2007 RECORD: 9-4; BIG 12: 4-4
Won Gator Bowl vs. Virginia 31-28
LOCATION: Lubbock, Texas
STADIUM: Jones AT & T Stadium (52,882)
HEAD COACH: Mike Leach
OVERALL: 65-37 (8 seasons)
AT TECH: 65-37 (8 seasons)
Just over 20 minutes into their contest with the No. 4 ranked Oklahoma Sooners, the Red Raiders led 27-7. Yes, OU’s star quarterback Sam Bradford was out of the game after three passes, but Tech simply looked faster than the Sooners—something you don’t often say about teams that take on Bob Stoops’ gang from Norman. That win, as much as their plethora of returning starters, is why there is optimism about bigger and better things this season in Lubbock.
WHEN THE RED RAIDERS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Mike Leach (9th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 10
KEY LOSSES: Danny Amendola
Have we become so numb to the numbers that Tech quarterbacks put up that no one even blinks an eye at Graham Harrell airing it out for 5,705 yards and 48 touchdowns? Whatever the system, opponents aren’t just giving away free yards and points. He is more skilled than his predecessors and is cool under pressure with a knack for leading a comeback. At his disposal he will have record-setting sophomore Michael Crabtree--one of the nation’s most physically gifted receivers--as well as Eric Morris, the perfect slot man who knows how to find openings in the middle of the field and the end zone. There is no need to worry about Harrell’s protection either as all five of his offensive linemen return, led by left guard Luis Vasquez, a first team All-Big 12 performer. One aspect of the offense they can improve upon is their running game. Sophomore Aaron Crawford and senior Shannon Woods both return, but neither has been very impressive to this point.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) WR Michael Crabtree (SO), 2) OG Luis Vasquez (SR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Ruffin McNeill (2nd Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: Joe Garcia, Paul Williams, Chris Parker
If the Red Raiders defense ever matches the offense…watch out. They had better success in the second half of the season after DC Ruffin McNeill took over the reins…another reason for confidence in Red Raider land. Six out of the front seven return, including the entire defensive line. Tackles Colby Whitlock and Rajon Henley are solid against the run, but as a group the front four is undersized. Just a sophomore, Whitlock is the most talented of the bunch. A wild card is incoming JC transfer DE McKinner Dixon, who was a freshman All-American in Lubbock back in 2005. At linebacker, there are high hopes for junior OLB Marlon Williams, who came on strong in ’07, as well as sophomore MIKE Brian Duncan who makes the move from the outside. In the secondary, third-year starter FS Darcel McBath leads the way. Corner Jamar Wall was their top interceptor in 2007.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) LB Brian Duncan (SO), 2) FS Darcel McBath (SR)
As usual, the Red Raiders do not take on any “Big Six” out of conference foes, although a trip to Nevada to take on the Wolf Pack and their “Pistol” attack could pose a rare early season challenge. In conference play, they host Oklahoma St. and Texas who combined to hang 108 points on Tech’s defense in a pair of Red Raider defeats. However, Tech would be best served avoiding thoughts of payback and concentrating instead on being road warriors. They were 1-3 away from home in Big 12 play in 2007 and this season they make trips to College Station, Manhattan, Lawrence and Norman.
Defense: What else could it be? In three of their four losses, Tech scored 26 points or better, including two games of over 40 points. When you put up 43 points on Texas in Austin and 45 on Oklahoma St. in Stillwater…it should be enough to come home victorious, but it wasn’t and their 59-43 loss to the ‘Horns came with DC Ruffin McNeill running the show. In their nine wins last season, Tech allowed an average of 17.4 points per game, but in their four losses that number nearly triples to 44 points per game. They also need to make more big plays—their ten interceptions were the third fewest in the conference, which factored into their minus-5 turnover ration (ninth in the Big 12).
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
Prior to their win over Oklahoma, Tech had dropped eight straight against ranked opponents, dating back to their Bowl win over No. 9 Cal in 2004. So the question Tech will answer this year is, “Do they belong with the big boys”? It would be a surprise if they overtook the Sooners to represent the Big 12 South in the conference championship game, but their first double digit win season since 1976 is not out of the realm of possibility.
Photo Credit: Texas Tech Athletics/Norvelle Kennedy
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
2007 RECORD: 9-4; BIG 12: 4-4