Scene-setter from the Little Apple

October, 4, 2008
10/04/08
2:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- A Big 12 matchup with a lot of tradition will take place here today when Kansas State and Texas Tech renew the first conference game in league history.

For those with a historic bent, the Wildcats and Red Raiders played the first game in Big 12 history on Aug. 31, 1996. KSU prevailed in a tight 21-14 victory as the two teams combined for 552 yards and 35 first downs.

Those totals might be eclipsed by halftime today, considering the explosive nature of both offenses.

It's almost a perfect day for football. Temperatures are expected to soar into the low 80s by kickoff. There's hardly a cloud in the sky. The atmosphere is electric in the parking lot as fans started crowding into prime tailgating spots by early this morning.

Here are a few trends I'll be watching:

How Tech's secondary handles long passes: The Red Raiders will be challenged by KSU quarterback Josh Freeman. Of Freeman's 11 touchdown passes, five have gone for 40 yards or more, which is tied for the best in the nation. The Red Raiders have allowed only one pass of more than 40 yards and opponents are averaging 10.1 yards per reception. But they assuredly will be tested today.

Will Tech try running the ball more against the weakness of KSU's defense?: The Wildcats have been gashed for at least 300 yards in each of their last two games and Tech has its most potent running game in coach Mike Leach's coaching tenure. Tech has averaged 179.5 yards rushing per game and has two solid producers in Shannon Woods and Baron Batch. It's hard to believe that the Red Raiders would tilt more heavily to running the ball than they already have this season, but KSU's recent struggles might give them that opportunity

Does Michael Crabtree have a couple of "wow" moments in him?: The returning Biletnikoff Award winner ranks 10th nationally in receptions and third in receiving yardage, but his season has been kind of a disappointment. He was plagued with a rash of drops earlier this season that had Leach indirectly blasting him in the press after the SMU game.

Can KSU force some turnovers?: The Wildcats' hopes of claiming an upset will depend on forcing Tech to make some mistakes. KSU hasn't forced a turnover in two games and assuredly is due. But can it happen against Tech? We'll see.

It should be a good game with a lot of offense. My, how things have changed in the Big 12 in the last 13 years.

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