Texas Tech opens their season on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. Central at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock. They will take on Eastern Washington, a team that despite playing in the FCS has beaten and/or contended with multiple Power 5 programs in the last few years.
Aaron Best enters his first year as head coach for EWU, and he inherits a program that is a perennial contender not just in the Big Sky Conference, but in the FCS playoffs as well. On the opposite sideline, Kliff Kingsbury is entering his fifth season on the hot seat and will most likely coach for his job this year.
Both teams like to air it out, and both are suspect on the defensive side of the ball. A shootout is quite likely barring something unexpected from either team. Texas Tech’s defense finished at the bottom of the barrel in nearly every defensive metric last season. They surrendered 66 points or more on three occasions in 2016 and lost four contests by one possession.
There will be new faces on every level of the defense for the Red Raiders in 2017, and they’re optimistic they can turn a corner and be more competitive on that side of the ball. If Tech is forced into a track meet with EWU, the prospects of its defense improving would appear dim.
On the offensive side of the ball, Texas Tech is confident it will be able to move the ball through the air. The greater question lies with the running game. The Red Raiders averaged an abysmal 3.2 yards per carry in 2016 and will need to have that average tick up by about a yard to have a more balanced attack.
The problem with that is the uncertainty at the running back position. Da’Leon Ward ended 2016 as the starter, but is now buried on the depth chart after missing summer workouts due to academic issues. No one has firmly planted himself as the starter in Ward’s absence, so a committee approach is likely in game one. If none of the backs on the roster can show they have what it takes to be a lead back, the Tech offense might struggle as the season goes on.
Expect Eastern Washington to come out fired up at the chance to knock off another Power 5 team (the Eagles defeated Washington State last year). By the same token, don’t expect Texas Tech to take them lightly. They’re fully aware of what EWU is capable of, and know how important each game is for them this season.
What to Watch For
Both teams have solid passing attacks. Watch for a combined 700 yards or more through the air.
Keys to the Game
Eastern Washington: Make defensive stops early and force Tech to be one dimensional on offense.
Texas Tech: Establish the run for a balanced approach on offense. Force turnovers on defense.
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