All of Texas Tech's non-conference foes are sufficiently weak that victory for the Red Raiders is not the issue. (It had better not be.) The focus will not be on what Tech needs to do to win. Rather, attention will be paid to individual and team improvement, irrespective of the final score. These games are far more about what the Red Raiders do than what their opponents attempt.
With that in mind, here are a few aspects of Tech's performance against Northwestern State which all and sundry should watch closely.
Eric and SaDale: Doubts about Eric Stephens' ability to recover 100 percent from his grievous knee injury of last season are actually fairly minor at this point. He has looked very good in fall camp. Yet there does remain that nagging concern.
How will Stephens respond to a defense that is out for his blood? Is his confidence truly restored? And is that knee, which the doctors assure us is stronger than ever, really stronger than ever? All eyes will be on Stephens to see how he fares.
Easing the anxiety somewhat is SaDale Foster. Tommy Tuberville has declared himself a "SaDale guy," and I'm pleased he has joined my club. I really like what the little upstart has done in spring and fall camps, and am anxious to see how he converts these strong performances to the actual playing field.
The Inside Guys: Texas Tech's outside receivers have been touted, at least in west Texas circles, as among the very best in the land. There's just not much doubt that Darrin Moore, Javon Bell, Eric Ward and Bradley Marquez will put on a show this season.
But how much more effective they will be if the inside receivers can apply even further pressure on opposing secondaries!
For that reason we will need to see how the likes of Jace Amaro, Tyson Williams, Alex Torres and Jordan Davis perform. This group certainly has ability, but it has been overshadowed by the hotdogs on the outside. Let us see if the inside group rises up and starts to make a name for itself.
Defensive Tackles: "It all starts up front" is a shopworn old football cliché. But clichés become clichés because they're true. And this apothegm has never been truer than when applied to the Texas Tech defense.
A year ago the Red Raider stop unit was record-breakingly bad, and the inability of the defensive tackles to establish any sort of an anchor was a large part of the problem. If the tackles cannot occupy the offensive linemen then the defense cannot stop the run. And if the ground game runs rampant, the secondary, worried about run support, becomes vulnerable to the pass.
Against a weak opponent such as Northwestern State, it would be very reassuring to see Kerry Hyder, Delvon Simmons, Leon Mackey and company dominate. If the Demon offensive line blows these guys off the ball the way Texas State and Nevada did last season…well…I don't even want to say.