Northwestern and Texas Tech play in the first college football game of 2011 in the TicketCity Bowl. The Wildcats and Red Raiders meet in Dallas at 12:00 pm EST on New Year’s Day. The TicketCity Bowl will be the third bowl game to feature a Big Ten team against a team from the Big 12. Missouri and Iowa play in the Insight Bowl (Insight Bowl Preview) and Baylor meets up with Illinois in the Texas Bowl (Texas Bowl Preview).
Once upon a time, Northwestern was 5-0, but now the Wildcats are 7-5 and without their starting quarterback. Northwestern is coming off of a 70-23 loss to Wisconsin in their last regular-season game. Texas Tech also enters the game with an overall record of 7-5. The Red Raiders only managed to go 3-5 in Big 12 Conference play this season but won all four of their non-conference games.
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When Texas Tech Has the Ball
The Red Raiders offense ranked 34th in the nation this year scoring 32.1 points per game. Texas Tech likes to spread the field out and throw the football. Quarterback Taylor Potts put up huge numbers this year with 3357 yards and 31 touchdowns in his senior season. Wide receivers Lyle Leong (808 yards, 17 touchdowns) and Detron Lewis (803 yards, 6 touchdowns) are Potts’ top two targets. When the Red Raiders run the ball, Baron Batch gets the bulk of the carries. Batch had 805 yards rushing and 5 touchdowns.
Northwestern ranked 67th in the nation in scoring defense with 27.7 points per game. They come into the TicketCity Bowl after their two worst defensive showings of the season. Against Illinois on November 20th, Northwestern allowed Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure to run for 330 yards and the Wildcats lost 48-27. In the final game of the season, Northwestern gave up 5 rushing touchdowns and 4 touchdowns through the air en route to a 70 -27 loss to Wisconsin. Northwestern’s defense will have to figure out a way to stop the Texas Tech passing attack if they are going to have a chance in this one.
When Northwestern has the Ball
When quarterback Dan Persa went out with an injury the Wildcats lost one of the best quarterbacks in the country and their team leader. Persa was extremely accurate completing 73.5% of his passes for 2581 yards and 15 touchdowns. Freshman Evan Watkins has had a difficult time filling Persa’s shoes in his two games as a starter. Watkins has only completed 53.1% of his passes and has only 1 touchdown to go along with 4 interceptions. Wide receiver Jeremy Ebert had a great season with 919 yards and 8 touchdowns. The Northwestern offensive line will need to give Watkins plenty of time to get comfortable in the pocket and find his receivers.
The Red Raiders defense gave up a lot of points this season. Texas Tech ranked 85th in the nation in scoring defense at 30.3 points per game. The Red Raiders had 24 sacks and 14 interceptions on the season, and they will try to force Northwestern’s freshman quarterback to make mistakes.
2011 TicketCity Bowl Prediction and Betting Lines
Texas Tech enters the game as 9 1/2 point favorites over Northwestern and the over/under for the game is set at 60 1/2. Northwestern has looked bad since losing Dan Persa, and I think that the Red Raiders will be able to cover the spread. I would also take the over in this game. With Texas Tech’s offense scoring quickly through the air I expect a high scoring game.