This weekly feature considers five reasons why Texas Tech will win and five reasons Texas Tech will lose to each opponent. Check back tomorrow for "Five Reasons Texas Tech Will Win // Rice Owls Edition".
Reason #1 :: Short Rice Passing Game: Texas Tech was somewhat plagued by North Dakota's short passing game, which took advantage of a defense that was more than willing to give up the short yardage with the expectation that the defense will stop said opponent and additionally that the Texas Tech offense will outscore. The key of course is that the the opposing team can't control the clock (i.e. Nebraska 2008) or have an offense where the balance means that the Texas Tech defense is off-balanced and unable to adjust. A short passing game with Nick Fanizzi at the helm could certainly take advantage of that soft defense. The key of course is that if the defensive line can get to the opposing quarterback, then all is forgiven.
Reason #2 :: Running QB: Not so much Nick Fanuzzi, but J.T. Shepherd is a running quarterback and he's quite capable. In fact, it was talked about prior to last week's game against UAB that Shepherd would return punts should S Andrew Sendejo be injured. Shepherd didn't have the best performance against UAB last week, in large part because his arm let him down, but he could burn Texas Tech if there's no containment within the pocket and Texas Tech should be ready for Shepherd to make an appearance especially in a Wildcat type of formation. I think the defense is going to have to prepare for Shepherd whether they like it or not and he's a dangerous runner, something this team has historically had problems with containing (i.e. see Zac Robinson and Robert Griffin).
Reason #3 :: Lackluster O-Line: I'm somewhat astounded by the inability of the offensive line to block the Fighting Sioux. Yes, there's something to be said for the huge offensive lineman being unable to block a much quicker defensive linemen, but really that shouldn't matter. Besides, if that's the case then we're going to have issues against Rice as well. As stated before, it really shouldn't matter. I think more importantly, there's this idea, that reloading on the offensive line isn't that difficult and so long as there's talent available, then you should be fine. Just ask the Oklahoma Sooners about that. It's not that easy and despite stellar play the last two year from the offensive line, it must be better. If there's not significant improvement along the entire offensive line, and there's no reason to think that there won't be significant improvement, then you'll see the running game continue to struggle and Potts will continue to throw off of his back foot, despite his promises otherwise. Keeping this somewhat simple, if the offensive line doesn't get better, then you can expect a similar result to last week, but Rice is a better team than UND.
Reason #4 :: Soft Secondary: We talked about the short passing game of Rice, but I think the soft secondary bears mentioning again here. There's talent in the secondary and I think the players are coached to play soft (soft in the sense that they're not on the line of scrimmage giving some opponents a cushion), but as the talent level increases, and I believe that it has, then the I think McNeill's options should increase on what he can and cannot do with the secondary. Again, to espouse my theory from years past, is that I believe that McNeill and Leach essentially determine if they believe the offense can win the game and plan the defense accordingly. If Leach believes he can win on offense alone, then McNeill plans accordingly to give, but not give up any quick-strike touchdowns. That same soft defense can be a momentum killer for the offense and especially if Rice is patient. One other thing, and I wasn't at last week's game to confirm this, but if McNeill stayed in a fairly standard front on Saturday, playing 3 linebackers most of the night, then it stands to reason that the short UND would take advantage of the short passing game because Texas Tech stayed in it's standard package.
Reason #5 :: Penalties: This was a reason last week and it's a reason this week as well. History shows that the Red Raiders improve on the penalties from game to game, especially early in the season. Last year against Eastern Washington, Texas Tech rolled up 18 penalties for 169 yards. In the second game, Nevada, Texas Tech managed only 9 penalties for 81 yards. Leach doesn't have much of a problem with penalties, especially defensive penalties as I get the feeling that he wants guys that are pushing the envelope a bit. That still doesn't mean that the Red Raiders can't lose if the penalty situation doesn't improve.