SMU: SMU's signal caller is senior Garrett Gilbert. Since arriving from Texas, Gilbert has had quite a few ups and downs as a Mustang. At times, he looks like the five-star recruit out of high school that just about every college wanted, but at other times, he looks lost and confused on the field. With the addition of passing game coordinator Hal Mumme and RB Traylon Shead this season, Gilbert should have enough weapons around him to be successful.
Texas Tech: Sophomore Michael Brewer's back injury will keep him out of the game this Friday, so the Red Raiders will be depending on a true freshman at quarterback. It will either be Davis Webb from Prosper or Baker Mayfield from Austin Lake Travis. Webb was the favorite during spring camp, but Mayfield is also a very talented freshman. Expect them to share snaps, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury will need to adjust his explosive offense to allow them to succeed and be comfortable.
SMU: SMU will have the tough task of replacing Zach Line at running back this season, but Traylon Shead should be the right man for the job. Shead is a 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior who transferred from Navarro JC to join the Mustangs this season. He is a complete back that has a chance to be the team's best player on offense. Sophomore Prescott Line and K.C. Nlemchi will serve as the backups to Shead. Line is more of a power back, while Nlemchi is a terrific pass catcher out of the backfield. Colin LaGasse shold also be a factor as a scat back.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders finished last in the Big 12 in rushing last year but are very excited about their situation at running back for this season. It all starts with junior Kenny Williams and sophomore Deandre Washington. They are expected to take pressure off their inexperienced quarterback and also contribute in the passing game. The Red Raiders will also have Quinton White to help out on third downs although he is just a freshman.
SMU: Jeremy Johnson was one of the most productive players on SMU's offense last season and that is expected to continue this year. Outside of Johnson, however, SMU needs some of their pass-catchers to step up this season. Speedster Der'rikk Thompson and big man Keenan Hollman both struggled when asked to contribute last season and both will line up as starters again this year. Darius Joseph and Jeremiah Gaines will also get plenty of snaps at wide receiver, while freshman JaBryce Taylor is looking to surprise some people and make a big contribution in his first season.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are known for always having an explosive wide receiving corps and this season is no different. Speedy slot receiver Jakeem Grant, who also returns kicks, will be one of the team's top targets along with Eric Ward and Jace Amaro. Amaro, who also plays tight end, will serve a first half suspension Friday night but will be a nightmare for the Mustangs to cover in the second half. Meanwhile, Ward is expected to have a big season for the Red Raiders because of his effectiveness in the red zone, his ability to gain yards after catch, and his willingness to block down field.
Edge: Texas Tech
SMU: The offensive line for the Mustangs will be a very young group. They will be lead by senior left tackle Ben Gottschalk and sophomore center Taylor Lasecki who should be solid contributors and leaders all season. Also, right tackle Thomas Ashcraft, a transfer from Texas, will be able to help the Mustangs right away with their protection.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders offensive line will have the tough responsibility of protecting an inexperienced quarterback and unproven running backs. Le'Raven Clark was named a freshman All-American last year and will be moved to left tackle this season. The team is also hoping sophomore center Jared Kaster steps up to become a leader along with junior left guard Beau Carpenter. This program has had one of the most explosive offenses in the NCAA the last few years and the offensive line is a big reason for that.
Edge: Texas Tech
SMU: The Mustangs are facing plenty of questions along their defensive line this season. Beau Barnes and Zach Wood will be the starters at defensive end and Darrian Wright will be the starting nose tackle. Wright showed flashes last season in a limited role, but Barnes and Wood have yet to prove themselves to the coaching staff. Look for backups Andrew McCleneghen and Ellie Nabushoshi to also see plenty of time at end if the pass rush starts off ineffective.
Texas Tech: Texas Tech will have a very strong defensive line this year led by All-Big 12 defensive end Kerry Hyder. He led the team in tackles last season and is a handful to deal with in pass rush situations, but Tech is switching to a 3-4 this season, which will change his responsibilities quite a bit. Also look out for senior Dennell Wesley and Dartwan Bush to contribute again this season as the Red Raiders were able to bring back most of their starters on their front seven.
Edge: Texas Tech
SMU: The SMU linebacker corps will be lead by senior Randall Joyner. He was the team second leading tackler last season despite only starting eight games and has a knack for causing turnovers. Fellow inside linebacker Kevin Pope, who is a former running back, will help Joyner fill the hole left by players like Taylor Reed and Ja'Gared Davis. The outside rushers will be Stephon Sanders and Robert Seals who have both earned praise from the coaches this spring. Seals played in eight games last season, while Sanders started 12 games but was mostly quiet all season.
Texas Tech: The Red Raiders struggled to cause turnovers last season with only three recovered fumbles all year. They will return Sam Eguavoen from last season, who lead all under classmen in tackles with 52, and he will be a force against SMU's run game. Junior Blake Dees and senior Brandon Jackson will also start in the Red Raiders new 3-4 defense so defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt will look to put them in aggressive spots and hope they can make plays on the Mustangs offense in the backfield.
Edge: Texas Tech
SMU: The secondary will be one of the strengths of the SMU defense this season. Seniors Chris Parks and Kenneth Acker will line up as the cornerbacks. But Acker is so talented that he has also been experimenting with playing offense this season, so J.R. Richardson will also see plenty of time at corner. Richardson missed all of last season due to injury and Parks struggled last season, but both should be much improved. Jay Scott and Hayden Greenbauer will be the safeties for defensive coordinator Tom Mason along with Shakiel Randolph. Scott and Greenbauer both played terrific at times last season and Randolph has earned a spot on the conference's All-Freshman team.
Texas Tech: Texas Tech will struggle in the secondary this season after losing many of their leaders. Tre Porter will be counted on to contain the SMU passing game, along with CB Bruce Jones. The team will also count on senior Ola Falemi and sophomore J.J. Gaines to contribute after both not playing much last season. Of all the position groups, the Red Raiders should be most nervous about their secondary.
Overall Edge: Texas Tech 4-3
SMU vs. Texas Tech Position Breakdown
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