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1. One of the biggest games in the country involves the Texas Tech Red Raiders and this time we know it. Two weeks ago, people were shocked that after the Oklahoma Sooners finished beating up the Texas Longhorns, they looked on their TVs and saw the Red Raiders destroying the West Virginia Mountaineers. After winning a close game against the TCU Horned Frogs, Texas Tech faces another tough road test against one of the best teams in the country, the Kansas State Wildcats.
The two have played very similar schedules and the only common opponent that hasn’t gone nearly identical to the other team is when they each played the Oklahoma Sooners. KSU beat OU at home while Tech lost to them at home. But after that loss to the Sooners, the Red Raiders look like a very different team. Even against powerful offenses like the WVU and TCU, their defense has held strong.
The Tech defense is going to have to play differently in this game, though. Unlike the Mountaineers or the Horned Frogs, Kansas State doesn’t live on making big plays. They only had three plays of 20+ yards against the Iowa State Cyclones and only had four against OU. KSU loves to grind it out and win the turnover battle to beat you. Those games against Iowa State and Oklahoma were close on the scoreboard but Kansas State had the ball for 10 more minutes against OU and 20 more minutes against ISU.
And again, they created turnovers. In Big 12 play, Kanas State is dominating turnover margin with a +10 as Oklahoma is a distant 2nd at +3. The Red Raiders have a turnover margin of just +1 as Tech has a bend-but-don’t-break offense where they prevent big plays and tackle well.
This game will be interesting to watch because of the matchup problems presented by the Kansas State offense and the added challenge of facing a Red Raiders squad that’s pretty balanced but can also be extremely frustrating to plan for because they’re so versatile.
I obviously give KSU the edge here, but I could also see Tech winning a game where they only have the ball for 25 minutes. The key to making this a game will be for the Red Raiders to keep Colin Klein in check and get him off the field while Seth Doege and the offense move the ball and win the turnover battle (a tie favors Tech). And if Tech can pull this off, we’ll officially have chaos in the race to be Big 12 champion.
2. If you can believe it, as bad as the Kansas Jayhawks are at 1-6 this season, here are some interesting stats in terms of where they rank in Big 12 play compared to the Texas Longhorns:
Rushing offense: Kansas – 6th, Texas – 7th
Scoring defense: Kansas – 7th, Texas – 8th
Rushing defense: Kansas – 8th, Texas – 10th (last)
Total defemse: Kansas – 6th, Texas – 9th
The Jayhawks aren’t the joke that everyone thinks that they are. With Charlie Weis as head coach, they’re having trouble putting points on the board but they play tough. They played both TCU and Oklahoma State close and even hung with Kansas State into the 2nd half. But the two biggest stats that separate the two are turnover margin and red zone efficiency. As we mentioned before, Texas is +1 in conference. Kansas is -4. Turnovers cost them against TCU and Kansas State. They may win those games if they don’t keep giving the ball away.
And then there’s red zone efficiency. Of the Longhorns 18 trips to the red zone in conference play, 16 have ended in touchdowns. Meanwhile, Kansas is scoring points in less than half of their trips and they’ve turned the ball over on downs or lost fumbles four times in the red zone. Texas has zero TO’s in the red zone.
The game plan for the Longhorns is a simple one. Same one for every game. Dominate the running game, create chances for big passing plays, and win the turnover battle on defense. The biggest challenge every game is getting the defense to get stops, though. Kansas has some tough players at running back that each bring something different to the table. The Jayhawks run for more yards per game in the Big 12 than Texas does. James Sims is a Malcolm Brown-like every-down back, Tony Pierson is fast, and they love using Taylor Cox in the red zone because of his versatility.
Look for Kansas to work in a lot of screen plays and work out of a bootleg as well with new quarterback Michael Cummings. He’s more athletic and can work better on the run, which is why he’ll be making his first start with the Jayhawks on Saturday. Texas has been susceptible to offenses that take advantage of their over-pursuit in the pocket with screens and draws. Kansas also has a lot of options out of the bootleg. Now, Cummings can keep the ball, he can throw to a receiver sneaking through the middle of the field or throw back to one of their many running backs.
Photo courtesy Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
3. I recently talked to an Aggie fan who started bragging about how well “JFF” was playing. JFF? Johnny F@#$ing Football. Apparently one nickname isn’t enough for A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
The Texas A&M Aggies start a three-game road trip tomorrow against the Auburn Tigers. The Aggies should roll in this game. In SEC play, Auburn ranks last or close to last in most offensive categories and their turnover margin is worse than A&M’s. The Aggies gave their game away against the LSU Tigers. When you give up five turnovers and lose by as many points, it’s pretty clear where your problems were in the game. Their defense is stout, they just need help from the offense in protecting the ball and getting first downs, especially in the 4th quarter when offenses have taken advantage of the Aggie D. In their last two games, opponents have scored 37 points in the 4th quarter.
In close games this season, the Aggies have only outscored one team in the 4th quarter: Ole Miss. And that was a 4th quarter comeback. This should be a win, but anything short of a dominant performance will be disappointing considering their last road trip to Louisiana Tech nearly saw the Bulldogs pull off an upset.
4. Wrapping up the weekend in Lone Star State college football, TCU travels to Oklahoma State to take on the Cowboys and the game is really big for both teams. OSU has one loss and is still in contention for the conference championship even though they have yet to play any of the three teams ahead of them in the standings. A loss to the Horned Frogs would essentially derail any chance they have of contending for the conference.
Meanwhile, TCU is one loss away from joining the lower echelon of Big 12 teams in the standings. And with how their schedule is backloaded (final four games are at WVU, Kansas State, at Texas, and Oklahoma).
I’ll give Oklahoma State a slight edge in this game. They’re at home and looked good against Iowa State’s impressive defense last week. But TCU’s offense is on the way up as Trevone Boykin and the passing game improves. We’ve seen against both Baylor and Texas Tech that the Horned Frogs are capable of making big plays and exploding for points quickly, and OSU’s two losses were in similar shootouts.
Keep your eye on this game. I wouldn’t be surprised if the teams combined for close to 100 points. This could be a fun one.
5. On to the World Series, where San Francisco Giants outfielder, and former Houston Astros young gun, Hunter Pence had been struggling in the postseason until last night’s game. If you had to guess which Giants hitter would come up clutch late in a World Series game, Pence would sadly have been pretty low on the list.
As we said on Tuesday going into Game 1, Pence has been a leader in the clubhouse but not necessarily on the field. Pence is somehow batting 5th on an NL championship squad despite a .182 average and a .442 OPS. But last night he somehow came through in the clutch. He went 1-3 with an RBI, but the run he scored was the first of the game in the 8th inning and his 9th inning bases-loaded sac fly was a big moment. The biggest of the World Series so far:
Pence did what he had to do. He made contact and put something on it to get it into the outfield. If he strikes out or hits into a double play, the Detroit Tigers have some momentum going into the bottom of the 9th and feel good needing just one run to tie the game.
Hitting a sac fly may seem like it’s not that big a deal, but being able to do something like hitting a fly ball to the outfield with a runner on 3rd late in a game is exactly what separates the championship teams from everyone else that made the postseason.
6. Finally, Delonte West is at it again. And he may be done in Dallas. The Mavericks announced yesterday that West has been suspended once again for conduct detrimental to the team. This time, there’s no telling when West will come back. But a source for ESPN says that he won’t be back and that Dallas is working to ship him out.
Dallas isn’t going to miss him. West was largely a disappointment last season, unable to maintain leads or justify significant playing time as a backup while subbing in for the likes of Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. With Lamar Odom’s troubles, West just added to the off-court distractions that the Mavs didn’t need. His defense was good, but he was insignificant to the Dallas woes against big men dominating the boards.
But again, it’s tough to count on any of his positive factors because he was always missing so many games because of injury or off-court issues. At least he won’t be taking up a roster spot anymore.
Dallas will miss him short term, but West’s departure will mean more minutes for OJ Mayo and they may get an early look at rookie draft pick Jared Cunningham, who has a lot of West’s qualities.