The college football weekend will come to a close with a Big 12-Pac-12 matchup between the Arizona Wildcats and Texas Tech Red Raiders. The fun gets started at 10:30 EST on Saturday, September 14 at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. Fans can find the game on ESPN.
According to the Week 3 college football odds, Texas Tech is a 3-point favorite on the road. The game also has a rather high over/under of 74 points.
Matt Wells is off to a good start early in his tenure at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders took care of Montana State 45-10 in their season opener and followed up with a 38-3 win over UTEP last week. Of course, Montana State is an FCS team and UTEP has been one of the worst FBS programs the last few seasons. Not to take anything away from Wells and the Red Raiders, but they’ve had arguably the easiest schedule of any team in the country that’s 2-0. That will change in a hurry with a trip to Arizona this week and the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma next week.
Meanwhile, Kevin Sumlin is still trying to find his footing during his second season at Arizona, especially after a disappointing 5-7 campaign last year. Things didn’t exactly start off well this year, as the Wildcats lost their season opener to Hawaii 45-38. Not even forcing six turnovers could save Arizona from losing as 10.5-point favorites. Arizona managed to bounce back last week with a win over FCS opponent Northern Arizona. However, the Wildcats allowed a 51-10 lead to get cut to a 65-41 win, which raised some concerns.
It’s been 30 years since these teams last played one another. They were yearly opponents back in the 1940s and 50s when Texas Tech dominated the series. However, the last time Arizona and Texas Tech saw each other on the football field was 1989 when the Red Raiders won 24-14 at home.
Honestly, I still don’t know what to expect from Texas Tech this season after two lopsided wins against bad teams. But I know that Arizona is a mess right now. The Wildcats showed plenty of red flags in their first two games, making it impossible to trust them. I’ll take my chances with Texas Tech being able to win on the road and cover the 3-point spread.
If there’s a silver lining with Arizona this season it’s that they’ve run the ball effectively. J.J. Taylor has looked good and quarterback Khalil Tate has been a little more willing to run the ball than he was last season. If Tate is allowed to run more, he can put up video game numbers. Overall, the Wildcats have gained over 600 yards on the ground in their first two games.
That being said, it’s fair to wonder how much of that success is due to playing Hawaii and Northern Arizona in their first two games. It’s also worth noting that Tate is running the ball more because the offensive line isn’t keeping him protected. That position group was a question mark heading into the season, and they’ve yet to prove otherwise. To be fair, Texas Tech hasn’t exactly been stout defensively in recent years. But the Red Raiders have some good talent on the defensive line. Also, Wells is likely to make defense more of a priority than previous coach Kliff Kingsbury.
On the other side of the ball, the Arizona defense has been a disaster. Even if they relaxed a little after getting out to a big lead against Northern Arizona, they shouldn’t have given up 41 points against an FCS opponent. Also, the six turnovers they forced against Hawaii in the opener is obviously a positive sign. But how can you force six turnovers while also giving up 45 points and nearly 600 yards of offense? How bad would it have been for the Arizona defense if they hadn’t forced those turnovers against Hawaii?
More importantly, I think the Red Raiders will have the kind of offense that can take full advantage of a porous defense. I don’t know if the Texas Tech offense will score the way they did under Kingsbury, but they can come close. Alan Bowman provided a spark when he took over as the starting quarterback as a freshman last season. After missing the end of last season due to injury, Bowman is back and ready to pick up where he left off. To be fair, the Red Raiders have some questions at the skill positions. But Texas Tech has a veteran offensive line, which should allow Bowman to get the Tech offense humming.
All things considered, this looks like it’ll be a high-scoring affair, so the over/under of 74 points could go either way. However, I think the Arizona offense is a little more likely to self destruct and the Texas Tech defense is a little more likely to get stops. That could end up being the difference, so I’ll take a leap of faith in an unproven Texas Tech to cover three points on the road.