simmons and Heaggans have both been steady this year. The offensive line has played well at times and struggled at others. When Lyonel Anderson has been in the game at tight end, he has been a major difference maker.
Defensive Advantage: Kansas
Kansas' defense allows under 260 yards and 12.3 points per game, an improvement of about 18 points per game from last year. The defense has also forced eight turnovers and has accounted for ten sacks. Jermial Ashley, Greg Tyree and Brandon Perkins all have two sacks thus far, while countless other players have applied pressure.
Three of the linebackers average over five tackles per game, while Floodman is just off pace with 14 tackles in three games. Reid leads the team with 29 tackles and six tackles for loss. He also has a sack and an interception.
The team as a whole has intercepted four passes, and safeties Tony Stubbs and Rodney Harris are among the team leaders in tackles. The defensive backs held down a very potent Northwestern passing attack last week that was averaging over 330 yards passing per game, holding them to less than 200.
Texas Tech's defense suffers from the fact that they must be on the field a ton to compensate for the fast break offense. Still, this year's defense is better than previous versions.
All-Big 12 candidate defensive end Adell Duckett has four tackles for loss and a sack. The linebackers are active and clean up a lot of plays. The secondary has looked shaky at times against the pass, but the Red Raiders still allow just over 300 yards and 25 points per game. Some of the most active members include Vincent Meeks (25 tackles), Mike Smith (22 tackles, two for loss), Brock Stratton (17, 2) and John Saldi (16, 2). Huffman has 12 tackles, one interception and two fumbles recovered. With the potency of their offense, they will take that sort of performance any day. They might actually get a break in this one because Kansas' offense isn't known to hold onto the ball for long either.
Special Teams Advantage: PUSH
Both teams have stellar returnmen, good punters and shaky kicking games. Alex Reyes averages 45.1 yards per punt and has downed one inside the 20. Keith Toogood and Alex Tricia split the kicking duties, Toogood has the stronger leg and is better for kickoffs, while Tricia is more accurate. Combined, they are 1-4 on field goals, while Tricia is 9-9 on extra points. Danny Amendola averages 23.2 yards per punt return and has a 52 yard return to his credit.
Kansas' kicking game cost them last week's game with two missed field goals. Scott Webb is the accurate one and has yet to miss a Division I-A kick as he is 1-1 on field goals and 13-13 on extra points. Johnny Beck hasn't been so lucky, missing on four of his six attempts on field goals. He has been fantastic on kickoffs though, as 11 of his 19 kicks have been touchbacks. Charles Gordon looms dangerously as the punt returner, while John Randle had a big return filling in for Greg Heaggans last week. Chris Tyrell was kicking well until he dropped a snap last week, and Mangino chose Kyle Tucker to replace him. Tucker boomed a 46-yarder, so whichever way the ‘Hawks go, they should be fine.
This should be a game with a lot of highs and lows with both teams coming in from different places. Texas Tech enters the game after its best game of the season, a blowout victory over TCU, while Kansas is fresh off a disappointing loss. Texas Tech's offense is tough to prepare for, but who knows Mike Leach better than his protoge from Oklahoma.
Likewise, Bill Young has proven pretty adept at finding strong defensive gameplans, one of which shut down Missouri's Brad Smith, while another bottled up hotshot Northwestern quarterback Brett Basanez. Both teams can score in a hurry, so whichever coach can keep his team up and motivated may come out with the winner.