RBvs. LB Greg Jones
Baron Batch (Running Back / 5-11 / 205 / Jr.) ::You would guess that the offensive lines would have a little something to say about how this turns out, but I naturally thought that this would and should be a fantastic matchup through the game. It's no secret that the Red Raiders have struggled running the ball, but I would also guess that most Michigan St. fans would expect or assume that Texas Tech doesn't have talented runners, an assumption that could not be further from the truth. Batch may not rack up the yardage, but he may be the most gifted player on the Texas Tech offense and I would surmise that he might also be the hardest worker. Batch ran hot and cold, much like the offense as a whole the latter part of the season. Batch racked up pretty decent all-purpose yards the last 5 games of the year: 120 on 20 plays(TAMU); 136 on 22 plays(Kansas); 55 on 17 plays (Oklahoma St.); 204 on 32 plays (Oklahoma) and 71 on 20 plays (Baylor). Other than the TAMU game, the way that Batch has rolled is how the entire offense has rolled, and this may be the biggest challenge for the team and offensive line (more on the passing portion below), but the MSU defense is 24th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up only 112.75 yards a game. If the Texas Tech offense relies on Batch to make the offense go, then perhaps Leach is going to have to be creative to get Batch the ball.
Greg Jones (Linebacker / 6-1 / 228 / Jr.) :: Jones is one of those guys where you shake your head and try and figure out how a guy can make so many tackles on the field. Jones is averaging 11.75 tackles per game, 1.13 TFL, 8 QB hurries and 0.75 sacks per game. Jones is a one-man wrecking crew. And this isn't one of those instances where Jones only shows up against poor competition, does well and can't seem to make a play defensively. Jones' lowest output in terms of tackles per game was eight, against Michigan and Western Michigan, while Jones best performances came against and during the meat of the season in a 4 game stretch: 11 tackles, @ Illinois (W, 24-14); 14 tackles, Northwestern (W, 24-14); 12 tackles, Iowa (L, 13-15); 12 tackles, Minnesota (L, 34-42). Then, at the end of the season, Jones goes out against Penn St. and has 15 tackles in a 14-42 loss. Not exactly the way a player would want to go out in this sort of loss, but it doesn't appear that this was Jones fault.
Passing Advantage: I think the Red Raiders have a fairly decided advantage in the passing game, despite your opinions about QB Taylor Potts. The Spartans are 103rd in the nation in pass defense, allowing 251.58 yards per game, which is good for last in the Big Ten. Not only did MSU give up a ton of yards through the air, they also gave up a conference high 29 touchdowns and only had 5 interceptions for the entire year. The Texas Tech receivers aren't necessarily game-breakers, like a certain Mr. Crabtree, but there's certainly enough play-makers on the receiving end to make a difference. And much like it has been the entire year, it's not just one player that has dominated the receiving yards and I think that makes it tougher for opponents to game-plan for Texas Tech.I don't get the chance review other teams statistics very much, but there receivers have 410 total receptions for the year with 11 receivers who have 11 or more receptions: Alexander Torres: 65; Detron Lewis: 55; Baron Batch: 51; Tramain Swindall: 48; Lyle Leong: 42; Austin Zouzalik: 32; Edward Britton: 32; Harrison Jeffers: 25; Jacoby Franks: 24; Adam James: 17; and Eric Stephens 11. To think that this offense isn't diverse isn't at all accurate. We've talked before about how this team may be missing a special play-maker, but almost every one of those receivers have led the team in receiving in a particular game. Whether it was Torres against TAMU and Oklahoma or Lewis against Kansas St. and Nebraska or Swindall against Rice and Houston, etc.
Getting to the Passer: So, despite a poor pass defense, the Spartans are 12th in the nation in sacking the opposing quarterback at 2.67 per game. The aforementioned Mr. Jones leads the team with 9.0 and it would be fair to say that the ability to get to the passer is a collective talent. Including Jones, 6 players have 2.5 sacks or more for the year and of those 6 players, 3 of them are linebackers, which probably means that the MSU defense will likely stunt and blitz to pressure the opposing quarterback. The Red Raiders were 92nd in the nation in sacks allowed, 2.50 per game, which was good for eighth in the conference. It's been mentioned before, that the Kansas game is when the offensive line started to have some consistency in the starting lineup and after the first half where the KU defense recorded 5 sacks (not a knock on Doege, just making the point that some sort of light turned on with the line or a change at quarterback, Taylor Potts played all of the second half and the team ran the ball) that the Red Raiders have given up only 4 sacks for the past 7 halves of football. I don' think anyone can claim that the protection has been perfect, but it's been better. In fact, cfbstats sorts sacks by months and the offensive line was 9th in the coference in sacks allowed in August/September giving up 6.0, the worst team in the conference in October giving up 20.0, but rebounded nicely in November giving up only 4.0 for the entire month.
To Pass or To Run: It's no secret that Taylor Potts has struggled this year, at least by Texas Tech quarterback standards and it's also no secret that when this team is able to run the ball effectively, the more likely the win. Again, turning to cfbstats, when Texas Tech wins, the Red Raiders average 87 yards a game and in losses, it's only 67. The Texas Tech passing statistics back this up as well in that the Red Raiders average only 48 passing attempts in wins, but 56 passing attempts in losses. The Spartans are a bit different in that in their wins, the Spartans hold opposing offenses to only 91 yards a game, but in losses, the defense gives 134 yards a game. The same could be said for the pass defense for MSU as the defense gives up 207 yards passing in wins, but almost a full 100 yards more, 296, in losses. These stats aren't necessarily eye-opening and they make sense, especially from Michigan St.'s perspective, but the one thing that does jump out at me is additional 100 or so yards the pass defense gives up in losses. I don't know if the Texas Tech coaching staff is in a bit of a quandary in that the Michigan St. pass defense is obviously vulnerable, but the Texas Tech offense has had much more success when they run the ball (even if it's just 4 additional attempts a game).
|Stats||65 Rec.; 791 Yards; 6 TD's|
Torres was not even close to the team lead in receiving yards or receptions, but over the course of the year, Torres has quietly been establishing himself as the the go-to receiver for the Red Raiders. Torres really didn't have a "break-out" type of game until the Texas A&M game, where he caught 8 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. I never really thought that Torres was going to be capable of overwhelming a defense, but then Torres broke out for 163 yards on 11 catches and a touchdown against the Sooners. I still don't think that Torres is going to physically dominate an opposing defense, but he's incredibly reliable, which is probably the reason he's been near the top of the team in terms of receptions all year. Not to mention, Torres has shown the ability to make plays, and there were two spectacular catches, one against OU and one against Baylor, where he just went up and got the ball. That will certainly endear a quarterback to a receiver relatively quickly.