October 1, 2011

The Nickel: Kansas

Texas Tech football takes on Kansas today at 11 a.m. in Lawrence, Kan.

Here are the five predominant storylines going into the game:

Can Tech exploit Kansas' run defense?

This fact just doesn't get old; Kansas gave up 604 rushing yards at Georgia Tech in a 66-24 loss.

It will be interesting to see if the Red Raiders also can put up some high rushing numbers on the Jayhawk defense. Junior running back Eric Stephens is playing the best football of his career up to this point and now he's backed up by three freshmen running backs that were ranked among some of the highest in the nation.

Head coach Tommy Tuberville said he does not expect any other team to put up Georgia Tech rushing numbers on Kansas again this season. The Yellow Jackets run a flexbone option offense and offenses in the offenses in the Big 12 Conference are more common.

Still, doing damage on the ground should be part of the Red Raiders game plan until Kansas shows it can stop it.

Can Kansas exploit Tech's run defense?

There's no sugar coating it. Tech's defense did not look very impressive in the Red Raiders 35-34 win against Nevada last week giving up more than 300 yards on the ground.

That's fine by Kansas, a team that would prefer to run the ball and uses four running backs rather than putting the pressure on sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb.

But just like Kansas, the Red Raiders will be seeing more conventional offenses in the upcoming weeks, not option and complex pistol offenses.

The return of Leon Mackey

While on the thought of stopping Kansas' run, there is some really good news for Red Raider fans. Defensive end Leon Mackey is back from his partially deflated lung condition and he will be in commission, at least to some extent, against the Jayhawks.

Mackey, a junior college transfer, had a promising fall camp but hasn't been able to showcase his abilities this season. He was knocked out with the lung injury in the Red Raiders' season-opening game against Texas State on Sept. 3.

In addition to helping stop the run, Mackey is a great pass rusher and could help improve the Red Raiders in that department alongside guys like Dartwan Bush and Jackson Richards.

Does Eric Ward step up for the loss of Darrin Moore?

Receiver Eric Ward was on the receiving end of last week's play of the game, the game-winning touchdown with 44 seconds left. He finished the game with 51 yards though.

With wideout Darrin Moore definitely out for today's game, Ward should have the opportunity to put up more yards than he historically has.

Ward has definitely stepped it up this season and he has the potential to put up some big numbers this year, especially if Moore is out long-term. The question is, does Doege have the same trust with Ward that he has with Moore?

While Kansas has shown a weakness in defending the run, the Red Raiders' forte is still the pass. Ward could be a big part of Tech's offensive numbers.

How does the bye week help Kansas

All the reports from Lawrence are the Jayhawk squad feels much better about itself after having 14 days to regroup from the Georgia Tech loss.

Kansas head coach Turner Gill said the Jayhawks got back to basics and did a little soul searching.

Does Kansas really come out a different team or are the Jayhawks just telling people what they want to hear before the wheels come off against Tech and the remainder of the Big 12 schedule?

We'll find out all the answers and more before 3 p.m. today.

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