Reason #1: Who Stops the Red Raiders
I'm looking at the defensive statistics for the Cornhuskers and it's not pretty. Nebraska is 50th in the nation in rushing defense, 97th in the nation in pass defense and 82nd in the nation in total defense. I was pretty pessimistic about Texas Tech's chances against K-State on the road last week, but as well as the offense is clicking, I'm inclined to think that the offense, should, have another stellar day. Although this was mentioned earlier in yesterday's notes, this is going to be Nebraska's first game on the road this year, and that's not a good situation to step in to after, one tough loss, and another blowout. I've always thought that most teams, at home or on the road, will rely on their defense as their constant as the offense can fluctuate depending on game-circumstances, but because Nebraska is struggling defensively I'm inclined to think that Nebraska is going to struggle as well.
Reason #2: Harrell Is On Like Donkey Kong
Over the past two games, incidentally Texas Tech's strongest performances, Graham Harrell has been on fire. Harrell is completing 76.4% of his passes and averaging 9.12 yards per attempt. Compare that to his season statistics, that's a pretty big improvement. For the season Harrell was completing 66.6% of his passes and averaging 8.55 yards per attempt. That's a 9.8% increase in Harrell's passing completion percentage and a 0.57 increase in the yards per attempt. Ten of Harrell's 18 touchdowns have come the last two games. We've said it recently, but it deserves repeating, a diverse offense, both passing and rushing, makes Harrell's life that much easier. With the continued excellent play of Woods and Batch, as well as the emergence of Swindall, Leong, Lewis, James, and Hawk, who add so much to the diversity of the offense , the sky's the limit.
Reason #3: A Defensive Coordinator Who Plays It Smart
I think we've all chastised a Texas Tech defensive coordinator a time or two. It happens. Ruffin McNeill has been the focus of some fans ire for part of this season for giving up too many yards, especially through the air. But I think McNeill has had a different big-picture plan all along. I'm guessing that McNeill knew there would be some rough spots early and the fans wouldn't like the yards given up to the non-conference teams, but perhaps we're now seeing the fruits of his labor? It's actually been pretty interesting to watch as this defense mature through these first 5 games. We've seen the "give, but don't break" method before with varying results and most teams are going to be able to take advantage of that type of conservative defensive play, but perhaps this will pay off in the long run. The Texas Tech defense has been fairly successful thus far with the most basic of defensive packages. I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying that this defense has more looks than what they're currently showing, but if he can beat an opposing team by just running his base defense, then why not? McNeill has mentioned it many times that he has the Joker package, but we haven't seen a lot of it and he's talked about it since spring practices. McNeill may be waiting for the right time to let things loose and I appreciate his patience.
Reason #4: Offensive Line Is Picking It Up
This one's really pretty easy, the offensive line was outstanding against Kansas State. It seemed like Harrell was rushed a little bit, but for the most part, he had plenty of time to make all of the right throws. Again, it's not just one guy that's making all of the necessary blocks, it's the entire line that is continuing the excellent season from last season. Not to mention, the line is creating holes for Batch and Woods. These guys do as good a job as I've ever seen at sealing the opposing defender to create those huge running lanes and a deep pocket for Harrell to throw. Watch the line on Saturday, it will be a thing of beauty.
Reason #5: The Rotation Is Working
I cannot express how happy I am that the defense has consistently gotten pressure from their first and second team front defensive line. Texas Tech has not had this type of depth, quality depth, in quite some time. Again, credit goes to McNeill for putting Sesay in where he can succeed and see the field. It would have been easy to pigeon hole Sesay at defensive end, but when you watch McKinner Dixon be so successful at defensive end it's foolish not to get the most talented players on the field, which includes Sesay, whether it be at defensive tackle or defensive end. With a second team consisting of Richard Jones, Brandon Sesay, McKinner Dixon, and Daniel Howard, you've got a really talented 2nd group of players, who can still get after the quarterback and have some success against the run. I've probably said this way too many times, probably on this segment last week or the week before last, but having multiple guys who still rush the quarterback and stop the run is going to be huge in conference play.
Hat-Tip to the South Carolina blog, Garnet and Black Attack for the idea.