Opponents to Watch: vs. Texas Tech

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Nic Shimonek

Quarterback, #16

After Patrick Mahomes II departed from Lubbock to the draft last spring, Texas Tech needed to find the next captain of its signature air raid offense. Although Shimonek’s brief career as the team’s starting quarterback is coming to a close, the senior made the most of his 2017 season.

Shimonek ranks fifth in the FBS in passing yards, totaling 3,451 on the year. He threw a near-perfect game versus Arizona State in Week 3, throwing for 543 yards and six touchdowns in a 52-45 victory. Texas Tech’s offense is very reliant on Shimonek, so the senior must revert to a performance like this in order to achieve bowl eligibility before his graduation.

Keke Coutee

Wide receiver, #2

Coutee serves as Texas Tech’s lightning-fast receiver, consistently burning corners down field and even excelling as a return specialist. The junior wideout currently has picked up 1,074 yards receiving this season and holds 10 touchdowns to his name — nine receiving and one from a kickoff return.

Coutee leads the Red Raiders in receptions, yards from scrimmage and touchdowns. In three games this year, the Lufkin, Texas native has gone off for more than 160 receiving yards. The season is winding down and Coutee has never played in a bowl game, so one of these spectacular performances is in high demand for the Red Raiders on Saturday.

Dakota Allen

Outside linebacker, #40

Allen has been one of Texas Tech’s do-it-all players on defense. The junior outside linebacker leads the team with 79 total tackles in 2017, and 4.5 of these hits have come behind the line of scrimmage.

Allen additionally intercepted two passes and recovered one fumble this season, effectively contributing to Texas Tech’s plus-10 turnover differential (top 15 in the nation). Allen’s strong play this season has caused the Red Raiders to improve their defense. The unit has allowed under 30 points in five of its 11 games — a vast improvement from the team that allowed 66 points on three occasions in 2016.

Jah’Shawn Johnson

Free safety, #7

When it comes to hitting, no player in Texas Tech’s secondary does it like Jah’Shawn Johnson. The junior leads all defensive backs on the team in tackles, checking in at 76 this season. He’s excelled in zone coverage this season, batting down five passes this season.

Although the offense struggled against TCU, Johnson helped hold the Horned Frogs to a low-scoring output for the majority of the game. He led the team with 10 stops, marking his second-best performance of the season. The veteran free safety recorded his season-high 11 tackles in 2016 against the Texas Longhorns — who he’ll face in a heated rivalry game this Saturday.