Thu Aug 30 12:09pm EDT
By Adam Rosen
1. PLAYS ALLOWED
Texas Tech's defense went through a complete transformation this offseason: new coordinator, new scheme, new faces and even a new nickname. While a matchup against an outmanned Northwestern State squad won't answer many questions, we can still get out the measuring stick to gauge the type of progress that has been made under new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman.
Let's face it, holding the Demons to 10 points won't mean that the Red Raiders will stifle teams in the Big 12. It will be worth monitoring, though, how Tech records defensive stops. Last season, the only way the Red Raiders could get their defense off of the field was if there was a rain delay or if the opponent finally scored.
In 2011, Northwestern State only managed 50 plays against SMU and 56 against LSU. The Demons also were held to three plays or less in 13 of their 23 offensive drives against the Mustangs and Tigers. Reaching the level of LSU's defense would typically be too ambitious for the Red Raiders, but Kaufman's unit certainly has more talent than SMU did last year. Less total plays typically mean more three and outs.
Tech allowed over 65 plays in all three non-conference games in 2011. They also only held Texas State and New Mexico -- two similar quality opponents as Northwestern State -- to three plays or less in 11 of 26 drives.
If Tech can hold Northwestern State to 65 plays or less and get off the field in three plays or less on 50 percent of the Demons' drives, I think it will be an indicator of future success for the Red Raiders' defense this fall.
2. DOEGE'S QUARTERBACK RATING
Neal Brown has been an offensive coordinator for a total of four seasons, two at Troy and the last two with the Red Raiders. He has had a quarterback in their first full year as a starter -- Levi Brown, Taylor Potts and Seth Doege -- for the last three seasons.
Over those three seasons, when Brown's quarterbacks have posted a quarterback rating of 143 or more for a game, the team's overall record is 19-0 -- for comparison's take, Doege's 26-of-38 outing for 222 yards and three touchdowns against Nevada earned a 143.5 rating. When Brown's quarterbacks during this time span scored a rating under 143; the team is a combined 3-16; the Red Raiders' 2010 win at Colorado was one of those three exceptions, as Taylor Potts posted a 138.5 rating after completing 24-of-38 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The rating probably won't be a key number in this particular game but it will be one to watch throughout the entire season.
3. RUSHING YARDS PER GAME
This stat isn't so much about something Tech needs to do to beat NSU. Let's assume that victory is a given. It's more or less something that the Red Raiders need to establish before they hit conference play in late September.
Eric Stephens was rolling before suffering a knee injury against Texas A&M that sidelined him for the remainder of the 2011 season. The Tech rushing attack seemed to be sidelined as well. With Stephens, the offense was averaging 169 rushing yards per game -- without him, just 94 yards per contest.
Tech's run game is going to be a key cog in the offense and you'd like to see the bulk of those yards Saturday come from Kenny Williams or SaDale Foster. If Tech can sustain an effective rushing attack, regardless of injury, then the team's offense will be that much more effective.