Hope has sprung eternal on the plains of west Texas. Head coach Joey McGuire has yet to stumble in his early tenure leading the Red Raiders. However, the Texas Tech week three opponent presents new challenges. This Texas Tech team, which is still in the infancy of trying to establish a winning culture, embarks on their first road game of the 2022 season. They are facing a team that could very well be the ACC champion by week 15. If Texas Tech is going to pull off another upset, they have to do a better job of protecting their quarterback and the football.
Quarterback Needs A Clean Pocket
The offensive line did not have a good day last week in pass protection. No one player exploited that more than Houston’s Derek Parish. The fifth-year senior was an absolute problem for the Texas Tech offensive line. He finished the game with ten tackles, five of which were for losses, four sacks, and one forced fumble. Texas Tech currently is tied at 120th in sacks allowed early in this season. They have allowed seven sacks in just two games. Only eight teams in FBS football have surrendered more sacks. No surprise, the Red Raiders also rank 112th in tackles for loss allowed. Opponents have averaged eight tackles for loss per game against Texas Tech.
The Wolfpack had a top-15 defense in 2021, holding opponents to 19.7 points per game. Even with the scare against East Carolina, the Wolfpack defense appears to have picked up where it left off. It has held opponents to 11.5 points and 266.5 yards of total offense per game. NC State has plenty of talent to give offensive coordinator Zach Kittley and the offensive unit fits.
Protect The Football
Quarterback Donovan Smith had his fair share of highs and lows during his first start of the season. When Smith had a clean pocket to operate out of, he had the offense flowing and moving the ball with ease. This was evident in the first half of the game last week. However, when the heat got turned up, that is when things stalled. When Smtih wasn’t protected well, he began to press. He would go on to throw three interceptions in the second half.
NC State’s defense is one that has a knack for finding the football. In two games, the Wolfpack defense has gained five turnovers, four of which are interceptions. That is tied for 15th best nationally. The defense should also be back near full strength as they are expected to get two starters back. One of those starters is Outside linebacker, Payton Wilson. He was a first-team All-ACC performer in 2020 but missed most of the 2021 season due to injury. The other starter expected to return is Cornerback Shyheim Battle, who was an honorable mention All-ACC choice in 2021.
Texas Tech Week Three Prediction
These two programs do not have any recent history. They have only played five times, with Texas Tech’s only win coming all the way back in 1952. The most recent matchups were home-and-home in 2002 and 2003. Both of those matchups resulted in highly entertaining games that went the Wolfpack’s way both times. The 2002 game was in Lubbock where a Philip Rivers-led team won 51-48 in overtime. In 2003, B.J. Symons went 39-of-63 passing for 586 yards and Texas Tech had 681 yards in total offense. But they still lost by four touchdowns (49-21) in large part to four turnovers in the game and several red-zone blunders.
McGuire and the Red Raiders have already shown significant signs of progress. Although, this is a prime-time kickoff on the road against the number 16th ranked team in the nation. NC State has realistic aspirations of winning a conference title this season, and the home crown is going to be rocking at Carter-Finely. Texas Tech won’t get run out of the building, but the talent gap between the Wolfpack and the Red Raiders becomes evident as the game plays out. The Red Raiders will suffer their first loss of the season before the start of conference play.
NC State 31, Texas Tech 24