The Texas Tech Red Raiders are traveling to Raleigh to face the No.16 NC State Wolfpack on Saturday after dispatching then-No.25 Houston in a 33-30 double-overtime victory last weekend.
A win over the Wolfpack would give the Red Raiders back-to-back wins over ranked opponents in consecutive weeks for the first time since Tech defeated No.1 Texas and No.8 Oklahoma State in the 2008 season.
It would also be the first time the Red Raiders have defeated multiple ranked non-conference opponents in the same season in program history.
Red Raiders first-year head coach Joey McGuire already became only the second head coach in program history to defeat a top-25 team in his first-ever matchup against a ranked opponent. With a win at NC State this weekend, McGuire would become only the fourth head coach in program history to start his career with a 3-0 record.
Fans could not have envisioned a better start to the Joey McGuire era, as the Red Raiders blew out Murray State in Week 1 before the first key victory under their new head coach in the win over then-No.25 Houston.
McGuire and Red Raider fans hope the team’s second quality win under the new coach comes this weekend when they matchup against a tough NC State team that’s also won its first two games.
Both teams’ strengths are one side of the ball. While Texas Tech has a high-scoring air raid offense, NC State boasts a stout, experienced defense.
The Wolfpack are holding opponents to only 266.5 offensive yards per game, the fourth-fewest in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). That’s a significant difference from the 536.0 yards per game that Big 12-leading Texas Tech’s offense is averaging.
The NC State defense is incredibly opportunistic, with five forced turnovers in its first two games. The Red Raiders, who enter the game as 10-point underdogs, will need to avoid committing turnovers to stay in the game.
Sophomore Tech quarterback Donovan Smith will carry much of the responsibility for protecting the ball. He entered the season as the backup to Tyler Shough, but Shough went down with an injury in the Week 1 blowout of Murray State.
Against Houston, Smith set career highs across the board for completions (36), attempts (58), and passing yards (351), as well as a career-long run (27) in the win. He also ran in the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
However, Smith also threw three interceptions and made some questionable decisions that could have cost the Red Raiders the win. He will need to be in top form for the Red Raiders to pull off the upset over the Wolfpack.
For NC State, its starting quarterback Devin Leary set the program record for most passing touchdowns (35) in a season last year, besting the record set by Wolfpack legend and longtime NFL star quarterback Phillip Rivers.
Leary, a redshirt junior, has a 14-3 career record and 56 career touchdown passes (three away from moving into the Top 5 all-time at NC State). In two games this season, he’s thrown for 449 yards and five touchdowns, with just one interception.
That could spell trouble for a Red Raider defense that has ranked near the bottom of the Big 12 conference in recent years.
However, Tech’s defense impressed against Houston, with constant pressure on quarterback Clayton Tune causing him to struggle to make passes downfield due to the limited time he had in the pocket. Still, in contrast, Houston’s defensive line also caused many problems for the Red Raiders offensive line.
Texas Tech will need to protect the ball, improve its pass protection from the matchup against Houston, and again create constant pressure on Leary to leave Raleigh with a win.