As the Texas Tech Red Raiders open their season on Saturday against championship subdivision opponent Northwestern State, all eyes will be focused on head coach Tommy Tuberville.
After going just 5-7 in his second season at the helm, Tuberville enters 2012 firmly planted on the hot seat. To get the scorn of the Red Raider faithful off his back, the coach will need his team to come out strong on Saturday against a less-talented opponent.
The Devils, however, will come out hoping to pull a massive upset. But considering the talent disparity, it's likely that Northwestern State will be happy coming out of this game healthy and with a sizable check from the Big 12 in their hands.
With that in mind, here's everything you need to know about the Texas Tech-Northwestern State contest.
When: Saturday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Lubbock, TX
Watch: Fox Sports Southwest Plus
Stream: Texas Tech All-Access
Betting Line: No betting line available at this time.
Northwestern State Injuries (via Oddsshark)
The Demons have no major injuries to report at this time.
Texas Tech Injuries (via USA Today)
The Red Raiders have no major injuries to report at this time.
BCS/Top 25 Implications
Texas Tech comes into Saturday's showdown unranked and without receiving a single vote in the preseason AP poll. If Tuberville's squad hopes to join the Top 25 at any point this season, it's imperative that they come out strong and win big. Voters don't look kindly upon losing to FCS schools, especially ones that went 5-7 last season.
It's win big or disappoint for the Red Raiders Saturday night.
What They're Saying
As is the case seemingly every season with the Red Raiders, the biggest question for the team this year comes on defense.
In nine games against Big 12 opponents last season, Texas Tech gave up an astounding average of 46.0 points per game, good for the worst in the conference. Coming into 2012, coach Tuberville has one key in mind to change that will give his offense more opportunities: cause turnovers.
Turnovers, if I think right, and I don't like to go back and look at it too much, but think we only had five interceptions in a passing league. Is that right? Not good. Not good at all. So we've got to have more interceptions, stop the run, more interceptions, overall more turnovers, and get the ball back for our offense. Last year in a couple games we couldn't get our offense back on the field, even though we were pretty decent. We weren't great on the offense. We were decent. But we couldn't get the offense back out there in a decent time in terms of giving them a chance to have success
Though head coach Bradley Dale Peveto's Demons are focused on winning Saturday's game, the team's main concern is with family and friends dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana.
Northwestern State actually left a day ahead of schedule to avoid the storm, taking shelter at the TCU facilities.
Here's Peveto talking about the process via NSUDemons.com:
We're worried about family and friends, and really everybody, to the south of us, and our prayers are for their safety. Our cell phones will be busy over the next couple of days touching base. But we're starting a business trip, a day ahead of plan, and I don't doubt our focus on the task at hand.
I've got to compliment our administration, and our equipment staff and everyone for working to make it possible for us to get going ahead of the storm's arrival. We're grateful to coach Gary Patterson and our friends at TCU for making their facilities available to us Thursday morning for practice.
Texas Tech Player to Watch: QB Seth Doege
The signal-caller comes into his senior season hoping to join a long lineage of elite college quarterbacks at Texas Tech.
At the helm of the vaunted Red Raiders passing attack last season, Doege put up 4,004 yards (eighth most in the FBS) and 28 touchdowns against just 10 interceptions. For Texas Tech to have any chance of competing this season, the team will need a huge season from its offensive leader.
That starts with developing a strong rhythm against Northwestern State, as top-notch early-season performances could snowball once the Red Raiders hit the bulk of their schedule.
Northwestern State Player to Watch: QB Brad Henderson
Northwestern State's defense likely won't be able to match up against the strong Texas Tech offense, leaving the Demons desperate for a strong performance from their senior quarterback.
Last season saw the dual-threat quarterback take the reins behind center, leading an efficient charge, but one that struggled to put up big points. Though Henderson avoided mistakes—throwing just six interceptions—his 12 touchdown passes was a product of the offense struggling as a unit.
Henderson will likely need half of that figure on Saturday alone to compete against Texas Tech.
Key Matchup: The Texas Tech RB Battle
Though the backfield is never what comes to mind first when talking Red Raiders football, Tuberville seems exceedingly pleased with his team's depth at running back this season.
When asked about his favorite of the bunch, the Texas Tech coach chose neither starter Eric Stephens nor second-stringer Kenny Williams. Instead, he chose third-string junior college transfer SaDale Foster as his guy.
It's not that I don't like the other guys. I think Kenny right now is probably the best. But what SaDale has done in terms of scrimmages and catching the ball and making people miss in open field and he's going to be on a lot of special teams, I like SaDale. He's been one of my favorites since I saw him last spring running around. He kind of fits on what we do on offense. He's a tough little guy that's built like a fire plug.
Though Stephens and Williams will likely get the lion's share of the early reps Saturday, if this contest turns into a blowout, look for Tuberville to rely heavily on his 5'7" converted wide receiver. If Foster performs well, the Red Raiders rushing attack could become an underrated three-headed monster.
Prediction: Texas Tech 59, Northwestern State 7
Both sides of the ball for Tech's should come into the season vastly improved after the young squad's tough 2011 campaign. Expect the Red Raiders to come out quick and turn this game into a blowout behind the arm of Doege and an improved defensive effort.