Kansas St.-Texas Tech Preview

TOM CASTRO (STATS Senior Editor)

Texas Tech was rolling along unbeaten until it ran into tougher competition the past two weeks.

While they won't be facing a third straight ranked opponent Saturday, the Red Raiders will host a Kansas State team that's looked good in winning its last two contests, albeit against lesser opponents.

Looking to get back on track after two straight losses and hoping to improve their fading Big 12 title hopes, the No. 25 Red Raiders try to avoid a third defeat in a row to the Wildcats.

Texas Tech (7-2, 4-2) was ranked 10th after moving to 7-0 on Oct. 19, but defeats to then-No. 17 Oklahoma and then-No. 18 Oklahoma State in its most recent games has it on the verge of dropping out of the poll. The Red Raiders gave the Sooners a run before falling 38-30 on the road Oct. 26, but they were routed 52-34 by the Cowboys at home last Saturday.

Texas Tech outgained Oklahoma State 549-492 but allowed 21 points in both the first and third quarters and committed three turnovers - a number that could have been far worse as the Red Raiders fumbled four times, losing only one.

The Cowboys also averaged 17.2 yards on five punt returns, with one 46-yard effort that set up a touchdown.

"Lose the turnover battle and get outplayed on special teams against a really good team like that you're going to have a hard time winning the game," said coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose team's 22 giveaways are among the most in the nation. "Came out really flat and didn't play well in the second half."

Freshman Davis Webb was 45 of 71 for 425 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in his fourth start. He's thrown two picks in each of the last two games, giving him seven on the season, after throwing one over the previous three.

Texas Tech also struggled on defense, giving up season highs of 281 yards rushing and five touchdowns on the ground.

That means Kingsbury's passing attack that ranks second in the FBS with 414.2 yards per game may have to be productive again this week, as Kansas State (4-4, 2-3) has totaled 76 points in its back-to-back victories.

The versatile quarterback duo of Jake Waters and Daniel Sams threw for 221 yards and ran for 89 to lead the Wildcats past Iowa State 41-7 last Saturday.

"You've got to play assignment football. ... (Kansas State has) great receivers outside who can really run, so we're going to have to be great with our eye control and be very disciplined," Kingsbury said.

Even more impressive in their past two contests, however, was the Wildcats' defense, as they allowed 19 points in beating West Virginia and the Cyclones.

Kansas State, which had given up more than 30 points in each of its previous three games, held Iowa State scoreless until 3:24 remained and limited it to 249 yards. Wildcats end Ryan Mueller was named Big 12 defensive player of the week after recording seven tackles, two for loss, and one sack.

"I think we're gradually improving each and every game on the defense," Mueller told the school's official website. "It's a credit to our coaches. They're doing a great job working with us and demanding the best from us."

Mueller and his teammates may have their hands full with Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro, who's among the FBS leaders with 1,035 receiving yards and had career highs of 174 yards on 15 receptions along with a touchdown last week.

Then-No. 4 Kansas State rolled past then-No. 15 Texas Tech 55-24 last Oct. 27 at Manhattan. The Wildcats won 41-34 at Lubbock in 2011.