Here is everything you need to know about the Red Raiders’ upcoming game in Lubbock in our Arizona State at Texas Tech preview.
7 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, Jones AT&T Stadium (60,454 Capacity)
TV: Fox Sports Net (Mark Followill, Brian Baldinger, Leslie McCaslin)
Radio: Texas Tech Sports Network (Brian Jensen, John Harris, Chris Level), Sirius 93, XM 198
Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Front Six
Texas Tech uses a nickel defense. We’re not certain that’s the brightest idea as the Red Raiders have struggled mightily in rush defense for several years now. However, Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage scored eight total touchdowns against the Tech defense one year ago. Someone must step up and stop Ballage this year. Some of the good news is that Dakota Allen has returned to the team after spending the 2016 season at East Mississippi Community College. One player will only go so far though. Texas Tech must figure out how to stop the run.
The offensive line
This game will be won in the trenches. Arizona State is third in the nation in sacks. They have two pass rushers who are in top 15 nationally. Meanwhile, both teams are starting a freshman on the line. Tech doesn’t have Patrick Mahomes this year with mobility to get out of the pocket. The advantage is in Arizona State’s favor due to their stellar defensive line. It is their bread-and-butter.
One year ago, it was an offensive battle. 123 points were scored, and it did not go into overtime. However, Patrick Mahomes is a world-class athlete. While Shimonek is a stellar quarterback, he’s nowhere near Mahomes’ level. He will be sacked a few times this game. He will be under immense pressure. Tech’s chances in this game are based upon how he handles that pressure.
Arizona State Sun Devils
RB Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard
It’s hard to forget Kalen Ballage’s eight touchdown performance one season ago against Texas Tech. Both Ballage and Richard rushed for over 100 yards during the 68-55 Arizona State victory. If the Red Raiders haven’t learned how to stop the run yet, it’s going to be a repeat of last year’s game. Both of these backs are licking their lips for another performance for the ages.
LB Koron Crump
He is second in the nation in sacks after two games. While a Bednarik Award candidate should record stellar numbers against New Mexico State and San Diego State, he’s going up against an inexperienced line that includes a freshman and a junior college transfer. If Tech does focus on Crump, another Arizona State defensive player will likely be loose. Alani Latu and Tashon Smallwood are in the top 20 in sacks this season..
The offensive line
The Sun Devil offensive line has been downright atrocious through two games against Group of Five opponents. It’s so bad right now, redshirt freshman Steve Miller will be starting ahead of redshirt junior Alex Losoya. Arizona State has allowed 12 sacks in two games. They are ranked second-to-last nationally in this category. Only Auburn has allowed more at 14, but at least the Tigers have played the defending national champions. Arizona State has faced New Mexico State and San Diego State. New Mexico State is being kicked out of the Sun Belt Conference after this season.
Does anybody play defense?
It’s clear Arizona State has a stout defensive front. Still, this game featured 123 points in regulation last season. As for Texas Tech, the storyline is always about their rush defense. Can it stop any FBS running back?
The Hot Seat
Kliff Kingsbury needs to win, but he’s not going to be fired if he loses this game. Todd Graham, however, is not an Arizona State alum. He’s listed as No.1 on coacheshotseat.com. While the website has lost much of its credibility over the past few years, I can’t imagine anyone having a hotter seat than Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin right now. The mere fact someone is considering Graham on a hotter seat than Sumlin means the pink slip is already written, and the messenger has yet to arrive. If Graham finishes non-conference play 1-2 with his only victory coming against New Mexico State, he might be left on the tarmac. For Tech, if they lose this game, it likely costs them a bowl trip. That likely means the end of the Kliff Kingsbury era. It’s a must-win for both coaches, and someone will be losing.
Texas Tech 35 Arizona State 24
As mentioned many times throughout this preview, this game will be won in the trenches. Tech’s defense was at least respectable against Eastern Washington. Arizona State’s offensive line this season has been the equivalent of Tech’s rush defense last season. Meanwhile, Tech’s offense has been a well-oiled machine. The Red Raiders were still able to place over 50 points on the board with much of the same Arizona State defenders on the opposite side of the ball. Tech’s offensive line may be inexperienced, but it’s most inexperienced player was listed on the ESPN 300 list last year. The talent will make up for its inexperience. This game will feature plenty of ugly football, but the Red Raiders pull out the victory in a match up of desperate programs.