This weekend, the Texas Tech football team has an opportunity to make a statement for the second week in a row. Facing No. 16 NC State on the road, Tech will have the chance for back-to-back top-25 wins after toppling No. 25 Houston last week in double-overtime.
Should Tech pull off the upset in Raleigh, it would potentially land the Red Raiders in the top 25 themselves. That’s a place this program hasn’t found itself since sitting at No. 25 in week 5 of the 2018 season following a 41-17 drubbing of Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
Of course, Tech enters this game a bit banged up. We already know that QB Tyler Shough will be out for the foreseeable future and that backup QB Donovan Smith will be making just his sixth collegiate start.
Also, guard Weston Wright is going to be a game-time decision due to a sprained ankle. Given how poorly the line played last week against Houston, the potential of being without its most experienced member would be less than ideal against a tough NC State defense.
Speaking of that Wolfpack defensive unit, it will get a boost from the return of junior linebacker Payton Wilson. An injury-prone player who left week one’s game with a shoulder injury, he is thought to be a potential NFL Draft pick if he can remain healthy. Therefore, his return will be a huge boost for the Pack.
On the other hand, NC State will still be without their playmaking tight end Trent Pennix, who sustained a wrist injury in the season opener against East Carolina. Last year he grabbed 16 passes for 236 yards and 3 TDs while averaging 14.8 yards per reception and his absence will impact the Wolfpack in both the passing and the ground game.
Now, though, let’s turn our attention to the Red Raiders who need to step up this week. And we will begin with a player who needs to dominate the way one of his counterparts dominated Tech last week.
Tyree Wilson needs to have a huge impact
Against Houston last weekend, we saw firsthand how a defensive end can control a game. Unfortunately, it was Houston’s Derek Parish who illustrated that point against the Red Raiders. This week, Tech’s star pass rusher, Tyree Wilson, needs to have a similar type of impact against NC State.
It might be a bit much to ask Wilson to equal Parish’s stats from week two. Ten tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 6.5 tackles for loss would be a Herculean effort against a team as good as the Wolfpack.
But can Wilson find a way to make life as miserable for NC State QB Devin Leary as Parish did for Donovan Smith? If so, Tech could come out of this game victorious. If not, Leary could have a big day.
The Wolfpack leader is a QB who has played in 24 career games at the collegiate level. He’s seen just about everything there is to see on a football field. So if Tech wants to prevent him from having a great game, the key will not be to confuse him but rather, to pressure him.
So far this year, Tech has been just OK when it comes to pressuring the QB. With only two sacks against Houston, Tech got away with letting another veteran QB, Clayton Tune, have time to throw the ball where he wanted. In that game, the Red Raider secondary was stout and Tune was not at his best so the lack of pressure wasn’t as noticeable.
However, this week, if Leary is allowed time to survey the field, he will pick apart the Red Raider defense. He’s a better player than Tune and he can’t be allowed to just sit in the pocket and wait for his receivers to come open.
As for the NC State line, it is a veteran group with four returning starters from last year. Still, Wilson needs to make an impact in this game.
If he is truly a potential first-round NFL Draft pick, as some are projecting, he must show out against quality opponents. This week would be a great time for him to do that.
So keep an eye on Tyree Wilson on Saturday night. If he can make life tough for Leary, the Red Raiders might be able to hold down the NC State offense.