Arizona State’s secondary struggled against Northern Arizona in last Saturday’s opener. With Texas Tech and their "Air Raid" offense coming to Sun Devil Stadium this weekend, the Sun Devils need to forget about their opening win and focus on an opponent that’s going to bring a lot more firepower out of the gate.
The Red Raiders’ second season under head coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t go as well as some of the pre-season hype suggested, as they fell to every ranked opponent they faced including No. 20 LSU in the Texas Bowl.
Coming into 2016, Texas Tech has a much more experienced team and head coach. The Red Raiders lived up to that hype by putting up almost 70 points against Stephen F. Austin in their season opener last weekend.
Their coaching staff has recruited multiple game-changing players on both sides of the ball since they were brought in three years ago, some of which are expected to be game changers against the Sun Devils on Saturday.
Patrick Mahomes – Quarterback
The maroon and gold defense will have to play much better if it hopes to stop Mahomes, who put up 540 yards of total offense and six touchdowns in only two and a half quarters against the Lumberjacks. Mahomes, who is also a pitcher on Texas Tech’s baseball team, is one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12 and is a popular pick as a dark horse to win the Heisman.
In 2014, Mahomes came into his freshman year as the backup to current California quarterback Davis Webb, but took over in the final week of the season after Webb was lost to injury. Mahomes then threw for a freshman record 598 yards and six touchdowns in that week against Baylor.
Mahomes didn’t disappoint when he took over the full-time starter spot in 2015, showing that he wouldn’t shy away from throwing the long ball. With him at quarterback it will be a tough task for a shaky Sun Devil secondary to stop the "Air Raid" offense.
Dylan Cantrell – Wide Receiver
For the past two years, Kingsbury has been desperate for some of the bigger wide receivers on his roster to step up. For the majority of 2014 and 2015, the 5-foot-10, Devin Lauderdale and 6-foot-1 Reginald Davis have manned the outside receiver positions.
This lack of size has made it difficult at times for the receivers to get open against press coverage. One player that thrives against press, man coverage is 6-foot-3, 212-pound Dylan Cantrell.
The high school teammate of Mahomes was in line to start at wide receiver last season until lingering back pain caused him to miss the entire year. After using 2015 as a redshirt season, the junior is healthy and ready to make his presence felt.
In his first game as a starter, Cantrell came up big by catching two passes for 62 yards and a score. With Arizona State’s secondary struggling against Northern Arizona at times last weekend, Cantrell and Mahomes could expose some big holes for the second week in a row.
D.J. Polite-Bray - Cornerback
After sitting out the 2015 season due to academic reasons, Bray has already made an impact for the Red Raiders. The 6-foot-1, 188-pound corner had four pass breakups and limited the Lumberjacks second option at wide-out, Tamrick Pace, to two receptions for 48 yards. in only his second college game at corner. Polite-Bray could reek havoc for Manny Wilkins and the Sun Devil passing game.