Offensive Matchups | Texas Tech Red Raiders Offense vs. Colorado Buffaloes Defense

TEXAS TECH | One step forward, two steps back. Winning football is about consistency and when one part of the offense starts to click, the other part falls back a bit. There's no denying that the rushing offense is getting better. Slowly but surely, the run has pulled itself from the ranks of 116th in the nation in week 4 and averaging 70.00 yards a game to 95th in the country and 114.83 yards a game. Say what you will about the passing game, but the running game is starting to hit its stride. And just in case you want to step back a bit, the last time that Texas Tech was in this vicinity running the ball was 2008 (I am envisioning the comments right now). And since the abysmal showing against Texas, the offense is averaging 159 yards a game for 4.8 yards a game. I know, it's not as if Texas Tech has played stellar defenses, but I'll take the improvement wherever I can get it. And for the third straight game, the two running backs, Eric Stephens and Baron Batch, have accounted for over 200 yards (216 to be exact) both rushing and receiving. The problem of course is that both Batch and Stephens had costly turnovers in that game, fumbling the ball. Turnovers happen in games and believe it or not, it's not the interceptions that are killing this team, only 4, but the 8 fumbles. Of course, not all fumbles are by running backs, but it's not the interceptions.

I tend to harp on this statistic, but I think it's a pretty good indicator of performance and I stink at more complicated math . . . yards per attempt. QB Taylor Potts' worst trait is that he's inconsistent. And before anyone complains that it's all on him, personally, I realize that it's not. He couldn't get the line to block for him against UT, the team was -3 in turnover margin against Iowa St. and against Oklahoma St., the team was too far down to make up a 21 point deficit. With all of that, Potts is still inconsistent and his yards per attempt for the first five games are 6.8; 8.6; 4.5; 6.1; 7.8; and 5.3. Okay is around 7 yards an attempt and 8 is pretty darn good. Anything above that and you're off the charts. Thus far through the year, Potts is averaging 6.6 yards per attempt. I don't think that the intent of the offense is to keep things horizontal, but when there aren't as many playmakers offensively and the line doesn't give you a ton of time, it's tough to make it all work. The quarterback, and in this case Potts, is the cog in the machine that's supposed to make this thing go, and although the line and receivers have to do their part (like block and not drop passes) there's just too much up-and-down play. The coaches have said this week that QB Steven Sheffield wasn't available this past week due to a shoulder injury, although I'm thinking that he could have gone if necessary and they've said that they're going to stick with Potts.  Sheffield is supposedly healthy this week.

A lot of people are curious as to why OC Neal Brown would continue stay with Potts and this is something that I learned while observing Bill Parcells coach the Dallas Cowboys. There were games and there were times where it never made any sense as to why he's continue to plug in Vinny Testaverde or Drew Bledsoe when it just made sense to try something new and different. He always refused to do this and it dawned on me at some point that one of the reasons why he did this is that Parcells never wanted to give up on a season. Ever. Just not going to happen with him. It bothered me to no end as to why Parcells wouldn't give that Tony Romo kid a chance and I think there's this same type of wanderlust going on here. You may not agree with it, but a coach, despite fans wanting to play youth, wants to win games and he's always going to play the players that he thinks gives him the best chance.  We've debated to no end as to whether it should be Potts of Sheffield and I've said for a while that I think Sheffield gives Texas Tech a better chances, especially after seeing that Potts can be so inconsistent. And perhaps this theory is mostly true in the NFL, but you don't play for next season (And yes, the defense did make a ton of changes, but I think most of these moves are related to injuries. Not all, but most.).

More good good after the jump.

I missed pretty much the first quarter of the game, and in that first quarter, you had 5 drives that pretty much amounted to nothing in terms of production. As mentioned above, some of the blame goes to Potts, but the receivers are just as inconsistent too and can't shake defenders enough to get down the field. It's no coincidence that in Texas Tech's 3 wins, the receivers have averaged over 10 yards a catch (10.56; 12.92; and 11.0). In the three losses (7.52; 8.98; and 8.07). Things aren't getting much better with the loss of Austin Zouzalik with some sort of leg injury. I posed the question earlier this week to name the playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, and there really wasn't much of a consensus other than the running backs. I think what I'm trying to get at with this is if there's a receiver that can flat out-athlete and beat an average Big 12 cornerback on this team? Until I see it, I'm not sure that I'm going to name one. That's not to say that I don't think these receivers are good, but I don't think a one of them is great and to beat one-on-one matchups with cornerbacks, you need great players. And yes, I know, the system, the system, the system. The system still requires playmakers. There have been some darn fine receivers that have run through here, Crabtree, Amendola, Hicks, R. Johson, Filani, etc., were pretty good players that I think this team lacks. I continue to be hopeful that I'm proven wrong.

COLORADO | I'm going to go into this in a little more detail below, but the Texas Tech receivers may not face a more talented pair of cornerbacks than Colorado's Jimmy Smith and Jalil Brown. The defensive line starts with DE Josh Hartigan, DT Curtis Cunningham, NG Will Pericak and DE Marquez Herrod. Super sophomore DT/DE Nick Kasa is one of those guys that you'll hear about as he was a pretty highly rated recruit that's make quite an impression at Colorado. Surprisingly, the defense is playing okay, or at least better than Texas Tech, which is 70th overall in total defense, 372.50 yards a game, and 66th in the nation in scoring defense, 25.33 points a game. Surprisingly, the Buffs are giving up almost 3 more yards a game at home than on the road. That doesn't make any sense. Statistically, Colorado isn't getting a ton of pressure on the quarterback, 66th in the nation in sacks and the biggest player to watch is Hartigan, who has 3.0 on the year.

Without a doubt, the best playmakers for Colorado are their linebackers, MLB Michael Sipili, WLB Jon Major and SLB Tyler Ahles. B.J. Beatty is a big part of this equation as well as he leads the team with 6 TFL and Sipili with 2. It's not a surprise that the linebackers are near the lead of the team with tackles as Major is 2nd, Sipili is 5th, while Beatty and Ahles are 9th and 10th respectively. The two safeties are fairly young, sophomore Ray Polk and freshman Jered Bell. Polk is the difference maker as far as the safeties go.

I realize that this is a Texas Tech blog trying to discuss defense, but last week Colorado really struggled at home, giving up 543 yards to Baylor. They did force three turnovers against Baylor, which certainly helped keep the game close. The running backs would be wise to hold onto the ball while in Boulder. The same Baylor offense that Texas Tech shut down half of the game and let the Bears run wild the other half. Amazingly, the Buffaloes only gave up 345 yards to Missouri, but it was also a shut-out for Colorado offensively. Fun stat of the week, Colorado limited Hawaii to 7 rushing yards. This was still better than Texas Tech's -14 yards against Texas.

And for Colorado, they're pretty much the same defense, at home or on the road, but it's Texas Tech with the severe split stats at home on the road in terms of scoring. This doesn't make me feel any better.

WR Lyle Leong and WR Alexander Torres vs. CB Jimmy Smith and CB Jalil Brown

This is the match-up to watch. The Texas Tech receivers now have an opportunity to redeem themselves as I think they'll be going up against perhaps the best cornerback duo in the Big 12. Smith and Brown are seniors, they both have good size as both are about 6-1/205. I mentioned above that I think the Texas Tech receiver group lacks serious playmakers and this would be a perfect opportunity to prove me wrong. Both Smith and Brown helped limited a similar spread offense in Missouri and a pretty good quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, to just 226 yards. These guys are capable, and now Leong and Torres get to prove that they won't be pushed off the line of scrimmage and they will beat their respective defender.

CORNELIUS DOUGLAS
Position Inside Receiver
Year Sophomore
Height/Weight 5-10/200
Stats 10 Receptions | 109 Yards | 1 TD

Douglas is going to get some opportunities, especially now that Zouzalik is injured and incumbent Detron Lewis just isn't making any plays. Douglas was the lone bright spot receiving the ball last week (my opinion) and I'm ready for Douglas to get more time. If you've taken a look at the Texas Tech depth chart, it's pretty thin at inside receiver with senior Blake Kelley actually making an appearance on the depth chart. I mentioned that Torres and Leong need to step up their play, but ask yourself when was the last time that Tramain Swindall or Jacoby Franks made a significant play? Maybe Baylor for Franks, but I can't remember the last time that Swindall made a significant play and the more this season continues, the more I think that it has to be a cumulative effort.

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