As we move closer to Saturday’s (morning) kick-off against Texas Tech, here’s Jug of Snyder’s look at the five things we’ll be watching for as the Wildcats attempt to climb above .500 for the first time since Big 12 play started while a 7-2 Tech team attempts to right the ship after shooting up the charts with a 7-0 start to the season (also, I’m still basking in the glow of predicting Baylor would destroy Oklahoma and my statements throughout the year that Oklahoma isn’t as good as people seem to believe).
Jace Amaro: If you haven’t heard Amaro’s name by now, don’t worry – you’ll hear this kid’s name crop up at least ten times from the announcers over the course of the game. It doesn’t matter if he’s held to one catch or snares 15, he’ll be the focal point of the conversation because he’s the focal point of this offense. The tight end leads Tech in receiving yards with 1,035. The next closest is teammate Eric Ward with 627. That’s right, Amaro has over 400 more yards receiving than anyone else on the team, and that differential will only increase as the season wears on. Amaro is a 6’5”, 260 pound mismatch nightmare, and the lack of height among K-State’s linebackers will mean Davis Webb is sure to put a couple of passes where only Amaro can grab them. The key will be hitting him – hard – and limiting his production. He’s the reason Texas Tech’s passing attack has been among the nation’s best this year. Since the first game of the year he’s had at least eight receptions in every contest.
The Turnover Battle: K-State has only won the turnover battle in one game this year – against Iowa State – and turnovers are the reason the Wildcats fell to Oklahoma State. Daniel Sams and Jake Waters both have a serious problem with coughing the ball up, but Texas Tech has been even worse. The Red Raiders are 108th in the nation with a turnover margin of -7, while the Wildcats are 106th with a margin of -6. Victory may go to whoever can figure out how to hold on to the ball and quit throwing it to the other team.
The Return Game: Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are back and healthy, but haven’t been as effective this second half of the season in the return game. Part of this is opponents are playing smart and refusing to kick towards them. However, the team must get the ball in their hands in the open field in the chaos of a return in order to be triumphant the rest of the season.
The Road Effect: K-State has been solid at home, going 4-2 (including a narrow loss to what is shaping up to be a national title contending Baylor squad). However, the Wildcats have gone 0-2 at home. K-State can get to bowl eligibility by simply winning out at home, but that will require victories over TCU and Oklahoma. Hopefully the team can overcome any road jitters and use long, soul-crushing drives to quiet the crowd and lock up bowl eligibility by the time TCU leaves Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
A Great Football And A Win: When K-State wins, it tends to be in blowouts that aren’t very exciting. When it loses, it’s a devastating defeat after the Wildcats held a lead in the fourth quarter. It would be great if Snyder can demolish Texas Tech down in Lubbock, but for the fans, I hope you experience a thrilling game that Tech had a chance to win but Waters seals away for the Wildcats.