Texas v. Texas Tech

TEXAS LONGHORNS v. TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS
Hook ‘em Horns!

Texas still sits atop the standings at #1 in every human and computer poll going in to the weekend, and Texas Tech sits at #6. It’s time to take the “Sand Aggies” of Lubbock down on their home turf. This game will probably dictate the Big 12 South winner, assuming whichever team wins has victories in their remaining games. Here’s an interesting stat for you: Texas is only the ninth team in college football history to ever play four top-12 teams in four consecutive weeks. Of those, with a win, Texas would be only the second team to win all four…no one since Notre Dame in 1943 has accomplished the feat. This week, rumor has it Texas Tech will don the all-black uniforms, and the crowd will as well…expect a more-than-usual rowdy crowd in the Texas desert. I say, whatever it takes to get you excited, Raider fans…you live in Lubbock, and well, this is your biggest event of the year next to the Christmas RV sale. It’s going to be a back-and-forth dual of offensive minds, so I expect high-scoring and little defense.

The Recap: Texas v. Oklahoma State
Final Score: 24-20
Well, that was a little closer than I would have liked. Of course, I want Texas to win by 100 points every week, so I get nervous every game it seems. But, Okie State showed they are rising to the top in the Big 12, and Mike Gundy has done a heck of a job with that program. They came in to a huge, loud stadium on the road against the #1 team in the land and showed they had something to prove. Watch out for that team next year in Stillwater, they return a lot of starters and that’s scary. I can’t wait to see the Oklahoma State v. ou game in Stinkywater…should be a great game. Here are my highlights and lowlights from the game.

Highlights:
WR Jordan Shipley had a school record 15 catches for 168 yards and one TD, and another 17 yards on a reverse.

WR Quan Cosby had an impressive falling-down-backward TD catch, and added seven more catches for 76 yards.

RB Chris Ogbonnaya had seven catches for 73 yards.

QB Colt McCoy had a career day – obliterating his own record, he set the school record with 24 straight completions – and he was 38-45 with a career best 391 yards passing and three TDs (one rushing).

DE Henry Melton had a nice day chasing Okie State QB Zac Robinson – he had two sacks and six total tackles.

The Texas secondary held Okie State to only 199 yards passing, and totally controlled standout WR Dez Bryant.

Lowlights:
Running game? Non-existent. QB Colt McCoy led the team in rushing with 10 carries for 41 yards.

The other Texas WRs dropped off the planet this week, only catching four passes for 45 yards and no TDs.

Turnovers…we’ve grown accustomed to not seeing many this year, but Colt had some poor decisions, including a fumble as well. Clean it up this week.

The defensive line was porous against the running game; Okie State has a great running game, but Texas could not slow them down and got torched on the ground.

The special teams was absolutely horrible. No one stayed in their lanes, and they gave up big return yards. Not acceptable, and don’t think opposing kick returners get any worse this week.

Links:
ESPN: “McCoy soars, but No. 1 Horns escape No. 6 Cowboys behind defense”
ESPN (Insider): “Texas searches for history against Texas Tech”

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 49, Texas Tech 42

Texas Tech (8-0)
This is a scary Texas Tech team. While typically I am worried about Texas simply getting in to a shootout, I always knew we would score points because their defense was marginal at best. That is not the case this year…they are much improved. But, as always, this team is led by coach Mike Leach’s “innovative,” ridiculous offense. Let’s get to the details to know what we’re going to see…

The offensive juggernaut is lead by 6’3” senior Graham Harrell. He’s a guy who has been in Leach’s program for awhile, and he has an amazing understanding of the offense, good field vision and a strong arm. On the season, he has 3,147 yards passing, with 28 TDs and just five interceptions. Like Texas’ McCoy, his completion percentage is amazing considering he throws the ball more than pitcher in a baseball game. He’s completing 71% of his passes, of which he’s thrown more than 360 this year. On the ground, he doesn’t do much, averaging 1.8 yards per game rushing – so, he will stand in the pocket and find his receivers in space. The strength of this offense, though, is the offensive line. The “innovation” in Leach’s offensive scheme is that the Red Raiders experienced OL seems to stretch from sideline to sideline – the player’s line up nearly 2 yards apart on the line of scrimmage. They do this for two main reasons: 1) it pushes the defensive lineman farther away from the QB on the outside, which makes it harder to get to the QB before he throws the ball, and 2) it creates wide open passing lanes for the QB to see and throw to his WRs without worrying about the ball getting batted down. Giving up an NCAA-low three sacks on the season, in my opinion, these guys make the offense work game after game. Looking at previous games, Missouri did the same thing in the first half, and the Texas DL was able to penetrate and put pressure on Chase Daniel forcing him to make quick, bad decisions – but, in the second half of that game, they reduced the OL splits and the Texas front four was immobilized for the rest of the game…I expect Leach has seen that game film and will adjust to Texas’ pressure throughout the game. Surprisingly, Tech does run the ball fairly well, notching 138 yards per game without a standout RB. They rotate two, Shannon Woods and Baron Batch, and between them have about equal yards on the season (around 500 yards each) and have scored a combined 14 TDs. Plan to see them catching the ball out of the backfield – Texas’ LBs will have to be up to the task of spying them out of the backfield and making good open field tackles…something we did not do well against Okie State. With the wide splits of the OL, if the RBs can get to the outside, they’ve got space to gain big yards until the secondary can shed blocks and make tackles downfield. Not surprisingly, WR is their strength and they have a good one in 6’3” sophomore Michael Crabtree. He has 60 catches for 794 yards on the season with 14 TDs – those are national WR award winning numbers if you ask me, and he will demand attention from the Texas secondary on every play. His attention frees up WRs Detron Lewis (579 yards) and Eric Morris (four TDs), who are both small, but put up big numbers as well. The list of WRs goes on and on, and those “other” receivers have accounted for about 115 yards per game on average. There will be so much action downfield, I would think people will be bumping in to each other all day. My guess, at least five total pass interference penalties this game.

Like I said earlier, this is not the Tech defense of old. In fact, their front four DL are putting up good numbers, as they are extremely good at pressuring opposing QBs. The defense has 20 sacks on the year, and most of that comes from the guys in the trenches. Of those sacks, most (15 total) come from the DEs – 6’5” Brandon Williams and 6’3” McKinner Dixon – are both quick and holy terrors on the outside, but Williams leads the individual sack count with eight. On the inside, they are undersized, but they gobble up what the DEs push their way and let their LBs do the real work. To that end, the three LBs are in the top six on the team in tackles this season. Middle LB Brian Duncan is the star and he is their Raiders’ main run-stopper and has 57 tackles this year, but he also plays decent pass coverage. The other two LBs are Marlon Williams and Bront Bird – nothing spectacular from this group, but they can hold their own in both the running and passing game. The secondary is not great, they do give up yards, but they also have the ability to create turnovers – in large part due to the pressure their DL can put on opposing QBs. They allow about 245 yards passing per game, but have 14 INTs (compared to Texas’ three). Both the safeties are their strength – Darcel McBath and Daniel Charbonnet – and McBath leads the team with five of those INTs (including three last week). They both have 44 tackles on the year, so both can come up and stop the run as well. The worrisome CB is Jamar Hunt, who while small at 5’10”, has nine pass break-ups and two INTs this year. While they produce a lot of turnovers, if Colt is smart, makes good reads and looks-off his WRs, I think he could have another huge day passing. Finally, Tech’s special teams…are not special. In fact, my favorite story of this season has to be their new kicker. If you haven’t heard, he won a field goal kicking contest at halftime of one of their home games this year. The next week, Leach has him signed up as a walk-on – and he is now the starting kicker for the Red Raiders. I do not expect him to kick anything but extra points, and any attempt at a FG to be a fake. Their punter is equally as bad, averaging only 35 yards per kick, but I’ve given up on Texas’ punt returners this year…they continue to fair catch anything in the stadium. Their return game is dangerous, and if Texas doesn’t get its act together on kick coverage, it’s going to be a long day chasing Tech’s returners through that dusty Lubbock air.

It’s the last “big” game of the season. Ball control and putting points on the board doing so will be paramount for the Longhorns. Mack Brown has been down this road before, but it’s a whole new ballgame for Will Muschamp and his Texas defense. Tackling in space will be extremely important. The boys will need to stay poised and not let the fans or atmosphere get the best of them. Texas is 2-0 when ESPN’s Gameday crew is in town, and I fully expect Texas to hold their own and lock up another big win. If they don’t look past this week, the rest of the season is their ending to write. I’ll end with a shout-out to former Puget Sound Texas Exes president Shaely King, who’s entire family is in Lubbock and he is the only Longhorn of the bunch – let’s win this for your sanity, at least.

Texas Tech Pre-game Links:
ESPN: “Look for Longhorns, Gators to survive Saturday scares”
ESPN (Insider): “Texas v. Texas Tech”
ESPN: “Banged up Texas secondary braces for stern test”
ESPN: “Harrell greets big game with silence”
ESPN: “Breaking the huddle on Texas Tech’s opportunity”

Resources
Texas Exes Alumni Association Web site: http://www.texasexes.org/
Texas Exes Membership Department: 1-800-369-0023 (for membership card requests)
Texas Exes Puget Sound Chapter Web site: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/texas_exes_puget_sound/

Hook ‘em!

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