The Primer: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech

Let’s get to know the Arizona State Sun Devils, Texas Tech’s 2nd opponent of the year.

Game Details

Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-0, 0-0)
Bad Guys: Arizona State Sun Devils (1-1, 0-0)
When: Saturday, September 16th at 7:00 pm
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium; Lubbock, Texas
TV/Stream: FSN Affiliates (FOX Sports Go)
Radio/Stream: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App

What Happened Last Week

Player: Kalen Ballage
Position: Running Back
Ht/Wt: 6-3/230
Year: Senior
Key Stats: 123 yards on 33 carries, averaging 3.73 yards per rush with 3 touchdowns; 4 receiptions for 26 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per catch.
Player: Manny Wilkins
Position: Quarterback
Ht/Wt: 6-3/200
Year: Junior
Key Stats: 42 of 60 for 598 yards, 4 touchowns and no interceptions, and 10 yards per attempt; 24 attempts for -9 net rushing yards.

For Texas Tech, they come off of a bye week after taking care of business against Eastern Washington, 56-10. And the game against EWU was one where you hopefully draw some conclusions about how maybe Texas Tech was a bit underappreciated as a result of some very solid play defense against what has been a very good offense at EWU and holding EWU to just 10 points, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. I do think that EWU was a bit over-hyped in a sense. A lot of what was thought about EWU was based off of what they were last year and losing those four receivers were a pretty big deal. Those guys were good and the receivers didn’t really make plays for EWU. On defense, it was the big plays that made such a big difference for the Texas Tech offense and that ultimately broke the back of EWU, along with the bruising running game.

That’s not to say that there aren’t things that were positives to take from the game. There were plenty and we’ve talked about them this past week and I do think you should believe, to an extent, that things aren’t as gloom and doom as the national media thinks. One thing that should bother you is that Eastern Washington lost to North Dakota State 40-13, at home. NDSU is the #2 team in the FCS rankings, but the Eagles were dominated on both sides of the ball, only managing 134 yards in the air and 70 on the ground. EWU may be a terrible team.

As far as Arizona State, they struggled with New Mexico State, winning only 37-31. Manny Watkins threw for 300 yards, but the offense managed less than 100 yards on the ground. And maybe more surprising is that Arizona State allowed nearly 400 yards passing and 150 yards on the ground to the NMSU Aggies. Don’t forget that Phil Bennett is the defensive coordinator at Arizona State so it will be interesting to see how he progresses this year. And on Saturday, Arizona State lost to San Diego State pretty convincingly, 30-20 — at home. It wasn’t the quarterback this time that racked up those yards against ASU, but it was 281 yards on the ground on 42 carries that did the trick. Ballage only ran for 44 yards on 15 carries and Wilkins was efficient, 20 of 33 for 298 and 2 touchdowns, but he appeared ot be the best thing about Arizona State on Saturday night.

Why This Game Is Important

This is a proving game for Texas Tech, one where the stench of last year still wafts. 68 points, 350 yards in the air and 300 yards on the ground, to an Arizona State offense that wasn’t near as good as this result for the rest of the year.

Texas Tech has a lot to prove because most folks take the Eastern Washington win with a severe grain of salt, that being that Texas Tech should beat Eastern Washington. This should not be a surprise. The defense has to prove that they’re not going to give up 650 yards of offense and the offense needs to prove that they can do this against a non-FCS opponent.

For Arizona State, they’re so similar to Texas Tech, they know that they have to play better than they did against New Mexico State and San Diego State. Both of their games were at home and this will be Arizona State’s first road test of the year.

What to Know About Arizona State

Player: Jojo Wicker
Position: Defensive End
Ht/Wt: 6-3/273
Year: Junior
Key Stats: 7 tackles, 1 sack
Player: Christian Sam
Position: Linebacker
Ht/Wt: 6-2/237
Year: Junior
Key Stats: 15 tackles

Arizona State runs a standard spread offense with new offensive coordinator Billy Napier, 4 receivers with a fullback that probably plays on occasion and a single running back. The key here is that Arizona State’s Y-receiver is in the 6’4″/250 range, so they’re essentially a tight end for all intents and purposes, but labeled a Y-receiver. Kalen Ballage is the guy that haunts your dreams, but Demario Richard is the co-starter. Manny Wilkins continues to start over Alabama transfer Blake Barnett as he should, he hasn’t been the problem.

The receivers consist of three big play guys with N’Keal Harry being the main possession guy, catching 11 thus far for 118 and 10.73 yards per catch. The big play guys thus far are Frank Darby, a freshman, who is averaging 37 yards a catch on just 3 catches with a touchdown, along with Jalen Harvey, averaging 20 yards a catch with a touchdown and John Humphrey, catching 7 passes thus far for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Ballage is the main running back, despite being an “or” with fellow senior Dmario Richard wh ohas only had 1 rushing attempt. The only other real running threat is Wilkins as no other runner has more than 4 carries, and that’s Eno Benjamin, who has 3 yards on 4 rushing attempts.

Bennett runs a standard 4-2-5 with the rush end similar to Tony Jones, a 6’3″/225 linebacker or rush end.The other defensive end is around the 250 range. The two linebackers are Christian Sam and DJ Calhoun with a hybrid linebacker/safety in J’Marcus Rhodes, who goes 6-1/214. Arizona State runs a boundary and field corner set with Joey Bryant at the boundary and Kobe Williams at the field corner spots. Starting safety Marcus Ball has retired from football as he suffered from uncontrollable seizures that would occur on the field. Oh, and from last year, other starting safety Armand Perry retired and starting cornerback Kareem Orr transferred to Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Linebacker Koron Crump is the leading sacker at 4 and fellow linebacker Alani Latu has 2.5 along with defensive lineman Tashon Smallwood. Linebacker DJ Calhoun leads the team with 21 tackles and the highlighted Sam is second with 15.

The Early Line

Via OddsShark, Texas Tech opened as a 7 point favorite. That’s a bit of a surprise, but Arizona State is already 0-2 against the spread this early in the season, under-performing against New Mexico State and San Diego State.


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