Texas Tech opens up their 2019 season this Saturday against an unfamiliar opponent from the FCS, the Montana State Bobcats. Red Raiders fans have been anxiously waiting for this day. Mostly to forget how 2018 ended for the Red Raiders, but also to finally see a Matt Wells’ led team take the field.
These two teams have met once before when the Bobcats traveled to Lubbock in 1938. The Red Raiders were victorious then, beating MSU 35-0 to kick off the start of a 10-1 season. A lot has changed since then, but hopefully beating Montana State in 2019 will have the same kind of luck.
Last season, Montana State was knocked out of the FCS Playoff by eventual National Champions, North Dakota State. This year, the Bobcats are ranked in the preseason FCS Coaches Poll Top 25. Let’s take a look at what type of game we should expect in the season opener:
- Date/Time: SAT, AUG 31, 3:00 PM CT
- Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX
- Forecast: Overcast, High of 91
- TV: Fox Sports Southwest
- Stream: Fox Sports Go
- Betting Line: Texas Tech -25
Montana State Bobcats
Growing up in the Big Sky state, I am familiar with the Bobcats. Did you know that they play a part in one of the best college football rivalries in the country? Each year they face the Montana Grizzlies in the “Brawl of the Wild.” Anyone who considers themselves a college football fan should absolutely try to catch at least one of these games. Last season, Montana State clawed back from a 22-0 deficit and won in dramatic fashion. With Montana on the one yard line and looking to win, Montana State forced a fumble with 14 seconds remaining to hold on to a 29-25 win.
MSU finished 8-5 last season which was good for 4th place in the Big Sky Conference and earned an at-large bid to the FCS Playoffs. A first-round victory against Incarnate Word resulted in the aforementioned matchup against the Bison from North Dakota State.
Montana State returns plenty of experience from 2018 with eight offensive starters and 9 defensive starters coming back for 2019. One big change for the Bobcats is at starting quarterback. 2018 QB Troy Anderson, who lead the team in both passing and rushing yards returns, but he has been moved to a linebacker position for 2019. (The FCS is wild) This leaves redshirt freshman Casey Bauman, who has attempted one career pass, to take over at signal-caller for State. That doesn’t bode well for an already overmatched team visiting West Texas.
The Bobcats were run-heavy in 2018. They rushed for 3,031 yards while only passing for 1,808. Additionally, they struggled in road games and finished just 2-4 away from Bozeman.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Red Raiders are coming off of a disappointing 5-7 year that somehow landed Kliff Kingsbury an NFL head coaching position. Many Texas Tech fans are left wondering if Tech will ever compete for a conference championship, or if they are destined to be forever mediocre.
Matt Wells inherited a solid foundation, but there are many game-one questions that need to be answered. The offense is moving away from the traditional “air raid” style that has been a staple of the Tech offense for over a decade. Will Wells and offensive coordinator David Yost’s offense be able to keep up with expectations?
Similarly, the Red Raider defense has been an afterthought. Tech fans are all to familiar with the offense putting 40 or more points up and still lose games. Can a drastic change in defensive scheme change the perception of the Texas Tech defense?
TTU fans across the country should welcome the change in scenery as we kick off the Matt Wells era.
3 Keys to the Game
Stop the Run – As the Bobcats thrived on the run game and are starting an inexperienced QB, this should be a no brainer. Shutting down the MSU run game and putting them in 2nd and 3rd and long situations will be the first key to a Tech win.
Force Turnovers – Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson preaches an aggressive defense that forces mistakes. If the Red Raiders can force obvious passing situations, they should be able to pressure the young QB into errant throws. This will allow Tech’s defensive backs to step in front of a pass or two for a few turnovers.
Get the Offense Rolling Early – With questions surrounding the new offense, Yost needs to get Bowman and Company rolling early. Instilling some confidence in the Bowman and the new system right from the start will pay dividends. A hot start will result in a week 1 win and can trickle over to the remaining non-conference matchups.
There is a lot of uncertainty in Lubbock and many fans have yet to buy into the Matt Wells hire. A slow start, or worse, a close game in the fourth quarter, will immediately bring out the doubters.
I am a big fan of Wells and his staff. Patterson’s 3-3-5 defense allowed 143 rushing yards per game in 2018 at Utah State. I expect Tech will succeed in slowing down the Montana State running game and indeed force Bauman into a few mistakes. Patterson will bring more pressure than previous DC David Gibbs, which I think will be welcome to most fans who watched the “bend but don’t break” defense from prior years.
I am less concerned with the offense. Yost lead Utah State to the 2nd-ranked offense in the FCS in 2018. I believe he can achieve the same success in Lubbock and Bowman will pick right up where he left off. Texas Tech will start strong and the game should be out of reach by halftime.