The Texas Tech Red Raiders will travel to Raleigh on Saturday night to face the NC State Wolfpack in a battle of Power 5 unbeatens.
The Red Raiders logged an impressive overtime win over No. 25 Houston last weekend to move to 2-0. NC State cruised to a 55-3 win over FCS foe Charleston Southern. This will be the first Power 5 matchup of the season for both teams.
Texas Tech is looking to break into the Top 25 with a win over the Wolfpack, but it could be an uphill battle in front of a hostile crowd, combined with the after-effects of last Saturday's hard-fought, emotional victory. NC State will look to pick up a statement win for itself and the ACC while also continuing to climb in the polls ahead of the start of conference play.
This will be the fifth meeting between the two teams, with NC State winning the last four, the most recent taking place in 2003, a 49-21 home victory.
Texas Tech at No. 16 NC State
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
Red Raiders quarterback Donovan Smith is a prototypical Texas Tech gunslinger we've all come to know and love in this offense. The upside with Smith is that he can make most throws. The downside is that he's not afraid to test that statement — regardless of the situation. His carelessness with the football nearly cost Texas Tech its big win last weekend. He can make things happen with his legs, and I'm guessing head coach Joey McGuire would like to see him run the ball more as opposed to making high-risk throws — especially against a solid and opportunistic NC State defense that has four interceptions in its first two games.
You might see the Red Raiders lean on what has been a fairly efficient rushing attack. The top two running backs, Tahj Brooks and SaRodorick Thompson, have combined for 189 yards on 36 carries (5.25 ypc) through two games. Additionally, Brooks has punched it into the end zone four times.
When NC State Has the Ball
Devin Leary appears to be as advertised, as he was hyped by many media members and outlets as one of the top quarterbacks in the country heading into the season. He has five touchdown passes and just one interception thus far while adding two more scores on the ground.
When Leary looks downfield, his favorite targets have been wide receiver Thayer Thomas and running back Jordan Houston. In the red zone, the Texas Tech defense would do well to know the whereabouts of Devin Carter. The big-bodied receiver is built to thrive in that part of the field. He hasn't scored yet, but he's due.
In the meantime, Leary will want to know where Red Raiders edge rusher Tyree Wilson is at all times. Wilson only has half of a sack on the stat sheet, but he's been a factor in terms of disrupting the timing of opposing quarterbacks in both games.
After a scare in Week 1 against East Carolina, the Wolfpack had a chance to regroup and iron out some things against an inferior FCS opponent. Sometimes you need that early-season reboot, and luckily for NC State, it came without breaking too much of a sweat. Expect Dave Doeren's club to be focused and re-energized on Saturday night. Defensively, I expect the Wolfpack to take advantage of what appears to be a mistake-prone Texas Tech attack. If they can force Smith into some risky throws early and often, the Pack should cruise to a sound win. That said, the Red Raiders come into this game battle-tested after surviving a spirited overtime thriller against Houston. They have proven to be resilient enough to overcome mistakes and win against top-tier competition. The biggest question mark for Texas Tech might center around how much is left in the tank after last week.
Prediction: NC State 34, Texas Tech 24
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— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
*Price as of publication.