(TNS) — Odds are good that Kansas State or Texas Tech will qualify for a bowl, but maybe not both. The Wildcats and Red Raiders enter this game with identical 4-4 records. The winner will only need to win one of its final three games to reach bowl eligibility, while the loser will need to finish 2-1.
K-State key to success: Create turnovers. While it feels inevitable that Texas Tech will throw for big yardage against K-State’s struggling secondary, the Wildcats are capable of capitalizing on the Red Raiders’ mistakes. D.J. Reed returned an interception for a touchdown against them last season, and Kendall Adams has scored two defensive touchdowns this year. Linebacker Jayd Kirby dropped would could have been a pick six last week at Kansas. Big K-State plays on defense would go a long way in this game.
Texas Tech key to success: Start fast. Texas Tech appears to be on one of its patented late-season collapses under Kliff Kingsbury. The Red Raiders have followed a 4-1 start by losing three in a row, all by double-digits. They slumped hard in November, averaging just 25 points in their past three games. They need to regain confidence, and the best way to do that is by scoring a few early touchdowns against K-State, forcing Bill Snyder’s methodical offense to try and play catch up.
Texas Tech player to watch: Dakota Allen is more than just Texas Tech’s third-leading tackler this season. He’s also a reality TV show star. Anyone who has watched the Netflix series “Last Chance U” should recognize Allen. He was one of the main characters profiled in the show’s second season at East Mississippi Community College. Allen began his career at Texas Tech, but was dismissed for his role in a Lubbock burglary that involved gun theft. He was welcomed back after rehabilitating his image for a year in junior college. Now he is one of the Red Raiders’ top defensive players. He has made 57 tackles and two interceptions this season.
Key matchup: Alex Barnes vs. Texas Tech’s defensive front. Barnes has topped 100 rushing yards in back-to-back games, and he may need make it a three-peat to give K-State a chance if this turns into a shootout. Barnes, a sophomore, did most of his damage out of the wildcat formation last week, running for 128 yards and two touchdowns against Kansas. He also broke loose for a 75-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma. Texas Tech is allowing 160 rushing yards per game. Barnes will need to take advantage by churning out long runs that keep the Red Raiders’ offense off the field.
Kellis Robinett’s prediction: Texas Tech 35, Kansas State 28. The Red Raiders haven’t been playing well of late. Neither have the Wildcats. This one could go either way, but Texas Tech gets the edge at home because of its explosive offense.