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Critical Matchups | Arizona St. Sun Devils and Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Texas Tech Red Raiders face the Arizona St. Sun Devils in the Holiday Bowl and we look at the critical matchups heading into the big game.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Because of the atypical schedule, I thought it would be best to break up the typical Iconography post into a few different posts over the weekend. Now, we look at the critical matchups for the Red Raiders.

Sutton vs. Carpenter: ASU’s DT Will Sutton is just a terrific player inside. He wreaks havoc on almost every play and has done so for the past two years. He’s a significant player. RG Beau Carpenter should return from being out due to a concussion. Before the Baylor game, I know I talked about Carpenter and if he returned, I thought the quarterbacks would stand a better chance at standing upright with Carpenter at right guard rather than true freshman Baylen Brown. No offense to Brown, but I like Carpenter’s chances to stop Sutton moreso than Brown. I hope like heck Carpenter starts because I think the game is going to be partly decided by containing Sutton. He’s that good.

Kelly vs. Jacobson & Porter: This is going to be incredibly fun and tough for Texas Tech. Maybe the walk-on story we should have been focusing on all year was the story of Tanner Jacobson, who walked on from Southlake Carroll to fill in at the safety spot after a season ending injury to J.J. Gaines and leap-frogging Keenan Ward on the depth chart. Jacobson has his limitations, he does get confused at some points and he can be out of place, but Haverty believes that Jacobson is the best option even though this will be Jacobson’s last game with Texas Tech as he will leave for a two year Mormon mission. I think the idea to start Jacobson is interesting given the fact situation. Fellow safety Tre’ Porter and Jacobson will have their hands full all night as Arizona QB Taylor Kelly is very much a dual-threat option, passing for over 3,500 yards, 28 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and running for almost 500 yards on the season. Go ahead and add in Kelly completing near 63% of his passes for over 7.7 yards per attempt and you can see how the safeties will be tested.

Amaro vs. Jones: I'll be honest, I'm not real sure who will get the call against TE Jace Amaro, but in looking at the ASU two-deep, I think I'd go with Spur linebacker Anthony Jones, which is I think their "raider" linebacker spot. A tweener, safety or linebacker and Jones seems to fit that bill at 6-1/215. I'm really not sure who would maybe get the call if ASU decides to go with someone in the secondary as pretty much every defensive back, safety or cornerback, is around that 5-11 range. It's not as if Jones is much bigger than that, but there's really not anyone on the ASU roster than poses a size advantage against Amaro. I’d also add that LB Chris Young is ASU’s leading tackler and he’s got a much bigger frame, 6-0/244, and he’s actually the starter at the spur linebacker spot, but athletically, I’m guessing he won’t be able to keep pace with Amaro without some help. Seems like Jones is a better matchup for ASU based on their respective frames. Amaro's worst games were somewhat recently, against Kansas St. and Baylor, catching 9 and 4 passes for 67 and 55 respectively, although you could wonder if this was more or less quarterback issues in being unable to get him the ball. It's not a surprise to think that I like Amaro's chances against just about any defender and this should be a battle that Texas Tech will win.

Nelson vs. Strong: I'm assuming that Justis Nelson get the starting nod here at cornerback, and if that's the case, he will have his hands full with WR Jaelen Strong, who was by far the leading receiver for ASU. Strong had 71 receptions for 1,094 yards and 7 touchdowns for the Sun Devils. I think that Nelson gets the call against Strong because of Strong's size, which is 6-3/205. Strong is adept at going up and grabbing passes and it seems like a better fit for Nelson to battling Strong with some safety help to his size. The other leading receiver for ASU is RB D.J. Foster, who seems more like a guy that will do anything and everything for ASU. It would make sense that maybe the nickel defensive back would cover Foster. I suppose that would have been Austin Stewart before he was left at home. Maybe someone like Keenon Ward or Derrick Mays. I think the Foster matchup is a tough one for Texas Tech.