Positional Matchups | Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. SMU Mustangs

USA TODAY Sports

Walk through the positional matchups between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the SMU Mustangs.

I must admit that a lot of my thoughts about SMU will be based on what we think we know from the offseason. Neither team has played and we don’t have any statistics to really base anything I write in any sort of reality. As to the format, I hope it’s self explanatory, if not, then I’ve done a horrible job this offseason as I try to invent new and interesting ways to display content.

Texas Tech Pass Offense vs. SMU Pass Defense
5 4 3 2 1 1 2 3 4 5
Texas Tech SMU

Even if SMU’s pass defense is a little suspect, I don’t think we’re really going to know what to think until one of Texas Tech’s quarterback’s takes the field. As mentioned in the offseason, SMU was 112th in the nation in pass offense last year, but return what might be SMU’s best player in CB Kenneth Acker. The entire secondary pretty much returns, so you can count on SMU maybe taking some chances with a very inexperienced quarterback for Texas Tech, no matter who it is. SMU does have a relatively small defensive line, so I’m guessing that they’ll be quicker to the quarterback than bigger players. That means fast decisions for any of Texas Tech’s quarterback’s. Once I started to think about it, I've thought that maybe Baker Mayfield is the guy here.

At this point, Texas Tech is going to have to have guys other than the quarterback step up. I don’t think that SMU will have an answer for TE Jace Amaro (and until someone pointed this out, I forgot that Amaro will be out for the first half of his game). I will probably repeat this line for the rest of the schedule because it is true. I also don’t think that 100% of the teams that Texas Tech faces will have an answer for both Amaro and WR Eric Ward and this alone should create match-up issues all over the field. The biggest key will be the offensive line keeping the signal-caller clean.

VERDICT: Texas Tech.

Texas Tech Rush Offense vs. SMU Rush Defense
5 4 3 2 1 1 2 3 4 5
Texas Tech SMU

Texas Tech has the worst rush offense in the Big 12 last year, it’s time for this group to start doing some work. Granted, head coach Kliff Kingsbury will need to call the plays, but if there is one area that I think that SMU is going to be pretty vulnerable, it’s the rush defense. SMU replaces five starters from last year along the front seven. And even though SMU was a top rush defense for the past couple of years, and I mean in the top 25 or so, I think a lot of it had to do with Margus Hunt, maybe one of the more underrated defensive tackles in the game the last few years.

The good thing about getting the ground game going for Texas Tech would be that it should be theoretically more simple for the offensive line to get some confidence going and help create some holes for either Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington. Adding a fully healthy speed back like Washington adds another dimension to the running game that Texas Tech really didn’t have in recent years. Sadale Foster did some of that, but Washington is, I think, even quicker to the edge. I have a hard time bucking statistics, SMU’s been one of the best while Texas Tech has been one of the worst in this respective category, but I can’t overlook SMU essentially starting over, which is why this is a push.

VERDICT: Push.

Texas Tech Pass Defense vs. SMU Pass Offense
5 4 3 2 1 1 2 3 4 5
Texas Tech SMU

I think that Texas Tech has a match-up advantage with one cornerback spot, but the problem is whether or not SMU is going to play to the strengths of Texas Tech, which I think is CB Bruce Jones and his coverage ability. I’m not sure about Ola Falemi, but since I haven’t seen him play in a single game for a number of snaps, I don’t think I’m wrong in being concerned there. SMU has two senior receivers, Jeremy Johnson and Keenan Holman, but other than that, it’s a pretty inexperienced group. Although at first glance, Texas Tech is inexperienced, they are still starting three of four seniors in the defensive backfield.

I’ll also take a bit of solace knowing that SMU gave up over 2.5 sacks a game, although Gilbert is fairly nimble. I’m thinking that some of this holding onto the ball will change somewhat with Mumme there, will try to take more advantage of space and getting rid of the ball a bit quicker. Still, SMU was just okay passing the ball last year, 62nd in pass offense. Statistically, Texas Tech was fantastic against the pass, but I’m not terribly confident until I see it on the field, especially with almost three new starters in the backfield. I’m probably going to regret something on this preview and this portion is probably it. I’m not terribly comfortable picking Texas Tech here. I’m not that confident in Gilbert and I think the Texas Tech pass rush will be a big factor this game.

VERDICT: Texas Tech.

Texas Tech Rush Defense vs. SMU Rush Offense
5 4 3 2 1 1 2 3 4 5
Texas Tech SMU

Given the fact that Zach Line graduated, I shouldn’t be in favor of the Mustangs, especially considering the fact that Mumme is there and if he is anything like other Air Raid coaches, he has an aversion to running the ball a lot. Line’s graduated, but Traylon Shead, teammate of Tyler Middleton, does arrive at the Hilltop and he’s a former UT player, that transferred to Navarro JC, and is now with the Ponies. And he was terrific at Navarro last year, better than Middleton statistically and is more of a workhorse running back.

I tend to think that once you get something figured out, you’re not going to completely abandon it, and I don’t think that June Jones will completely abandon the run, in part because Shead is supposed to be that good. And Shead is a big kid, 6-2/210 and he’s going to be a load to bring down. And he was pretty good at Navarro, averaging almost 100 yards a game. I’m sure that between he and Middleton, this was a tough backfield to play.

VERDICT: Push

Texas Tech Special Teams vs. SMU Special Teams
5 4 3 2 1 1 2 3 4 5
Texas Tech SMU

If Jakeem Grant and Ryan Bustin are on Texas Tech special teams, I’m pretty confident in this group otherwise. Grant can be spectacular and I think he relishes that role, while Bustin has been incredibly solid through his career. I think this is a tough matchup for most teams. SMU’s Chase Hover is okay, but just not great and they were okay in their return game, but not terrific. I don’t think that SMU has anyone close to Grant’s game returning kicks.

VERDICT: Texas Tech.

Texas Tech Coaching vs. SMU Coaching
5 4 3 2 1 1 2 3 4 5
Texas Tech SMU

You have to go with Jones and Mumme here, just based off of experience, right? Anything less would be unfair. Don’t get me wrong, I think that Kingsbury’s upside and potential is so much greater it’s not even funny, but we’re playing just one game and not the course of a career. Even with a freshman quarterback, I think that Kingsbury has the better team. SMU has matchup problems on the defensive line and now it’s a question of whether or not Kingsbury will exploit it. I have a feeling he will. He’s had all summer to think about it. I’d also add that Kingsbury gets over-looked for his offensive mind because of who he is, I’m sure it’s both a blessing and a curse to be so incredibly good-looking, but Jones and Mumme are coaching legends in their own right. They’ve generally done it the right way and I like them as coaches.

VERDICT: SMU

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