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Preview: Texas Tech Looks to Build Off Promising Opener

Texas Tech will look to make it 8-straight against UTEP as they enter the matchup a heavy favorite.

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Pete Robertson of the Texas Tech Red Raiders at the line of scrimmage during the game against UTEP - Getty Images - John Weast
Getty Images - John Weast

The Red Raiders enter this matchup 1-0 with a solid performance against Montana State. This week, they are a heavy favorite again, but at least you have probably heard of this team before.

Texas Tech and UTEP have faced off 24 times with Texas Tech leading the all time series at 16-6-1. The Red Raiders are currently on a 7-game win streak against the team from El Paso. They won their last meeting 69-20, and this one could be just as ugly.

The Miners are also coming off a win in week one, but Houston Baptist gave UTEP everything they wanted and more. The Miners scraped by the Huskies with a late field goal to get the win.

UTEP should not have anything for Texas Tech. The Miners simply are not very good. Let’s preview the game anyway though, and look at things the Red Raiders should look to improve on in this one.

Game Details

  • When: SAT, SEP 7 at 7:00 PM CT
  • Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX
  • Forecast: Partly cloudy, High of 94
  • TV: FSN
  • Stream: Fox Sports Go
  • Betting Line: TTU -34.0, O/U 65.5

UTEP Miners (1-0)

This is coach Dana Dimel’s third season at UTEP, but last Saturday was just his second win. Dimel has the program headed in the right direction, but the team he inherited was just that bad.

The offense took a step forward last season in Dimel’s spread scheme behind an offensive line that was supposed to be the strength of the team, but ended up being decimated by injury last season.

They will lean on their experienced offensive line this season, and running back Treyvon Hughes. Hughes had a career day against Houston Baptist with 144 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

At quarterback, JUCO transfer Brandon Jones returns along with Kai Locksley. Locksley took over as the starter last season after former quarterback Zach Metz struggled to get the offense moving.

Locksley is familiar with the Big 12, too. Before eventually landing at UTEP, Locksley spent time at Texas under coach Charlie Strong. He ended up transferring to the JUCO ranks where he was named the Spalding Offensive Player of the Year at Iowa Western Community College.

Unfortunately, it has been a wild off-season for Lockley. He is coming off an ankle surgery, and in June he was arrested for driving while intoxicated, possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of a weapon, and making terroristic threats. Locksley was suspended from the team, but he was reinstated just before fall camp.

Locklsey did not play last week. Instead, Brandon Jones led the team onto the field. He started in last year’s final game, and saw playing time in five other games. Last week, Jones was uninspiring. He completed just 10 of his 20 passes for 268 yards for one touchdown to one interception. Still, a 50 percent completion percentage is a slight improvement over last season.

Defensively, the Miners were not as impressive last week. They return just four starters from last year’s defense. They gave up 300 yards passing and 413 yards of offense overall. There is more bad news for the Miner’s defense. They have lost linebacker Kalaii Griffin to an arm injury.

Safeties Justin Rogers and Justin Prince compose what is likely their strongest defensive group, but make no mistake, Alan Bowman should have a field day against this secondary.

Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-0)

There were not many flaws in Texas Tech’s first win of the season. So, the big question for this week is, can the success be repeated against an inferior FBS football team as well?

Tech’s defense was impressive last week by holding their opponent to only 289 yards of offense and only 10 points. That opponent was Montana State, though. Can the defense keep that same kind of discipline and efficiency against an FBS team?

As for the Texas Tech offense, we know what Bowman and the passing game is capable of. Bowman in particular has proven his ability to put up similar numbers against Big 12 competition. The relative unknown is still the running game and David Yost/Matt Wells new offensive system.

This game is another chance to prove the ground game is here to stay, and that week one’s rushing success was not merely due to Montana State’s lack of ability. Look for backs Ta’Zhawn Henry, Armand Shyne and SaRodorick Thompson to have a big day.

3 Keys to the Game For Texas Tech

With Tech being favored by 34 points this week, hopefully these are more like goals for the team and less like keys to the game.

Keep The Ground Game Going – Behind the three-headed backfield of Shyne, Henry and Thompson, the Red Raiders racked up 255 rushing yards last week. As I mentioned before, establishing a ground game once again could be important for continuing to establish a foundation of a more balanced offensive season.

Quality Tackling – Something that seemed to be more improved than I was expecting in the first game was the tackling of the Defense. There was a lot of solid form tackling and less arm tackling than I felt like Texas Tech fans had seen in a long time. Both coach Wells and coach Patterson even mentioned after the game that they felt the team tackled well. If this can continue in this upcoming game and beyond, the defensive efficiency will show it, and Texas Techs record should as well.

Involve the Outside Receivers – UTEP’s pass defense is weak, especially at the corner positions. Look for the outside receivers to play a larger role in the offense this weekend. If I were to nitpick one thing about the game against Montana State, it was that Texas Tech’s outside receivers such as KeSean Carter, Erik Ezukanuma and RJ Turner were not featured much. Though they blocked well. Even TJ Vasher, who quietly had the second-most receiving yards on the team, was not able to hit those big downfield plays that the offense will be looking for from him this year.

Game Prediction

My guess for this game is that Texas Tech will cover the spread as their passing attack is still far to much for UTEP to handle. This one is not whether or not the Red Raiders will win, but by how much they will win.

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