“Grrr. Give me all of your loot! Aarrghh! I’ll sink your ship and bury you on the West Texas plains!” Is that a bit of Johnny Depp’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” character, Captain Jack Sparrow? No, it’s… Wait, what’s that? Mike “The Pirate” Leach is no longer the head football coach in Lubbock? Creative blogging FAIL.
[Cue internal debate consuming EyesOfTX writers on whether it’s worth writing about Texas Tech football from now on…]
[Solution: Shed tear for lack of pre-game comedy and post-game hilarity with Leach; proceed with a quick Mike Leach “roast,” prepare selves for boring ‘ol Tommy “T” in the Big 12!]
Don’t fret. Even though we’ve lost the conductor of the Big 12‘s crazy train, there is still an opportunity to see the man who is as nutty as a PayDay bar. While Leach fully expected he’d be coaching again this season (he’s not) – just not anywhere near Craig James’ son, Adam (and, he’s not) – instead, he’ll be announcing Conference USA football games this fall for CBS Sports. A-maz-ing. In such a good way; honestly, it could be more epic than Obama balancing the budget. One assumes, in this instance, CBS has been setting aside a substantial amount of advertising dollars to pay-off the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) for Leach’s on-air hilarity, vulgarity and general mis-fires. It’s going to happen, if he doesn’t stick he co-anchor or cameraman in a closet first. Who else can’t wait to see this debacle unfold?
Truth be told, even though the mad hatter is no longer in Lubbock, the Red Raiders don’t seem to have lost a step with former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville taking over the reigns.
We’re not big Red Raider fans, so let’s revisit some favorite bone-crushing and hilarious moments:
Now that were amped up, let’s check out this week’s tilt with the Red Raiders.
Texas Longhorns v. Texas Tech Red Raiders
7:00 p.m. CT (ABC)
Texas 28, Texas Tech 24
Texas Tech’s Keys To The Game:
You read that right, Tech fans. It’s a 7:00 p.m. Central time kick-off on Saturday, which gives you about an hour from the time you arise from your liquor-induced, beer-goggle, not-so-good-in-the-morning sleep to get to Jones Stadium for the game. Yep, believe it or not, you too are a key to the game – as is always the case in Lubbock.
In six previous meetings between the ‘Horns and Red Raiders in the desolate West Texas desert, the two teams have split decisions (3-3) – with the ugliest scenario playing out for ‘Horns fans two years ago when Texas lost its undefeated and national championship hopes on the final play of the game as TTU wide receiver Michael Crabtree celebrated his TD and early departure to…hold out against the NFL team who drafted him. Oh, where were we? That’s right, Lubbock’s a tough place to play – the ‘Horns haven’t lost to TTU at home in Austin (6-0) in head coach Mack Brown’s tenure. Yet, with a plethora of young talent on the field for Texas, Tubby’s Red Raiders have a chance to score another major upset under the lights in the sandy plains.
Even though the puerile Leach has departed, the collective knowledge of the spread offense hasn’t, and neither have the Red Raiders’ on-field general(s), as seniors Taylor Potts and Steven Sheffield return at QB. While Tuberville will instill some semblance of a running attack in Lubbock (you had to think RB Baron Batch was licking his chops upon his new head coach’s arrival), he isn’t stupid and he’ll work with Leach’s leftovers until he recruits players that fit his mold. So, the basketball-style scoring system isn’t quite gone with the red and black, but it’ll get there in the year’s to come. In the meantime, Potts is still going to throw for a million yards, and receivers will be flying over the field so much so that you’ll be trying to swipe them away like they’re gnats drawn to your TV screen.
Potts is the starter at QB, and we all know no TTU gun slinger starts their season slow, as he was spot-on in week one against SMU (34-for-53, 359 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs) with his game a tad more efficient in week two against New Mexico (22-for-34, 293 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs). He’s well-versed in the offensive scheme, has good repoire with his receivers, and has the arm to make every single throw in the proverbial book. His downside is mental, more than physical – if he’s under constant pressure in the pocket, or takes a good hit early, his mind just isn’t in the game – many analysts would go so far as to say he “talks himself in to injuries.” We say he’s just a 6’5” pansy who cries when everything doesn’t go his way. That’s a Saturday bonus for Texas, if you’re counting. The offensive line remains a legitimate threat to controlling the line of scrimmage, but no longer will you see four yard splits between each offensive lineman – they’re in a tighter formation, which gives the wide receivers more space off the line of scrimmage in passing formations.
The wide receivers are the key the offense’s production, and the team might as well hire octamom-gone-bachelorette human-being manager Kate Gosselin to keep up with the ongoing rotation. In Lubbock, she’d fit right in for more than a few reasons. There are two wide receivers, however, that stand out as top targets for Potts – his high school teammate, Lyle Leong (16 catches, 217 yards, 5 TDs), and Detron Lewis (9 catches, 123 yards, 1 TD). Regardless of the top target, all those receivers have good hands, agility and the ability to find and sit down in zone coverage to give Potts plenty of space to get them the ball and rake in yards after the catch.
The defense will, once again, provide a test for Texas – if anything, Tuberville has brought a renewed sense of passion on the defensive side of the ball. So far this year, Tech has amassed nine sacks – something even Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp would be proud of – and they will be looking to prey on the young Longhorn QB meat. Everything with the Tech defense funnels to the nose tackle and middle linebacker, and they will largely decide the outcome of Texas’ offensive production on the night. Running inside, and looking for the hot route underneath the linebackers will get Texas in a lot of trouble early.
Texas’ Keys To The Game:
It’s time for Texas to show the world they’re the #5 team in the country. They need to show some emotion and decide they want to win this game. This is the upset game of the week across the country, and the Las Vegas spread dropped from Texas by seven points, to Texas by three points – practically overnight – which means a lot of fans think Tech’s got a shot, especially after seeing Texas play these past two weeks. Frankly, the Red Raiders might not be so full of themselves this year.
Texas, first and foremost, needs to have an offensive game plan that can allow QB Garrett Gilbert to settle in early. Emotions will be high, the environment will be threatening. If offensive coordinator Greg Davis is listening, no bubble screens or dinky-dump stuff – we’re not in peewee leagues anymore. Give Gilbert the easy throws early to help him establish a rhythm. Give him a dose of the running game to help keep Tech honest, but push the ball outside where the receivers have a chance to block downfield for the running backs, and you’ll keep Tech’s defensive strengths playing chase from sideline to sideline. Most importantly, the ‘Horns need to put points on the board when they have opportunities, keep their defensive teammates on the sidelines, and if they’re ahead, eat as much clock as possible to keep the Tech offense at bay.
On defense, it will be as important as ever for the ‘Horns defensive backs to keep the wide receivers in front of them, put pressure on Potts with the front four to create poor throws and mistakes, and make good tackles. Fundamental football, right? Easier said than done, but Muschamp can usually muster a way to the backfield with his schemes, especially with the depth he’s got at defensive end. The defense just needs to help the offense stay in the game and not let things get out of hand. It’ll be a tough task, but then again, so is keeping Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi away from a hot dog eating contest.
In special teams, Texas has a decided advantage with the points team, as Tech’s kicker looked downright awful against SMU in week one. One could’ve wondered if Tuberville had kept the student Leach “drafted” out of the stands to kick for the team two years ago on scholarship. So, a extra point or field goal block is a possibility for the ‘Horns. Field position will also be key, and if Texas finally decides to shy away from the rugby-style kick, P John Gold could go head-to-head with Tech’s Jonathan Locour in a kicker’s dual.
It’s going to be a battle on Saturday, and the Vegas odds are toying with me. Perhaps Kevin Spacey’s behind the curtain pulling strings. Who knows?! But, since EyesOfTX has never picked against Mack Brown and Texas football since this blog’s inaugural post, we’re not starting now. Barely. And, let’s double-down on an incredible blog post that includes football, Mike Leach, two Oscar-worthy actors, Kate Gosselin, hot dog eating contests, pirate verbiage, basketball, Las Vegas, pansies, gnats, and beer googles. Your winnings for reading this far? That PayDay bar sounds about right.