Friday, August 01, 2008

it's coming, everyone. Can you hear it?

Football season!

In anticipation for all the kids down south, I found a preseason assessment that the best college football analyst I've read drew up for Texas Tech (I'm pretty sure that Sunday Morning Quarterback has a soft spot for the Red Raiders). I was surprised to read that Tech has been "discovered" by the talking heads and is being hyped as a potential January party-crasher. That sounds a bit optimistic to me. I was also surprised, however, to read that the improvement in Tech's defense when Ruffin McNeil became coordinator last year was almost entirely illusory, a case that SMQ makes pretty cogently.

All in all, it becomes clear that Leach's Red Raiders have to fix the same 2 things for which every Leach Tech squad has been notably lacking: defense and running game. Everybody knows that the D blows and that the O is all pass, but Tech also has two problems offensively: 1) they have an unusual amount of trouble with 3rd and short situations, and 2) they're functionally incapable of running out the clock. Both of these problems are due to the lack of a reliable running game. When you're all pass, your drives take very little time, which is great when you're behind or when you score on most of your drives, but it's terrible when you're facing a good defense or you're tentatively ahead and need to put the damn thing away. Tech very nearly lost to Oklahoma last year after pulling ahead 27-7 at the half because they couldn't run the clock out. If they ran, the running back would get stuffed behind the LOS, but if they passed, the clock would stop. Lots of unconverted 3rd-and-shorts that game.

Personally, I have grave doubts that either of these issues are really fixed, and I've have been a Tech fan way too long to have any expectations of consistency. Beating OK in Norman ain't gonna happen, and I'm deeply skeptical of Tech's chances against Texas and Kansas as well. Plus, I can't help but suspect that the truly ascendant team in the Big 12 isn't Texas Tech but Oklahoma State (who has beaten Tech, what, 2 out of the last 3 years?). And, finally, there's the consistency issue: don't be at all surprised to see the Red Raiders pound Texas in Lubbock right after flubbing one against Kansas St. Tech won't go undefeated, and I don't find a Kansas-like 11-1 to be very realistic, either. Incomplete teams have incomplete seasons; this is a 3 loss team at best.

Meanwhile, for the kids up north, SMQ also has a nice rundown of the upcoming ND-Michigan game, a real Cleveland Steamer of a match-up, to be sure.

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