Five takeaways as FIU gets shot at big upset at Texas Tech on Saturday

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Saturday represents an opportunity for FIU.

The Panthers (1-1) are listed as 21-point underdogs for their trip to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-0) in Lubbock. But the Raiders are coming off a disappointing performance, barely beating Stephen F. Austin, 28-22.

In addition, the Raiders might get caught looking ahead to next week’s game at the Texas Longhorns.

Texas Tech, though, has a tradition of excellence, especially in the passing game, producing players such as Patrick Mahomes, Wes Welker and Michael Crabtree.

Here are five takeaways regarding the Panthers-Raiders matchup:

1: Measuring stick: FIU defensive tackle Davon Strickland is coming off a huge game against Texas State, producing 2½ tackles for losses. He also had seven total tackles and one sack.

Now he gets to test himself against a Power 5 school.

“It is satisfying for me,” Strickland said of his Texas State performance.

Strickland and his teammates will try to contain a Raiders run game that produced 200 yards (on 7.7 yards per carry) against SF Austin.

Second-year Tech running back Tahj Brooks, a 5-10, 220-pounder, is off to a great start with 247 yards, a 9.1 average and four touchdowns.

2: Tough cover: The Panthers likely have no true answers for 6-3, 220-pound Texas Tech wide receiver Erik Ezukanma, an NFL prospect who was second in the Big 12 last year in reception yards per game. He had 88 catches for 1,412 yards and 10 touchdowns the past two years.

This year, Ezukanma leads the Raiders with 13 receptions, and he is averaging 25 yards per catch.

FIU’s top cornerbacks are 6-foot Josh Turner and 5-11 Rishard Dames.

3: Talented QB: Tyler Shough, who led Oregon to the 2020 Pac-12 championship, is the Raiders starter. At 6-5 and 220 pounds, he is big and poised and has a strong arm. For his career, he has 18 TD passes and eight interceptions, including two of each this year.

Shough, another potential NFL draft pick, has also rushed for 321 career yards, and FIU has struggled defending elusive QBs.

4: Experienced team: In the past four recruiting classes, the Raiders haven’t finished higher than seventh in the Big 12 and have been 10th twice. On average, those four classes ranked 64th nationally.

But while the Raiders aren’t the darlings of recruiting, they have proven players at every position.

They will test FIU’s young offensive line, especially left tackle Miles Frazier (three career starts), left guard Sione Finau (eight starts) and right tackle Lyndell Hudson Jr. (eight starts).

5: FIU’s skill: Panthers running back D’vonte Price has rushed for at least 100 yards in six of his past seven games, including four in a row. In two games this season, he has three touchdowns and is averaging 9.9 yards per rush and 138 yards per game.

Panthers quarterback Max Bortenschlager is averaging 263 passing yards per game. He also has four TD passes and just one interception.

FIU’s three top receiving targets are Bryce Singleton (8 catches, 168 yards), Tyrese Chambers (seven for 146 yards) and tight end Rivaldo Fairweather (5-for-74 yards). They have a combined four TD catches and will face a Tech secondary that added three key transfers this year: Malik Dunlap (North Carolina State); Marquis Waters (Duke); and Rayshad Williams (UCLA).

The Raiders have one of the oldest defenses in the Big 12. They picked off the Houston Cougars four times in their opener.

However, SF Austin quarterback Trae Self completed 38-of-58 passes for 343 yards against the Raiders.