Alamo Bowl Preview :: Texas Tech Defensive Matchups

SS Cody Davis vs. QB Kirk Cousins:

Cody Davis (Strong Safety / 6-2 / 200 / RS FR) :: There were a ton of question marks regarding how the Texas Tech secondary would perform, especially after the loss of three-fourths of the defensive backfield. In stepped Davis and FS Franklin Mitchem and although the numbers may not be too terribly impressive, 72nd in the nation in pass defense, but in comparison to the rest of the Big 12, the Red Raiders are better than average, good for fifth in the conference. Davis is tited for second, along with CB LaRon Moore and CB D.J. Johnson, with six passes broken up and is second on the team in tackles with 72. The general thought that when your safety is leading the team or near the top of tackles made, something is wrong with the defense, but I would guess that most Big 12 defenses suffer the same fate and the nice thing about Davis, and the entire secondary, is that he will hit. Davis was recently named to the second team All-Freshman Defense by CFN, an honor that is well deserved.

Kirk Cousins (Quarterback / 6-3 / 202 / SO) :: Cousins is only 6th in the Big Ten in passing, but he helped the Spartans lead the Big Ten overall. There's a lot to be said about the receiver situation, but Cousins still has his favorite receiving target in WR Blair White, while WR Keshawn Martin was Cousins' fourth favorite target. Cousins completed 61.5% of his passes, averaged, 8.2 yards per attempt and had a touchdown to interception ration of 2.57 : 1.00. There's this thought that the Spartans are purely a passing team, or perhaps pass a majority of the time, and the truth is that Michigan St. is about as close to even in terms of run to pass as you can get (387 runs and 393 passes). Cousins has only had two multiple interception games (two against Michigan and two against Penn St.) which means that he's not prone to having awful games and throwing multiple interceptions. Counsins best game of the year came against Minnesota where he completed 22 of 25 passes for 353 yards and two touchdowns.

So-So Running Attack: Despite rushing the ball almost fifty percent of the time, the Spartans don't necessarily struggle to rush the ball, but aren't running down opponents either. MSU ranks 79th in the nation in rushing offense and are 7th in the Big Ten at 135.92 YPG (for comparison purposes Michigan St. would rank seventh in the Big 12). The running game is really a committee approach in that the Spartans have 5 players that average more than 20 yards a game, including Edwin Baker (47.14), Larry Caper (40.27), Glenn Winston (34.00), Caulton Ray (22.29) and Ashton Leggett (20.83). The MSU suspensions play a part here as Winston and Leggett are suspended for the bowl game. I'm sure that this will have some effect on the role of the running game, but I'd imagine that the other three players will be more than capable of picking up any slack.  The truth of the matter is that MSU is their absolute best when they run as the Spartans average 172 yards rushing in their wins and only 99 yards in their losses and as you would guess, the Red Raiders are their best when they limit the opponent rushing the ball, allowing only 82 yards in Texas Tech's wins and over 210 yards in Texas Tech losses.

Solid O-Line: The MSU offensive line is actually pretty solid, especially from the sense that they allow Cousins to stay upright for most of the game as the unit has only allowed 1.08 per game. This is a fairly veteran bunch as LT Rocco Cironi, C Joel Nitchman and RG Brendon Moss are all seniors while RT D.J. Young is a junior. Texas Tech fans know that one of the keys to a successful season is keeping your quarterback up and having a fairly decent running game and the Spartan offensive line has certainly done that. This will be a pretty interesting matchup as the Texas Tech defense (detailed more below) is second in the country in total sacks and thirtieth in the nation in tackles for a loss. When we look back at the results of this game, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to think that how these two lines play will decide the game.

Brandon Sharpe
Position DE
Year SR
Height/Weight 6-3/254
Stats 32 tackles; 16.0 TFL;
15.0 sacks; 3 forced fumbles

I honestly had no idea that Sharpe had this in him. In 2008, Sharpe played 10 games, had 1.0 sacks, 4 tackles and was virtually non-existent. Sharpe didn't have a ton of opportunities in 2008, but he certainly made the most of them in 2009. Sharpe, paired with fellow defensive ends Daniel Howard and Rajon Henley, has had a monster year terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, good for second in the country. In fact, Sharpe really didn't get going until conference play and I believe that he completely missed or played only a handful (maybe 5 or so) plays against TAMU. Of Sharpe's 15.0 sacks, 13.0 came against conference opponents, and although he was shut-out a few games, the defensive line as a whole had at least 1.0 sack every game and during conference play, the defense averaged 3.75 sacks per game.

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