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Texas Tech Red Raiders preview

DeAndre Washington is one of the key offensive weapons for Texas Tech. John Weast/Getty Images

Tech’s offense hasn’t been the problem: It ranked third in the Big 12 in yards per game last year. As for the defense, there’s plenty of room to improve on a 123rd FBS ranking in points per drive (2.97) last year. If that happens and the offense continues to soar, this is a team that could go bowling.

Offense

How the Red Raiders beat you: Texas Tech uses a high-tempo, quick-pass offense to attack opposing D’s. It recruits RBs and WRs who can consistently create havoc in the open field, then designs plays to put them in those situations. RB DeAndre Washington (1,103 rushing yards, 328 receiving yards in ’14) and WR Jakeem Grant (938 yards, 7 TDs) are good examples. There is no one threat to focus on in this offense, with seven different Red Raiders catching at least 20 passes in ’14. That distribution of the ball and the ability to take advantage of one-on-one situations make Tech’s offense a handful.

How you beat the Red Raiders: In the past two seasons, Texas Tech has played a turnover-free game only twice; four times the Red Raiders have had four or more giveaways, three of those coming in 2014. Even worse? They gave up a staggering 116 points off TOs last year, 25 more than the next-worst team in the Big 12 (and 56 more than West Virginia, which actually had one more turnover). Sophomore QB Patrick Mahomes II (16 TDs, 4 INTs) improved throughout the year in that area, finishing with 6 turnovers in his seven games played after starter Davis Webb’s shoulder injury, but he’ll have to continue to get better there to become the unquestioned starter in Lubbock.

Defense

How the Red Raiders beat you: New defensive coordinator David Gibbs brings hope after leading a Houston defense that forced 30 turnovers, an average of 2.3 per game, in 2014. Texas Tech, on the other hand, forced just 34 turnovers the past two seasons combined. This spring Tech’s ball handlers noticed an increased turnover focus from the defense: “Those guys have been trying to get at the ball,” Washington says. Gibbs has some talent to work with, including Big 12 sacks leader Pete Robertson and seven other returning starters, along with several young but promising defenders, such as Ohio State transfer Mike Mitchell.

How you beat the Red Raiders: Until Gibbs can improve Texas Tech’s rush defense and general playmaking, you run the ball. The Red Raiders allowed 5.2 yards per carry in 2014 and, alarmingly, a league-high 90 runs of 10-plus yards. Defensive end Branden Jackson provides an anchor and is coming off a productive junior year (44 tackles, 10½ TFL, 5 sacks). ESPN 300 defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko enrolled early and would provide a major boost if he’s the player he’s expected to become. He has the size, athleticism and strength to help change the fortunes of a Red Raiders defense that allowed a league-worst 41.2 points per game last season.