Gator's Bayou Wonderings: Will this car start? We'll know on Saturday night
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THIS WEEK'S WONDERINGS: We'll have key answers about 2017 by 11 p.m. on Saturday night
Imagine you walk out onto the street and see a car. Any car you can imagine.
A brand new sports car, gleaming in the sunlight with a wicked coat of fresh paint. Seductive, just begging to roar down a straight stretch of road.
A mid-size SUV. Boring, safe, generic. A tool that mixes comfortability and purpose, particularly for those in need of hauling around friends and family.
Maybe a chunky, iron old beater with rust on the rims, a ticking bomb of age just waiting for time to mercifully put it down like Ole Yeller.
Now think about sitting down in the driver's seat. The keys are on the dash. You pick them up, and you slide them into the ignition. Next, you'll turn the key.
But do you really know what's going to happen when you twist your wrist? The answer is no.
The car could start right up, rolling along without a hitch. It could turn over a few times, stubbornly rebelling before ultimately succumbing to your demands, clunking along down the street. Or, it could be dead on arrival, not a movement or sound of possible life lurking from your prodding. At the end of the day, no matter what the car looks like, its ultimate purpose is to get us from point A to point B. If it can't do that, it's failed its purpose.
For the car that is Texas Tech football, if Eastern Washington primed the engine, Arizona State will tell us if the thing will start.
Sure, against Eastern Washington two weeks ago, things looked great for the Red Raiders. They were balanced on offense, running it well for the first time in more than a year, getting the passing game going behind an efficient, veteran afternoon from Nic Shimonek under center.
The defense showed real signs of improvement, having what I consider their best run defense performance in a good number of years while limiting FCS Player of the Year Gage Gubrud through the air. On top of that, the defense added three turnovers to the mix, got a fourth down stop, and allowed less than 100 total yards in the second half.
It was as commanding a win as I could've possibly expected out of Tech against EWU to start the season. But there are lingering doubts, simply because of opponent quality and sample size.
Yes, EWU is traditionally an FCS powerhouse, giving the likes of Oregon, Washington, and Washington State all they could handle in the last half decade. But the Eagles were run out of the building by North Dakota State last week, the biggest matchup of the year for them at the FCS level.
Yes, Tech looked like they could actually run the ball, even showing off a balanced offense with 40 rush attempts and 35 passes. But Eastern has struggled mightily against the run for years.
Sure, Tech's run defense looked like it took a big step in the right direction based off what we saw against the Eagles, but they also stonewalled SFA in last year's season opener on the ground, and that ended up being complete fool's gold.
Arizona State's offensive line has been a train wreck through two games, allowing 12 sacks to two Group of Five teams while only running it for 1.8 yards a carry. That unit seems to be a total disaster. On top of that, the Sun Devils can't seem to slow down opponents much better than they did in 2016, using a rotation of only 12 or 13 players defensively, which many would consider suicidal in this day and age of college offense.
From the outside, looking at Texas Tech from the street, it looks like this car is one that can run the ball, is going to be balanced on offense, has an efficient quarterback with elite receivers, and it might finally have a defense with a pulse that can back it up.
But we haven't tried to turn the ignition yet.
Arizona State will let us know if this car will start and in what fashion it will run.
We'll know if this team can slow down opponent running games based off what the Sun Devils have done so far.
We'll know if downfield pass defense may be an issue with ASU's vertical passing game.
We'll know if this offensive line has made steps in the right direction, both in run blocking and in pass protection, as ASU's front absolutely can rush the passer.
And we'll know if this team is on track to go bowling and make progress in the right direction.
Time to twist the key.