The matchup that everyone is pointing to is how the Texas State running game is contained or is not contained by the Texas Tech run defense. Marcus Curry averaged almost 10 yards per rush against Houston. If Tech cuts that in half, then that is probably an attainable goal.
Art Kaufman may have said it best this week.
"We have to play assignment football," he said. "Everybody's got to make sure that everyone takes care of their job. What they'll do is get you to play run, run, run, then they'll beat you up top with a pass."
It sounds easy enough to defend, but with knowledge that Texas State ran on the Red Raiders last year for 256 yards and a sign of things to come, it is imperative that the run defense is stellar this week.
I'll even go as far to say as I'm ok with a corner or safety giving up a big pass play because he was playing run first and bites on the play-action.
Inside of that, I'm going to watch the defensive ends and outside linebackers in containment of the option. Depending how Kaufman draws it up, the defensive end's job is going to be to flush the play outside and force the quarterback Shawn Rutherford to make a decision to run or pitch. The outside linebacker (maybe safety) will more than likely be responsible for the pitchman. It's his responsibility to tackle the back at the point of the pitch. And not get greedy going after the quarterback. It's simple. It's basic, but absolutely necessary for Tech to have success. This may also be an opportunity for Will Smith to be a little more active, although after film review, defensive coaches credited Smith with 12 assists according to Kaufman.
Folks are talking about the return of the receiving corps to full strength and are looking for a big game from them, but I'm beginning to think that this game will be won on the ground for the Red Raiders.
Running back Kenny Williams is playing in his own backyard and was probably the most effective running the football last week. He finished with the most total yards of any skill position player. Texas State will try to wind down the clock and control time of possession. I think Tech will try to do the same, especially if the clouds open up and it rains in San Marcos on Saturday night.
Tuberville also alluded to that is his weekly press conference:
"With the kind of offense we run and with the emergence of a better running game, we're going to beat people this year (running the football)," he said. "I think we're going to win a couple games with our running game."
Tech is bigger up front on the offensive line, Texas St runs the 4-2-5, which as we saw firsthand last year can be run on. These offensive line starters were also challenged this week when the coaches said they had an average game. This may be the game the offensive line outclasses an undersized opponent.
Biggest mismatch: Texas Tech defensive line vs. Texas St. offensive line – One particular Texas St. offensive lineman called out the Tech defensive line over the summer saying that they were the easiest line all year that he played against.
This is now 2012 and after the performance of Kerry Hyder, Leon Mackey and company against Northwestern St, I am looking for a similar performance.
The average weight of the Texas St. offensive lineman is 284 pounds, only a 16 pound advantage over the Red Raiders. That plays into the hands of Texas Tech as the Bobcats will be one of the lightest OL groups they go up against.
Keys for Texas Tech:
Tackles for loss -The Red Raiders had 9 tackles for losses against the NWSt. Demons. A similar performance means that not only is this defense attacking the football, but they are being disruptive against an option football team.
Third Down – Texas Tech converted 10 of 16 third downs a week ago and held the Demons to 3 of 14. In contrast, the Bobcats were only 6 of 16 themselves, but held the Houston Cougars to 1 of 13.
Time of possession - To me, that's not a stat that matters until it does. The Bobcats controlled the ball on offense for over 43 minutes against Houston. The Red Raiders don't have to win the time of possession, but must find a way to keep it from getting out of control. A 35/25 split would probably suffice.
Big plays - Tuberville said he was looking for more big plays out of the offense this week. Any play over 25 yards is considered a big, or explosive play. With a full complement at receiving corps, the Red Raiders should do a better job of that this week.