Oct 27, 2012; Manhattan, KS, USA; The Kansas State Wildcats line up against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the first half at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech vs. Kansas State: Matchups to Watch

No. 25 Texas Tech’s last home game of 2013 may be against the 4-4 (2-3) Kansas State Wildcats, but this is by no means a step down in competition. The Fighting Bill Snyders are a well-coached, hungry squad riding a two-game win streak in the hunt for a bowl game spot.

Here’s the matchups we’re looking at this Saturday:

Tech’s Offense vs. Ryan Mueller

Despite surpassed expectations, quarterback play is the weak link of Tech’s offense, thanks in no small part to the offensive line. Both will be tested this weekend by Kansas State juggernaut Ryan Mueller.

Pocket. Picked.

This redshirt junior defensive end and former walk-on from Kansas has played in every single game since in 2011. This season, he leads the team with 11.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, five pass breakups and two forced fumbles, including the one you see above.

At 6-3/245, what he lacks in size he makes up for with sheer tenacity. It doesn’t show in the above gif, but Mueller had to run down Baylor’s Bryce Petty from the other side of the field to make that play.

Guys like Mueller feast on young, inexperienced offensive lines and quarterbacks like Tech’s.

Edge: Mueller

Trench Warfare

Speaking of offensive lines, Kansas State has a good one. All five returning starters from a year ago – including three seniors – helped the Wildcat offense put together 384 rushing yards in the last two wins against West Virginia and Iowa State.

Lining up across from them on Saturday is another senior-laden group of Tech defensive linemen who managed to give up 558 rushing yards in the last two losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Clearly, things will not get any easier for the Red Raiders this weekend.

Edge: Kansas State

Lockett/Thompson vs. Jones/Falemi

Kansas State receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are electrifying playmakers. Both make tremendous impacts on special teams returning kicks, but let’s look at the threat they pose to a weakening Tech secondary.

Receiving leaders Receptions Yards Average  Season long Touchdowns
Tyler Lockett 44 658 15.0 56 (TD) 4
Tramaine Thompson 19 309 16.3 45 (TD) 3
Lockett and Thompson only played seven and six games this season, respectively.

Without starting safeties Tre Porter and J.J. Gaines due to injury, cornerbacks Bruce Jones and Ola Falemi (both seniors) are expected to shoulder major loads on Saturday against two of the best receivers in the Big 12 (therefore, the country). Because Tech defends the run so poorly and Kansas State runs the ball so well, expect both Jones and Falemi to be on islands with their respective assignments.

Tech’s secondary is somewhat exposed thanks to big plays on play-action passing attempts in the last two weeks against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, so don’t expect Bill Snyder to not take advantage of that when he has two deep threats like Lockett and Thompson.

Edge: Lockett/Thompson

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