This weekly feature considers five reasons why Texas Tech will win and five reasons Texas Tech will lose to each opponent. Related: Five Reasons Texas Tech Will Lose :: Kansas Jayhawks Edition.
Reason #1 :: Might Be Motivated: I think Texas Tech fans could collectively hit this reason right out of the park. If this team isn't highly motivated on Saturday afternoon, then I shudder what will happen the rest of the season. I know this is supposed to be 5 reasons why I believe Texas Tech will win, but there better be a whole lot of fire from this club, both offensively and defensively. At this point of the season, it's really not about comments made about players' girlfriends or learning about transitive results in college football, it's about execution on the field. In comparison to last year, this team has really had to pull itself up a number of times, namely because of injuries or a suspension or two, and I'm hoping that this will serve the team well moving forward.
Reason #2 :: Do What You Do Best: I don't know if I need to consider the TAMU game an anomaly or if I need to base my thoughts on the collective whole of the season. For the season, this defense has been pretty good, and prior to last week was 50th in the nation in total defense, but was quickly reletaged to 78th in the nation after last week. Despite only having 1 sack last week, the defense as a unit is still 11th in the nation in total sacks. I know this defensive line can play better and I know that the linebackers can play better. I've seen it with my own two eyes. I can't say that I know any of these players, and this somewhat relates to item 1 above, but I hope like hell that the front 7 took last week's game personally. This is a pride issue with the team. I've seen DT Colby Whitlock dominate a game all by himself. I've seen the defensive end trio of Howard, Henley and Sharpe get in a quarterback's back pocket all day long. All I'm asking is for containment and collapsing the pocket. I've seen it happen many times before, let's see it again.
Reason #3 :: Lean On The Running Playmakers: I would truly appreciate it if someone could just send a memo of this reason to Captain Leach. To wit -- I know that you believe in your quarterbacks and I know that you believe that you can transform just about any human into a NCAA leading passing machine, but I think it might be in your best interest and the best interest of this team if you deferred to certain playmakers on this team who tend rush the football more than pass the football. I'm not at all asking that you abandon what you do best, and we all know that that is, but there's real talent at the running back position. In the second half of the game last week RB Baron Batch had 2 rushing attempts and RB Harrison Jeffers had 1 (please ignore the fact that he fumbled -- a complete fluke). I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned the running game a time or two and even yesterday, well respected DTN reader texastfan made a similar comment about the running game. I think you help out your offensive line and quarterback immensely if you can consistently run the ball.
Reason #4 :: Pressure Receivers: The more I think about it this week, I think I'm starting to understand McNeill's decision to play off of the TAMU receivers last week. McNeill was without his star freshman S Will Ford and reliable S Brett Dewhurst, and it's likely that this pair will also be out this week as well. Despite those two being out, this Texas Tech defense still leads the Big 12 in passes defended. I'm thinking that McNeill knew that he was going to have to play S Julius Howard and CB D.J. Johnson for a good part of Texas Tech's nickel and dime packages and McNeill didn't want to expose the defense to any big plays. I've tended to notice that McNeill is much more conservative at home and without being too critical, I think we can safely say that this failed miserably. This week however, I think McNeill re-thinks his strategy a bit. We know that starting safeties Cody Davis and Franklin Mitchem are completely healthy and we also know that senior CB Brent Nickerson filled in nicely at safety when either Davis or Mitchem were injured. I know that this guy isn't the biggest guy, but he's fast and he's reliable and he's proven himself on special teams, but I'd love for Ruff to give CB Taylor Charbonnet a shot at the other defensive back spot. It's obvious that what happened last week was an abomination, let's think outside the box a bit. I think what you may be dealing with in Nickerson and Charbonnet are two intelligent players that get the system. They may not have the physical ability to play like Johnson, who is physically gifted, but young, and Howard, who has struggled to find a role for much of his career at Texas Tech, but I think they'll play more aggressively and they won't get you beat. That's Ruff's mantra, I'm sure of it and I don't think Charbonnet or Nickerson will let Ruff down.
Reason #5 :: Then Open It Up: I'm not trying to be contradictory, but I have no doubt that once item 3 above is accomplished, it's going to absolutely open up the passing game for QB Seth Doege. Leach mentioned that Doege had good tempo when he came into the game and there's no doubt that the team responded. However, Doege also didn't press, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. Doege's longest pass of the night was 20 yards and his yards per attempt was 5.8 for the game. Granted, his receives didn't help him out a whole bunch, but part of Doege's success will be making plays down the field. There's plenty of guys to choose from: Alexander Torres, Tramain Swindall, Detron Lewis, Lyle Leong, Austin Zouzalike, etc. Once Kansas is backed off by the running game, Doege has to test the secondary and not just defer to either wide receiver and/or running back screens. There may be some mistakes made along the way, but playing it too safe isn't going to win this football game.