5 Reasons Why Texas Tech Will Win and 5 Reasons Why Texas Tech Will Lose will be a weekly post focusing on the upcoming opponent, but this week, because of the bye, we focus on why DTN thinks Texas Tech will win and lose the Big 12 South. Comments, criticisms and thoughts appreciated.
Reason #1: Improved Rushing Game
Right now, the Red Raiders set at #8 in the conference with 146.50 yards per game. Granted, it's not Oklahoma State's 334.33 yards per game, but in comparison to years' past this is a huge improvement. In 2007 Texas Tech rushed for a league low 59.31 yards per game, in 2006 a second to last 79.31 yards per game, and in 2005 another second to last 107.00. With the emergence of Baron Batch, Shannon Woods and to an extent Aaron Crawford, this adds a completely different dimension to the Texas Tech offense and makes it that much harder to defend. A more versatile offense means that opposing defenses can no longer drop 7 or 8 defenders, especially with Harrell willing to defer plays to allow Batch and Woods succeed, with the end result, hopefully, being a more successful and efficient offense.
Reason #2: Two-Deep On The Defensive Line
I cannot recall a time when the defensive line was two-deep at every position. And not just guys who we're hoping can play, but actually can't. I have no doubt that Richard Jones, Brandon Sesay, McKinner Dixon and Daniel Howard could hold their own against some Big 12 offenses. Maybe not for an entire game, but the fact that there are talented players behind Brandon Williams, Jake Ratliff, Colby Whitlock and RaJon Henley means that the defense is better suited than it ever has been to stay on the field for long periods of time with opposing Big 12 offenses. I think it was always McNeill's plan all along to make sure that the second group of defenders saw plenty of playing time in the non-conference schedule and in the long run, despite some bumps in the road, the defense will be better for it. McKinner Dixon has surprised me the most and hope that his play-making trend continues while Daniel Howard may prove to be one of the more vital players in the blitz packages. I'm encouraged that McNeill is willing to move Sesay around and despite the position, just get him on the field.
Reason #3: Stingier Defense
I think we can all admit that we're all a little concerned that the defense is still giving up more yards than we'd like, but there's two things that the defense has done that encourages me that things might be a little different. Texas Tech is at 22.22% in allowing opposing offenses convert 3rd downs, which is tied with Oklahoma State for 1st in the conference. I know it's only non-conference opponents, but in 2007 the Texas Tech defense allowed 42.92% and 40.78% in 2006.
Although the company isn't great, I'm extremely encouraged by the +1.25 in turnover margin, which is behind Iowa State and tied with Baylor for 2nd in the conference. Again, in the previous two seasons Texas Tech wasn't on the positive side of turnover margin, -0.38 in 2007, 0.00 in 2006. I've always thought that the traditional Texas Tech defense lacks playmakers, but this year, things may be different.
Reason #4: Receivers Not Named Mr. Crabtree
It's actually been somewhat of a revelation this year. I really never thought that the core group of receivers that returned from last year would be slightly upstaged by by some equally, and possibly, more talented younger receivers. I think we all had an inkling that Detron Lewis was going to be good, and he has been a more athletic and playmaking version of Danny Amendola. With Amendola there was a level of consistency that we haven't quite seen from Lewis, but he's young. But the guys that have made a jump, probably ahead of guys like Edward Britton and Todd Walker are Tramain Swindall (15 catches, 165 yards receiving and 1 TD) and the recently emerging Rashad Hawk (5 catches, 65 yards receiving). Both guys are tall and athletic receivers who will cause matchup problems for opposing defenders. And I would be remiss without mentioning Adam James (5 catches 47 yards receiving), who has added a different dimension to this offense. Having the ability to play Eric Morris' inside receiver position, plus being a vital part of Texas Tech's two-tight end set has been a welcome addition to the offense is something this offense has lacked in the past.
Reason #5: Mr. Crabtree
Michael Crabtree (29 catches, 457 yards and 6 TD's) is still the unquestioned playmaker on offense and despite not having quite the burst onto the scene as he did last year in no way diminishes what he brings to this team. There is not a player in the Big 12 that has Mr. Crabtree's combination of size, speed and ability to turn a short pass into a game-breaking spectacular play. Defenses will have to game plan around Crabtree, which is part of the reason why the receivers mentioned above are having so much success. His presence allows for other players to step up and make plays. I'm not sure that Mr. Crabtree has the type of season that he had last year, but make no mistake that his presence is helping this offense be that much more efficient. Crabtree will get his in conference play, I'm fairly confident of that. Teams can't cover him and everyone else. He's just too special not to make a difference.
Hat-Tip to the great South Carolina blog, Garnet and Black Attack for the idea.