Big 12: 2011 TicketCity Bowl 3 Keys

TicketCity Bowl: Keys for Texas Tech

December, 31, 2010
12/31/10
11:15
AM ET
1. Get one quarterback into a rhythm. If Texas Tech doesn't have success throwing the ball, it's not very good. If it does, it can beat a lot of good teams. The Red Raiders plan to play both Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield at quarterback, which isn't bad in itself, but they have to figure out early who has the hot hand and who they plan on riding late in the game if it's close. The Red Raiders have struggled to run the ball all season, and need to get it done through the air to put up enough points for the win. That won't happen if Potts and Sheffield are uncomfortable or both have off days. Potts will likely be the guy for most of the game, but a couple bad drives early has the potential to throw the whole offense out of whack. If Northwestern capitalizes, a slow start by Tech could also produce some forced plays from whoever is under center for the Red Raiders, creating a deeper hole.

2. Stay grounded early. Texas Tech's defense has been unimpressive for most of the year, and now they'll be listening to a new voice in defensive coordinator Sam McElroy. It's been a year of transition for the Red Raiders, and this game is no exception. Early on, you might see some confusion. Maybe a costly delay on getting a play relayed to the players on the field. Whatever happens, Texas Tech will have to shake it off and get ready for the next possession. This game should have plenty of points, and the defense can't let an early miscue that can be easily fixed affect them later in the game.

3. Force Evan Watkins to make mistakes. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound freshman has lots of size, but not much experience. He'll be making his third career start, and in his last game against Wisconsin, he completed just under 60 percent of his passes and had three interceptions. He's also thrown for just 258 yards in those two starts combined. Texas Tech loved to blitz under former coordinator James Willis, but with the quality of quarterback play in the Big 12, that can come with a ton of risk. Against Watkins, that risk isn't quite as high. Come after him for 60 minutes, dare him to make a play downfield over the top of the defense, and there's a pretty good chance his mistakes will be more frequent than his big plays.

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