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Arizona football opponent preview: Texas Tech

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Prepare for another shootout

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Oklahoma State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats will host the Texas Tech Red Raiders in Week 3, which will be the first non-Pac-12 Power-Five opponent to visit Tucson since Oklahoma State in 2012.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. MST and will be televised on ESPN.

Here’s preview of the Red Raiders:

Introduction

Former Utah State coach Matt Wells takes over a Texas Tech program that has been famously known for scoring an obscene amount of points over the past six seasons. Former head coach Kliff Kingsbury, now with the Arizona Cardinals, was a driving force behind that but does that mean the Red Raiders will have a new identity under Wells?

Wells was at the helm of Utah State’s program for the same six seasons in which Kingsbury was for Texas Tech. During that time, Wells won nine more games than Kingsbury, albeit to consistently inferior talent.

Some may be dubious of the idea that this new regime will be able to live up to the offensive potency of Kingsbury. However, it should be noted that Utah State was second in the nation for point per game with 47.5 in 2018. That was 10.2 more points per game than the Red Raiders.

The Rundown

  • Returning Production Rank: 78th (59% offensive, 63% defensive, 61% total)
  • 2018 Record: 5-7
  • 2018 S&P offense rank: 23
  • 2019 S&P defense rank: 81
  • Head Coach: Matt Wells (First season)

2018 Recap

The Red Raiders once again finished the season as one of the top offenses in the FBS. They ranked 12th and 16th, respectively, in Total Offense and Scoring Offense. Despite all of this offensive success, they were simply not good on the defensive side of the ball. They allowed 448.9 yards and 31.1 points per game.

The weirdest part to the defensive struggles is they were actually much closer to average in getting off the field on third down. They held opponents to a 37.7 percent conversion rate on third down. For context, Utah had the lowest conversion rate in the Pac-12 with 33.3 percent.

Overall, there were a lot of young players who found significant playing time which will be valuable for the future. However, last season was a bitter disappointment as they finished with a 5-7 record which featured a five-game losing streak to end the season. That collapse cost the Red Raiders a shot at a bowl game and Kliff Kingsbury his job.

Offensive Outlook

Quarterback play was primarily split between Alan Bowman and Jett Duffey in 2018. As a true freshman, Bowman earned All-Conference honorable mention. His season was cut short by a partial collapsed lung during their matchup with Oklahoma in week 10.

However, that wasn’t the main reason Duffey found playing time. He added a layer to the offense with his running ability. Leading up to the OU game, he rushed for 250 yards and three touchdowns. In fact, in spite of his limited playing time, he also finished the season as Texas Tech’s leading rusher with 369 yards.

All indications are Bowman will be ready for the season opener and it’s fair to assume that he will be the starter. It’s also fair to assume that Duffey will find his way onto the field given his duel-threat ability.

Unless you’re Khalil Tate in 2017, it’s a bad sign when your backup quarterback finishes the season as your top rusher. No running back had more than 100 carries but five combined for 292. In other words, they were running back by committee.

One returning bright spot for the backfield is redshirt freshman SaRodorick Thompson who played the first four games and registered 105 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Another returning piece to watch is sophomore Ta’Zhawn Henry. As a true freshman, Henry rushed for 341 yards and eight touchdowns as well as 22 catches for 145 yards and another touchdown.

The Red Raiders lose their top two receivers who combined for 150 receptions for 2,214 yards and 13 touchdowns. There’s a chance these numbers may have been slightly inflated given Kingsbury’s offensive scheme. Nonetheless, there will be plenty of opportunity available this season.

Returning upperclassmen T.J. Vasher and Seth Collins will likely fill most of that void. However, also keep an eye on KeSean Carter who recorded 238 yards and a touchdown on 26 receptions as a true freshman.

The offensive line should prove to be a strength of the team. Junior Jack Anderson enters the season riding 25 consecutive starts and was named to the All-Big 12 Second Team in 2018. They will also return starting left tackle Travis Bruffy and right tackle Terence Steele. If you thought Anderson’s consecutive-start streak was impressive, Steele has him beat with 37. Nothing like experience and talent on the O-line.

Defensive Outlook

Similar to recent Arizona defensive production (or lack there of), it’s hard to imagine Texas Tech’s defense getting much worse. First-year defensive coordinator Keith Patterson may be a familiar name for some Wildcats as he spent four seasons (2014-17) with ASU in various defensive coaching capacities.

Patterson followed Matt Wells from Utah State, which co-led the country in forced turnovers (32), including an FBS-best 22 interceptions.

He inherits a defense that doesn’t possess much depth on the defensive line but they return two experienced upperclassmen in Broderick Washington and Eli Howard. Defensive tackle Nick McCann appeared in all 12 games in 2018 and should see an uptick in usage.

The linebackers are anchored by senior Jordyn Brooks who has recorded at least 80 tackles in his previous three seasons. Brooks will once again be playing next to Riko Jeffers who is coming off an awesome sophomore season as he finished with 71 tackles and seven for a loss.

Patterson’s defensive scheme will favor cornerbacks Adrian Frye and Damarcus Fields who combined for 24 pass breakups and five interceptions. Frye earned All-Big 12 First Team honors as a true freshman and Fields earned honorable mention in 2018.

The nickel position will be split between Douglas Coleman III and Justus Parker. Both appeared in all 12 games last season and rotated within the nickel spot.

3 Players to Watch

Alan Bowman, QB

A new offensive scheme might reduce Bowman’s production but don’t expect a major drop off. New offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach David Yost was responsible for one of the most prolific offenses in the FBS last season. This could be a devastating pairing.

Jordyn Brooks, LB

Brooks has been wildly productive over his career with Texas Tech. He has received all conference honor mention over his three years and is the pulse of the defense.

Adrian Frye, CB

The redshirt sophomore will play a key piece in the new look Red Raider defense under first year coordinator Keith Patterson. Frye he has great size at 6’1, 190 pounds and possesses NFL talent.