Over the last two weeks, Texas Tech fans saw their team live up to expectations against lesser opponents. All three facets of the team have performed well, but the quality of the opponent has lead to football that just has not been exciting.
This Saturday, the non-conference game Texas Tech has had circled all off-season, should break that trend and deliver plenty of excitement. The Red Raiders lead the 9th-ranked offense nationally to the desert of Tucson, Arizona to face the 6th-ranked offense, the Arizona Wildcats.
This Arizona team looks like a carbon copy of Texas Tech the last few years. They are averaging 630 yards and 52 points per game. They have also allowed over 40 points in each game and are 124th in penalties per game. Let’s see what we can expect when the smoke clears Saturday:
- When: SAT, SEPT 14, 9:30 PM CT
- Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ
- Forecast: Cloudy, 86 at kickoff
- TV: ESPN
- Stream: WatchESPN
- Betting Line: TTU -2, O/U 77
The late game in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was the shock of week zero was and it landed the Wildcats on the wrong side of an upset against Hawaii. As 10.5 point favorites, Arizona forced six turnovers but came up one yard short of forcing overtime. The offense never got rolling and looked flat all game while still somehow amassing 539 yards.
After having two weeks to address the offensive issues, Northern Arizona had a front-row seat to the Arizona team everyone expected in 2019. Khalil Tate threw for 138 yards and two touchdowns before being replaced in the second quarter. The Wildcats scored 51 first-half points, leading 51-13 before letting off the gas.
The real question for Arizona this weekend is on the defensive side of the ball. The Wildcats forced one punt all game against Hawaii and NAU threw for 373 yards last weekend. Struggles in the defensive backfield, coupled with the penalty issues, is a recipe for disaster against a high-powered Tech offense.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The story this year for Texas Tech is a familiar one. The offense is as high-powered as ever and the defense has played as well as one could hope against two inferior teams. As the Red Raiders travel away from Lubbock for the first time, will the defense be left behind?
Tech opponents are 4-31 converting third downs this season, which is unheard of in West Texas. The defensive line and linebackers have also caused problems for opponents so far with 14 tackles for loss through two games. The defense has repeatedly stopped run plays in the backfield on third and fourth and a yard, which has been a huge issue in years past.
Tech’s defense has done this before, playing well in the non-conference just to be exposed during Big 12 play. Arizona will finally test Keith Patterson’s defense and give the Red Raider faithful an indicator of how good this unit can be.
3 Keys To The Game
Contain Khalil Tate – We have all seen how talented Khalil Tate is getting outside the pocket to complete passes as well as using his legs to keep Arizona drives alive. Texas Tech will need to keep Tate in the pocket and force him to make good decisions and accurate throws to beat them.
Force Turnovers – This has been a topic of discussion ahead of both non-conference games so far and, yet, Tech still has zero turnovers on the season. If the Red Raiders can give their offense an extra possession or two, they should end up victorious.
Third Down Defense – No one is expecting Arizona to go 2-16 converting third downs, but forcing the Wildcat offense off the field on third down will be key. Texas Tech needs to show the first two games have not been a fluke and hold Arizona under 40% on third down.
A day full of football will be a lifesaver as we wait for the late-night kickoff. I have been anxious about this game since July and have gone back and forth on my prediction since Arizona lost to Hawaii.
Now that we are almost three weeks removed, I consider that performance more just rust than a bad team. The NAU game was not as close as the score suggests either. Backups entered the game early on both sides of the ball and the defense dialed down the aggressiveness in the second half.
All that being said, I like the Red Raiders in this one. I think the defense proves they deserve the praise and Bowman and the offense shred the Wildcat secondary. Arizona will score plenty of points, but Tech’s D will get a few more stops than Arizona’s which will ultimately be the decider. Either way, this one will be worth staying up for.