BY BROCK MURPHY
BIG 12 INSIDER
1) There was much drama in Texas Tech’s 59-43 loss to Texas. Red Raider Coach Mike Leach spent several minutes blistering the officials for perceived bias going so far so to suggest their actions altered the outcome of the game. “Am I condemning the crew? Hell yeah, I’m condemning the crew,” he declared. Tech turned the ball over on downs on its only third quarter possession after two separate touchdown passes were taken away – one by instant replay and the other on a holding call in which Leach was certain a roughing the passer penalty should have also been called. Leach suggested that, as occurred on Saturday, officials from Austin should not officiate games played in Austin. If only to insure the perception of equity and fairness, he is probably correct.
2) Staying with Texas Tech for a moment, it seems the offensive production of QB Graham Harrell and his top target need to be placed in perspective. While it was not enough to carry the Red Raiders to a win, Harrell completed 36 of his 48 passes (75%) for 466 yards and five touchdowns against the Longhorns. As he has all season, freshman receiver Michael Crabtree led Tech with nine catches for 195 yards and two scores. For the season Harrell’s averages 437 yards of total offense per game leads the nation and ranks third in the nation in passing efficiency (including, a nation-leading 73.6% completion rate; 4,878 yards; 43 TD’s and 12 INT’s). To put his numbers in perspective, consider that he has 157 more completions (421) this year than the nation’s most-efficient passer, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford has attempted (264). With still one game left in the season (against the Sooners next week), Crabtree leads the nation in both receiving categories (receptions and yardage) with 113 catches, 1,707 yards and 20 touchdowns.
3) Oklahoma has quietly claimed the nation’s #4 ranking this week. The nation’s most efficient passing attack (70% completion rate), 29 touchdowns and six interceptions does a great job protecting its quarterback (3rd-ranked; .8 sacks per game). Aiding Sam Bradford’s production and efficiency has been the balance provided this season by the three-headed backfield of Allen Patrick, Chris Brown and freshman-sensation Demarco Murray. Together, they have combined to produce 1,680 yards (191 ypg) and 23 scores (13 of which were Murray’s). Defense is, of course, always a hallmark of any Bob Stoops’-led team. Sure enough, they are the 6th-ranked rushing defense (84.9 ypg) and have produced the 7rd-most tackles for a loss this year (8.3). However, they are only the 60th-ranked pass-defense (227 ypg; 61% completion-rate; 16 INT’s/12 TD’s). That could be a problem as they face the nation’s leading air attack this weekend in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech managed only 10 yards rushing against Texas last weekend. OU will seek to continue that trend. Last year, the Sooners were down 17-24 at halftime but held the Red Raiders scoreless in the 2nd half. Tech’s Graham Harrell managed only 250 yards passing.
4) While Oklahoma State suffered a loss to Kansas on Saturday, they had a lot to be proud of, including the emergence of freshman receiver Dez Bryant who, in the absence of Adarius Bowman (who left the game in the 2nd-quarter after banging up his knee), managed eight catches for 155 yards and a score. He entered the game with a total of 19 catches and 268 yards. Okie State gave up 352 passing yards to the Jayhawks. They have now given up an average of 309.8 yds per game and only two teams in the nation (Rice and UTEP) have given up more. And while their offense has only given up one sack per game (5th-ranked, nationally), the Cowboy defense has only managed to pick up one and a half per game (96th) and is ranked 102nd in producing tackles for a loss (5.1 per game).
5) While the problem is not as bad as it was two years ago, Texas A&M has struggled against the pass this year (63% completion-rate; 12.4 ypc; 267 ypg; 6 INT’s/20 TD’s; 103rd, nationally). On offense, Stephen McGee has only thrown five picks this year – but that is three more than he threw through all of 2006. He has thrown for over 1,785 yards through 11 games this year but has struggled to find a true receiving threat to compliment his efforts. With a total of only 423 receiving yards, Kerry Franks leads the Aggies – and he has scored only once. Meanwhile TE Martellus Bennett’s 31 catches and three touchdowns lead the team in those two categories. Of course, McGee, Jovorskie Lane and Michael Goodson allow A&M to attack defenses through inside and outside running as well as through the option. They have combined for 2,079 yards and 22 touchdowns to help post the nation’s 14-ranked rushing attack. Texas is the final game on the menu and, evidently, Dennis Franchione’s coaching career in College Station. The Longhorns allow less than 93 ypg on the ground but struggled the last two years to stop the Aggies’ option attack.
6) Baylor started this season with much optimism based on the productive passing game they created last season. The nation’s worst rushing attack in 2006 (40.17 ypg), that part of the offense was obviously targeted for improvement in the off-season. With one game left this season, the ground game has been nearly twice as productive (77.36 ypg) but is hardly substantial. The biggest problem for Baylor, though, has been an inefficient aerial assault. True, the Bears have eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark (3,055) and tossed 21 touchdown passes. However, no team has thrown more interceptions (25) and only 54 percent of its passes are completed. The Bears are among the nation’s worst in turnover margin (118th), pass defense (110th, 286 ypg), total defense (106th, 454 ypg) and net punting (30.24). The last category was not unexpected since 2006 was the year the nation’s premier punter, Daniel Sepulveda, graduated. The defensive stats will not likely improve this weekend as Baylor ends its season against the highly-talented offense of Oklahoma State.
Photo Credit: OU Athletics Department