The final non-conference game for the Arizona Wildcats will no doubt be the toughest one, as the unbeaten Texas Tech Red Raiders come to Tucson on Saturday night for what no doubt will be a high-scoring affair.
We’ve put together our own preview of Tech, but for further insight we tapped Jeramey Gillilan of our SB Nation sister site Viva the Matadors for his expertise on the Red Raiders.
Below are his great answers to our so-so questions.
From the outside it looks like more of the same from Texas Tech, but how are things different under new coach Matt Wells compared to Kliff Kingsbury?
What immediately comes to mind is discipline. In the time that Kingsbury was the head coach there were a number of disciplinary issues both on and off the field that marred the success of the team. Controversial events aside, Texas Tech saw a substantial amount of victories squandered by the penalty flag. Often we would have a high-flying touchdown come back because of holding penalties, and then would fail to replicate the score. Or, worse, our defense would be in a prime position to get off the field but one of the players would commit a senseless penalty that gave new life to our opponent’s offense.
Matt Wells is a different character. Since he has come on board there’s been a straight-and-narrow precedent set out that “if you follow these rules, we will have success.” The overwhelming majority of players have bought into that. Sure, we had some players who thought a creature comfort was worth more than football, but they’ve since been replaced. The summer was built off of creating a team that was mentally and physically ready to remain disciplined on all sides of the ball. Already two games in and all we’ve accrued are eight penalties. The increased discipline has directly correlated to increased efficiency, and I think that in turn will create needed success throughout conference play; something that remained a stranger to Kingsbury.
Additionally the increased focus on the run game (both producing and stopping it) has leveraged new schemes and new talent to support an already strong cast of players for Texas Tech. Wells was adamant in his first speech that you have to know how to run and how stop the run if you’re going to win games in November. So far we’re doing just fine—though Arizona will help give everybody a better gauge on just where Tech is in that rebuilding phase. Either way I firmly believe we’re seeing positive trends in the program that we just didn’t see with the previous regime.
Arizona has some experience dealing with RB Armand Shyne from when he was at Utah. How much does the run game play into Tech’s offense?
I feel bad for being all-inclusive in my previous question, but it can be boiled down to this: we have to run well to win in November. Wells and offensive coordinator David Yost are big on the passing game —and understandably so—but they believe that having a good passing game comes from defenses respecting the run game. So, you have to have a good run game! Wells and Yost brought in tight ends back to the offensive scheme for Tech and they recruited Shyne (somebody Wells tried to get to go to Utah State) to initiate that transition.
I won’t say we’re split 50-50, but it’s probably going to be about 60 pass to 40 run. That is incredibly foreign to Red Raider fans.
Defense hasn’t been something the Red Raiders have been known for in a while, yet through two games they’ve allowed just 13 points and 420 yards. Is that mostly a product of the competition or is there something notable happening there?
An argument can be made that both are true. I’ll point readers back to seeing trends in these early games. Teams like Montana State and UTEP are certainly cupcakes, but for a team in a coaching/scheme transition these are the perfect opponents to really dial things in with. Our defensive coordinator, Keith Patterson, is no stranger to stifling opponent’s mojo. In his time at Utah State he consistently had a top-50 defense in the country. I imagine he’s interested in recreating that at Texas Tech, but his style of “smart plays with average talent” takes time to learn. There’s no doubt that this weekend’s match up against Arizona’s offensive efficiency will make obvious where the weak points are on our defense—maybe even whole damn thing (but we really hope not).
What is the biggest flaw that you think Arizona will try to expose in Tech?
Right now I’m unsure if some of our key components on the offensive line, Terrence Steele and Jack Anderson, will be playing this weekend. Their absence is noticeable on the line, and if Arizona wants to slow down the offensive rhythm by Tech then it starts by crashing the weak points of the line.
Additionally, there are currently two Power Five QBs with 1,500-plus yards rushing and 4,000-plus yards passing in their careers. Texas Tech faces off against one of them this weekend (and the other in the next game). Khalil Tate’s athletic prowess is an exposure in itself. I expect Arizona to utilize his multi-faceted abilities to break down Patterson’s difficult schemes and force mistakes from the Tech defense.
Okay, enough with the details. Give us a score prediction.
I’m convinced by Arizona’s offense. I am not convinced by Arizona’s defense. Giving up 45 to Hawaii makes sense, but giving up 41 to Northern Arizona spells some larger problems for the Wildcats. In a battle of two stellar offenses I will heed Wells’ comments that he is “not scared to get in a track meet with them.” For the defensive battle, I will throw caution to the wind and say Texas Tech’s defense is more real than people are expecting and we’re able to get a stop on two or so drives—just enough to get ahead and stay there.
Texas Tech routs Arizona, 45-27.