It's hard to believe, but the Texas Tech Red Raiders are four years removed from the Mike Leach era. The days of slinging the ball 60+ times per game were quickly abandoned under the more methodical Tommy Tuberville, but the "Air Raid" has made a return under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Kingsbury made the "Air Raid" famous at Texas Tech as the three-year starting quarterback under Leach. When Kingsbury took over the offense in 2000, he threw for 3,418 yards and was only beginning his assault on the school's passing records.
By the end of his college career, Kingsbury was one of the top three passers in NCAA history after throwing for more than 12,000 yards and tossing 95 touchdowns. His numbers have since been surpassed, but Kingsbury employs elements of the "Air Raid" as a head coach.
This year, the Red Raiders attempted more than 56 passes per game which was their highest total since Leach was fired after the 2009 season. However, one glaring difference in Kingsbury's offense compared to Leach's is the younger coach's willingness to run the football.
The Red Raiders still averaged more than 32 rushing plays per game this season and amassed 120 yards per game on the ground. Those numbers are not drastically different from the Red Raiders' rushing totals under Tuberville because Kingsbury employs an up-tempo offense that seeks to execute more than 80 plays per game.
Kingsbury made a statement over the summer by challenging the likes of respected coaches such as Nick Saban and Bret Bielema who questioned the safety of the no-huddle offense in the college game. The 34-year-old San Antonio native is one of the biggest proponents of the no-huddle, and the Holiday Bowl could turn into the Holiday Track Meet if both coaches have their way.
The Red Raiders' offense will have a different look from a personnel standpoint in the Holiday Bowl because walk-on freshman turned starting quarterback Baker Mayfield left the team after the regular season. Mayfield threw for 2,315 yards, but his replacement is more than capable.
Fellow freshman Davis Webb is expected to start, and Webb saw extended action this season when he shared reps with Mayfield and when Mayfield went down with an injury. Incredibly, Webb also threw for exactly 2,315 yards, but he threw 16 touchdown passes compared to just 12 for Mayfield.
Webb started in five games this season and threw for 300 yards on all five occasions and surpassed the 400-yard mark three different times.
While Kingsbury is committed to running the ball, he doesn't have an outstanding tailback to shoulder the load. Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington split carries this year and neither netted more than 500 yards this season. If all goes well, Williams will pass the 500-yard mark as he enters the contest with 480 on the year.
Texas Tech didn't have a running back gain 100 yards in a game this season, but they did have a few 100-yard receivers. Tight end Jace Amaro (who was robbed of the Mackey Award) is two catches shy of 100 on the season and he's racked up over 1,200 yards through the air. Amaro is versatile enough to align anywhere on the field and he had a stretch of four consecutive games this year with at least 119 yards receiving.
The Sun Devils best beware of Amaro because the 6-foot-5 junior had some of his best games against elite competition including a 15-catch, 174-yard outing against Oklahoma State.
Eric Ward is another Red Raider who will be looking to notch a 1,000-yard receiving season and he'll need 96 yards against Arizona State to accomplish the feat. Ward has had at least 80 yards in the last five contests after amassing 80 yards just twice in his first seven games.
The Red Raiders have a slew of receivers they're comfortable throwing the ball to including sophomore speedster Jakeem Grant. Grant stands just 5-foot-6 and plays the slot, but he should be the No. 1 receiving threat next season should Amaro decide to turn pro.
Across the offensive line, Texas Tech will have an advantage in size over the Sun Devils. However, the Red Raiders have not proven their prowess on the ground, so Arizona State's athletic defensive line has the potential to wreak havoc in the backfield.
Left tackle Le'Raven Clark is the largest body at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, and he's followed closely by left guard Alfredo Morales who is two inches shorter but weighs the same as Clark.
The Red Raiders are more athletic on the right side as 6-foot-6 guard Beau Carpenter and 6-foot-5 tackle Rashad Fortenberry both weigh in at 285 pounds.
Center Jared Kaster stands in the middle of an offensive line that finished 104th in the country in sacks allowed at 2.75 per game, but considering how much the Red Raiders drop back to pass, the numbers are slightly skewed.
All in all, Texas Tech is a handful for any defense to prepare for because the tempo at which the Red Raiders play is impressive. Fortunately for the Sun Devils, their defense has had the opportunity to face one of the country's fastest offenses in practice leading up to the bowl game which should leave Arizona State with no excuses when it comes to keeping up with the Red Raiders.