Time: 7:00 CT
Location: Jones AT&T Stadium
Network: Fox Sports Network
Stephen F. Austin:
Stephen F. Austin had a rough year last year, finishing 4-7 overall while playing in one of the best conferences in the FCS, the Southland. The last few years Stephen F. Austin has played Big 12 foes, including Tech in 2011 and 2013.
The Lumberjacks head into Lubbock with their own prolific quarterback, Zach Conque. All focus will be on him as he was a strong leader on offense last year. Texas Tech’s defense, will probably give him some glaring holes to exploit, and he should enjoy a prolific game. Running back Joshawa West also figures to play a vital role in the Lumberjack attack.
Last year’s tackle leader Justin Owens is gone, and he is a huge hole to fill, but linebacker Price Miller and safety Patrick Martin should be able to at least partially fill it. These two anchors of the Lumberjack D will have the brutal task of stopping Tech’s electrifying offense.
The kicking corps of the Lumberjacks is full of youth, as three of the four kickers on the roster are either freshmen or sophomores. Last year’s kickoff specialist, Caleb Lewallen, will likely be the new kicker and perhaps punter.
The Red Raiders hope this year could be a huge year for them after coming off a 7-6 campaign. Patrick Mahomes is in his second-year as full-time starter, and he and some others believe this year could end with the Red Raiders ranked.
Patrick Mahomes’ junior campaign will begin, and while some familiar faces are gone, the holes they left are in capable hands. Speedy Justin Stockton takes over for DeAndre Washington, now with the Oakland Raiders, while Jakeem Grant’s role will be supplanted by Ian Sadler, Cameron Batson, Devin Lauderdale, and JUCO transfer Derrick Willies, among others.
While stability at coordinator may help in time, this figures to be a rough year once again for the Red Raider defense. While players like Jah’Shawn Johnson and Justis Nelson showed promise in the backfield last year, most of the front seven, already Tech’s weakest unit, is gone and replaced with unknown quantities. It’ll take Kingsbury and Gobbs another year or two to truly improve this defense.
The loss of the always electrifying Grant will sting on special teams, but kickers Clayton Hatfield and Michael Barden return as sophomores. One of these two will likely take on the rarely-used job of punting as well.
While Stephen F. Austin had a rough year last year, this season could be much more with lots of returning star power on offense. However, the Lumberjacks simply can’t stop the talented wide receiving corps Tech features, and it should be a mere litmus test for the Red Raiders before they head to Tempe.
Prediciton: Tech 77, SFA 31
Credit for cover picture: @PatrickMahomes5, @VICESports