Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Texas Tech Red Raiders

September 19, 2009
7:00 p.m. Central
ABC

Is anyone else surprised that the ‘Horns stayed #2 in the polls despite #3 USC’s win over #9 Ohio State in week two? There is no room for error now, boys, Carroll’s studs are close on your heels!

Needless to say, all of you have tried to block out last season’s devastating loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock. It ruined the ‘Horns Big 12- and national championship hopes in 2008, and ABC and ESPN have kindly reminded viewers of Tech’s win and Michael Crabtree’s amazing catch for the last eight months. Personally, Eyes Of TX is tired of it. It’s time for Mack Brown and the #2 Longhorns to show why the Big 12 should be part of the national championship picture this season, and it starts on Saturday night with ESPN’s College Gameday in town.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 52, Texas Tech 42

Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-0)
Every sports writer should just copy and paste their game preview of Texas Tech from the previous year, replace the name of the quarterback and wide receivers, and guesstimate the over/under on how many touchdowns they will score. In other words, this year is no different for the undefeated Red Raiders as they come in to Austin.

On offense, head coach Mike Leach has had to replace his starting quarterback, but he claims the new signal caller is his best ever in Lubbock. Taylor Potts, a NFL prototype quarterback, stands at 6’5” and 215 pounds, and has the best arm of any of Leach’s previous quarterbacks. He has the ability to hit his check-down receivers while throwing the deep ball better than Graham Harrell, B.J. Symons, or any of his predecessors. Potts’ biggest obstacle will be his lack of experience – this will be the junior’s third game, and first on the road. While less than stellar in his debut, throwing three INTs against North Dakota State, he more than made up for it in week two against Rice throwing for more than 400 yards and seven TDs. In other words, he’s capable of running the complicated Tech offense, but his game experience and presence under pressure is yet to be seen against a legitimate team.

The wide receivers are just as important to the Tech offense as its signal caller. In week two, 13 different wide outs caught passes. While standout wide receiver Michael Crabtree has departed for the NFL (well, he got drafted but didn’t sign), Leach has reloaded going in to 2009. Detron Lewis, a 6’0” 205-pound junior is the top target for Potts, and he is a a formidable threat – running good routes and taking on defensive backs across the middle. Second, Potts’ high school teammate in Abilene, 6‘1” 195-pound Lyle Leong, who caught three TDs against Rice last weekend. Their third, fourth and fifth receivers will range between Edward Britton, Tramain Swindell, and Alex Torres – all of which have great hands, decent size, and are quick in space. One difference this year is that all of Tech’s receivers are 6’0” or taller – keep an eye on this in the game, as the smaller Texas defensive backs could be challenged deep or on fade routes when Tech is in the red zone.

The Tech running back is always an unknown, but in this case, the ‘Horns know Baron Batch. While he won’t dominate the game in Leach’s offensive scheme, his niche use can be devastating when the passing game has lulled an opposing defense to sleep. Expect to see some timely runs and lots of screen passes to Batch to make the ‘Horns commit to watching another guy scamper around the field.

The biggest difference from last year’s game to this 2009 will be Tech’s defense. Last year, the Red Raiders dominated the ‘Horns early in the game, living in the backfield and causing quick throws and even a safety early in the game. This year, they have lost some of their defensive line talent to the NFL, but return some key guys that could cause the ‘Horns some problems. Inside, Colby Whitlock can hold his own and create some pressure up front for McCoy and the Texas running game, and his support with come from the edge in defensive end Daniel Howard, who has two of the team’s eight sacks so far this season. If you watch film from last year, Tech was successful at pressuring the Texas offense from the edge, and then using delayed blitzes or pressure up front while McCoy was in the pocket to create poor decisions or hurries. McCoy isn’t at his best throwing out of the pocket, and unless he recognizes those pass rush situations early and uses his legs, the offense could be in trouble again from the outset. The Tech linebackers are solid, but they will have trouble covering Texas’ 4- and 5-wide sets and their speed on the outside. In addition, the Red Raiders secondary adds three new starters this year, and inexperience at those positions against a potent Texas offense doesn’t pan out well. In addition, ESPN is reporting two key starters on the Tech defense didn’t make the trip to Austin based on injuries – defensive end Ra’jon Henry and strong safety Franklin Mitchem. Tech will be extremely thin at defensive end, and they might need to roll some back-up linebackers down to that position to spell the starters, who might play most of the game.

Special teams won’t be anything spectacular for the Red Raiders. In fact, a field goal will be rare, and a punt will be considered extinct with the Tech offense on the field. Texas should, assuming some major issues were fixed after last week, dominate in special teams. At a minimum, in the return game.

#2 Texas Longhorns (2-0)
This will be the first test for the ‘Horns this season, and no matter what anyone says, it’s a redemption game. Quarterback Colt McCoy seemed to hit his Heisman form in the second half of the Wyoming game, but a slow start against the Red Raiders offense won’t be acceptable this week. Each week, McCoy’s receivers seem to step up just that much more, and Kirkendoll, Chiles and Bucker have played great recently, taking some of the pressure of Jordan Shipley – expect more from them in week three. The running game continues to have its ups-and-downs, as Vondrell McGee will be out this week due to an ankle injury, but Tre Newton stepped up in a big way in Laramie, and he could very well take over the starting role if he continues to play well. He rushed the ball well, picked up the blitz, and had good hands on several catches out of the backfield – he looks to be the all-around back Texas has been searching for, and this week we’ll see if he’s able to be consistent.

The defense was extremely impressive in week two against Wyoming and their spread offense, although Tech’s execution and talent will be much better this week. The key for the ‘Horns will be getting pressure on Potts – not necessarily sacks – and making him get rid of the ball before he’s ready. The linebackers and secondary need to keep their man in front of them and make sure tackles after the catch. Tech will roll up their yards on offense, but the key will be holding them early in down and distance and creating more difficult long-yardage 3rd and 4th down plays. It would be great to see a couple INTs this week as well, especially Texas safety Blake Gideon, who needs some redemption after last year’s game-sealing drop.

Texas needs to fix the kicking game before this week, because Leach will look to come after the punters if he believes there is an opportunity. Fix it, ‘Horns. Be smart, play field position, and play clean, intelligent football and you should win the game going away.

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Texas Tech Red Raiders Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

Hook ‘em!

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1 Comment

Filed under Big 12, Longhorns, NCAA Football, Red Raiders

One response to “Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Texas Tech Red Raiders

  1. eyesoftx

    This just in: RedRaiderSports.com has confirmed (thanks @gkketch) that Texas Tech DE Brandon Sharpe has been suspended one game. That means Tech is down to one healthy DE for the game on Saturday. Yikes.

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