Photo via Mark J. Rebilas-USA Today Sports

 
After an early season bye week last Saturday, Texas Tech will play its second game of the 2017 season on Saturday against Arizona State. The Red Raiders will kick off at 7 p.m. in Lubbock, seeking to make up for last season’s loss to the Sun Devils in Tempe.

ASU enters the game under what seems to be a severe amount of early season pressure. The Sun Devils are off to a slow start, to put it kindly. They beat New Mexico State 37-31, then lost to San Diego State 30-20 last weekend. SDSU is no slouch for a Group of Five school, but it was still disappointing for ASU to come out so flat.

If they fall to Texas Tech on Saturday, there’s a good chance ASU starts the season 1-5 with their Pac-12 schedule starting off with Oregon, Stanford and Washington. If things go that way, head coach Todd Graham’s seat will be sweltering hot if he hasn’t been fired already at that point. However, with a win over Texas Tech and a bit of momentum heading into conference play, the Sun Devils may be able to salvage a .500 record through the same six game stretch if their play continues to improve.

With the bye week, Texas Tech has had extra time to prepare for the matchup. The key for the Red Raiders will be stopping Arizona State’s rushing attack. Last year, ASU running back Kalen Ballage tied an NCAA record with 8 total touchdowns. So far this season, Arizona State’s offensive line has struggled to get things going as well as protect their quarterback; Manny Wilkins has been sacked 11 times through two games.

If Texas Tech can’t capitalize on ASU’s apparent weaknesses up front, not only are they in jeopardy of losing, but it would likely indicate their defensive unit hasn’t improved much from last season’s, which finished 128th in total defense.

On the offensive side of the ball, expect Texas Tech to be able to move the ball plenty.Arizona State is currently ranked 102nd in total defense in the FBS, surrendering an average of 450 yards per game. That’s against much less potent offenses than Texas Tech’s. Don’t be surprised if the Red Raiders top 500 or even 600 yards of offense depending on how many possessions they get.

Something to watch when Texas Tech is on offense is how balanced their approach is. In their 56-10 victory over Eastern Washington in the season opener, Tech ran the ball 40 times compared to just 35 pass attempts. Part of that was a byproduct of leading big for most of the game, but part of it is an intentional attempt to be more balanced than they were in 2016. We’ll see if the Red Raiders can continue to run the ball efficiently against a Power Five defense.
If Texas Tech’s defense is improved from last year, expect a comfortable Red Raider victory. If the defense can’t keep ASU’s offense contained like San Diego State, it could be another shootout like last year’s 68-55 contest.

 

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