September 17, 2011

The Nickel: New Mexico

The Nickel

Texas Tech takes to the road and squares off with New Mexico today at 2:30 p.m. at University Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M., on Versus.

Here are the five key storylines to watch during today's game:

How quickly can the Texas Tech offense break out?

Following the Red Raiders' 50-10 win against Texas State two weeks ago, the coaching staff and players alike expressed disappointment with how long it took to put away their FCS opponent.

The Red Raiders trailed the Bobcats 10-9 at halftime but did put up 50 unanswered points to close out the game.

Things really opened up with quarterback Seth Doege started connecting with receiver Darrin Moore. Moore had more than 200 yards on the day on just 12 receptions and helped open up the Red Raiders' running game when Texas State was forced to defend the pass.

Expect for Doege to look for Moore early and often in today's game and for the same results as in the Texas State game.

Two freshmen linebackers

Nowhere is the Red Raiders' youth movement more evident than in the Tech linebacking corps.

True freshman middle linebacker Sam Eguavoen will make his first collegiate start and freshman weak side linebacker Blake Dees will make his second career start. Both are in charge of slowing down New Mexico dual-threat quarterback Tarean Austin along with the Red Raider defensive line.

It will be interesting to see how they perform throughout the game.

Can the Red Raiders get sacks?

For months, one of the dominating headlines out of Lubbock has been how improved the Tech defensive line has looked.

The Red Raiders lost defensive end Leon Mackey for a significant chunk of the season against Texas State to a deflated lung. Now redshirt freshman Jackson Richards must take Mackey's spot and perform.

Opposite Jackson and the Red Raider defensive line is a Lobo offensive line that interestingly allowed 10 sacks against Colorado State in a 14-10 loss but responded with no sacks against in a 52-3 loss against Arkansas.

From a Tech standpoint, it would be nice to see the defensive line push around the Lobo offensive line like Colorado State did and get somewhere in between the numbers the Rams and Razorbacks recorded against New Mexico.

New Mexico desperately seeks a win

Lobo head coach Mike Locksley is 2-24 through two seasons and two games as New Mexico's head coach and his squad is staring its third-consecutive 0-3 start under Locksley in the face.

Expect New Mexico to put up the best fight it can against their regional rivals.

In some ways, it's amazing Locksley has not been relieved of duties. He's definitely a well-liked, charismatic coach, but at some point success on the field must be taken into account.

Could another loss today, especially against a rival, get the hot seat a little warmer?

Supposedly New Mexico is an improved team and how the Lobos fare in the Mountain West Conference should be the greatest determiner in Locksley's fate. But another consecutive loss won't help matters in Albuquerque.

When will Texas Tech put away the game?

Let's be honest.

If the Lobos defeat Texas Tech today, it would be as humiliating to the Red Raiders as losing to an FCS team.

No. 14 Arkansas had put their New Mexico game away by halftime with a 31-3 lead. The Red Raiders should have the goal to close out any glimmer of hope for the Lobos by halftime or midway through the third quarter if they are to compete with the better Big 12 Conference teams later this season.

Expect Tech to be in a good position by somewhere in the third quarter.

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