There is no rational reason that Texas Tech should take any opponent lightly, but that happened last season when the Red Raiders escaped Lawrence with a 30-20 victory over Kansas – the closest the Jayhawks came to winning a Big 12 game last season.
Following a bye week, Texas Tech will host the Jayhawks Thursday (7:30 p.m. Central, Fox Sports 1). Kansas is 1-2 with the only victory over Rhode Island, an FCS team that is 0-4 and allowing 45 points per game. KU, which also was off last week, committed nine turnovers in its last two games.
The Red Raiders (2-1) are going to be on upset alert.
“They really wanted to beat us,” Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes said of last year’s game. “They really wanted to win that game. They brought it that day. They will bring the same attitude coming in. They’re going to be expecting to win. They’re going to come in here expecting to beat us.”
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury is using last year’s game as motivation. If a Jayhawks team that finished 0-12 and has lost 17 of its last 18 games can threaten the Red Raiders into the fourth quarter, there’s no justification in being overconfident.
“It was unenergetic. It was bad coaching. Bad playing offensively,” Kingsbury said of last year’s game at Kansas. “They got after us physically, schematically and so we got outplayed and out-coached. Offensively, it was a joke. We have been taking this personal, and I think the players are ready to get out there and see what we can do.”
Texas Tech is second nationally in total offense thanks in large part to Mahomes. The junior quarterback leads the nation in total offense and passing yards per game. He’s especially dangerous when Texas Tech’s running game presents a threat. According to Pro Football Focus, Mahomes has a perfect passing rating on play-action passes, completing 33 of 42 passes for 643 yards, eight scores and no interceptions.
Mahomes’ talents have Kansas coach David Beaty sounding like he’s reading the script for The Big Lebowski.
“He’s so valuable,” he (Beaty, not Lebowski) said.
“He’s like a coach on the field, he knows that offense so well. You’ve got to get pressure on him but he’s a big dude. He’s a tough dude. He won’t go down with one dude getting a hit on him.”
An interpretation of statistics produced by a small sample size indicates that Kansas is making progress. The Jayhawks are last in red zone production but third in total defense and second in defensive pass efficiency. Couple that with being last in turnover margin, and it’s not a stretch to say that avoiding mistakes could produce victories.
The Jayhawks committed seven turnovers in their last game, a 43-7 loss at Memphis. Kingsbury is cautioning his team not to read much into that outcome.
“I think the last game was, the last game was not a true statement of who they are as a football team,” Kingsbury said of Kansas. “Don’t look at the scores or look at the wins and losses, because if you turn the ball over that many times, you’re not going to win the game. So I don’t think it’s a true indication of who they are.”
Texas Tech’s defense is again a problem. The Red Raiders are No. 124 in the FBS in total defense, allowing 531 yards and 43 points per game. The annual goal of improving that side of the ball has yet to be achieved.
“I’ve said it over and over. When we have something bad happen we can’t let it turn into four or five things in a row happen that are against us,” Kingsbury said. “We’ve played well in stretches but then we give up a big play, miss a tackle and we let that bother us. So the main focus over there is just handling adversity better.”
The chance to improve comes with the start of Big 12 play. At least one Red Raider is willing to ignore the opponent’s won-loss record and recent results.
“We need to approach every game like they’re the number-one team in the country,” Texas Tech wide receiver Dylan Cantrell said.