Texas Tech and Kansas kickoff underneath the big sky in Lawrence this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. in front of a national television audience on Fox Sports 1, and here’s three matchups to keep an eye wherever you’re watching the game.
Terrance Bullitt vs. Tony Pierson
This is the heavyweight matchup. On one side, you have Texas Tech’s 6-3/220 senior outside linebacker playing his best season of football, flying all over the field and making plays everywhere on a stingy Red Raider defense. On the other side, there’s junior running back Tony Pierson who leads all Kansas receivers with 15 receptions, 209 yards and a touchdown. Bullitt lines up at the Raider position, a hybrid linebacker/safety spot responsible for covering slot receivers and backs catching passing out of the backfield, precisely how Kansas plans to use Pierson.
It’ll be interesting to watch these two potential All-Big 12 candidates go at it. Pierson definitely has a speed advantage on the much bigger linebacker, but don’t underestimate Bullitt’s intelligence and ability to diagnose and blow up plays before they ever develop. Should be fun to watch.
Jake Heaps/Baker Mayfield vs. the Pass Rush
Both these quarterbacks suffer from a common factor: they’ll be running for their lives on Saturday. Heaps and the Kansas offensive line haven’t yet faced a pass rush like what the Red Raiders bring, but they’ve still managed to give up three sacks per game to South Dakota, Rice and La. Tech. Mayfield’s offensive line hasn’t slowed anyone down yet, and those true-freshman decisions only get worse with a defensive end breathing down his neck.
Whichever pass rush can hit home the most decides this ball game. If the line can’t keep Mayfield clean and give him time to make the right reads, Kansas stays in this game with a chance to win late.
Edge: Pass Rush
Ryan Bustin vs. Matthew Wyman
Kansas managed to squeeze by La. Tech on a last-second, 52-yard field goal from walk-on kicker Matt Wyman. Texas Tech kept Texas State at arms length with junior kicker Ryan Bustin’s four field goals, tying a school record and giving Tech a 33-7 victory. Both these kickers prove clutch when called upon, and both have fairly decent accuracy and leg strength. After last week, Wyman’s official range is 52-yards, though one wonders how many times he can do that under pressure. Bustin seems more comfortable in the 30 to 40-yard distance, though his career-long is a 50-yarder last year against Texas State when it didn’t matter.
No one in West Texas wants this game decided by field goals, but if the offense can’t get rolling and quit turning the ball over, Bustin may be called to save the day. Likewise, Tech’s defense needs to keep the long legged Wyman as far away from the 35-yard-line as possible.