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Texas Tech v. Virginia: Offensive Line

This is a series of positional reviews for the matchup between Texas Tech and Virginia at 12:00 p.m. on January 1, 2008 in the Gator Bowl, Jacksonville Florida. I'd also like to give a huge hat-tip to College Football Statistics, who without, these stats would be impossible. Thank you.

Prior Previews:

  • Quarterbacks
  • Running Backs
  • Offensive Line
  • Receivers
  • Defensive Line
  • Linebackers
  • Secondary
  • Special Teams
  • Coaching
  • Intangibles

Offensive Line: There is not any matchup that I am more excited about watching than Chris Long and Rylan Reed. I'm not sure that Reed received the notoriety that he should have, but I guarantee that if there will be one player ready for the challenge, it will be Mr. Reed.

Texas Tech Position Ht/Wt Class
Rylan Reed, #74 Left Tackle 6-7/314 Junior
Louis Vasquez, #65 Left Guard 6-6/235 Junior
Shawn Byrnes, #51 Center 6-4/304 Sophomore
Brandon Carter, #76 Right Guard 6-7/374 Sophomore
Marlon Winn, #67 Right Tackle 6-6/329 Sophomore

After watching this group grow over the course of the year, I think it is only now that I realize how special this group of offensive linemen are and have the potential to be. Statistically, I always have a difficult time quantifying how an offensive line grades out over the course of the year and I think there are a few telling statistics. The first being how well they protected Harrell. Without providing that protection, Harrell can't do his job. Second, is rushing average, which means more or less, are they creating space for the running backs to gain a few yards and how well does a line do when asked to rush the ball within their own 20 yard line.

Over the course of the season, in 694 pass attempts the offensive line gave up 23 sacks for 167 yards. That works out to be 1 sack for every 30.17 attempts. For comparison purposes, the senior laden group of 2006 gave up 31 sacks in 656 pass attempts for 1 sack every 21.16 attempts and in 2005, the offensive line gave up 17 sacks in 588 attempts for 1 sack every 34.58 pass attempts. Of course it helped in 2005 to have a more mobile Cody Hodges behind center rather than Harrell, who is not the most mobile quarterback. Anyway, I think the point is rather than the 2007 group of offensive linemen were incredibly efficient and really gave up very few sacks considering the sheer volume of pass attempts (over 100 more than in 2005).

In terms of rushing yards per game and yards per rush, the numbers aren't going to be good that great. In 2007, the team averaged 3.26 yards per rush, while in 2006 the team averaged 4.71, and 4.17 in 2005. That quite a significant drop. Now, some of this can be blamed on Woods' declining production as the season progressed, but this is certainly an area for concern next year and beyond.

Let's look at the Texas Tech rushing productivity inside their own 20 yard line (Digression: my thought is that an offensive line is more effective the fewer rushing attempts it takes to get the ball in the endzone.):

Year Att TD Att/TD
2007 43 16 2.68
2006 49 12 4.08
2005 61 24 2.54

Although the rushing numbers overall don't matchup well, I think that in looking at these numbers, it's evident that the 2007 offensive line is certainly capable of pushing folks around and have been able to put the ball in the endzone despite not having a dominating back for the entire year. The touchdowns per attempt average is on par with 2005 and I think that's saying a lot.

Virginia Position Ht/Wt Class
Eugene Monroe, #75 Left Tackle 6-6/315 Junior
Brandon Albert, #71 Left Guard 6-7/315 Junior
Jordy Lipsey, #63 Center 6-3/280 Senior
Ian-Yates Cunningham, #77 Right Guard 6-3/290 Senior
Will Barker, #61 Right Tackle 6-7/306 Sophomore

Let's take a look at the same three sets up numbers for Virginia as well. Despite being more of a running team, Virginia, in terms of yards per rush, wasn't that much more effective than Texas Tech. The Cavaliers only averaged 3.42 yards per carry, which is pretty much par for the course for Virginia. In 2006 they averaged 3.29 and in 2005 3.80, which means that despite running the ball often (at least 33 times a game) they aren't that great at it.

We now try and figure out whether or not this group of offensive linemen were able to effectively protect Sewell, and the results aren't good. Virginia attempted 400 passes and gave up a whopping 40 sacks, which means that Virginia is giving up 1 sack for every 10 passing attempts. This is of course with a running quarterback, which makes me scratch my head even more. How can a team allow 40 sacks? That seems like an awful lot, or perhaps, we are simply accustomed to the idea of Texas Tech's offensive line doing an outstanding job of protecting Harrell.

If we take a look at similar rushing touchdowns in the red-zone for Virginia:

Year Att TD Att/TD
2007 79 17 4.64
2006 37 11 3.36
2005 80 18 4.44

Not any better than Texas Tech, right? If you're thinking that those numbers don't seem all that impressive, then you're right, they're not. You would expect that a team that is perhaps more balanced or more of a running team would be more efficient at scoring touchdowns in their own redzone, but Virginia is not. Of course, on the other hand, you could make the argument that because Virginia runs the ball, this number should be naturally high, i.e. sheer volume. Personally, I think it points to the fact that Virginia just doesn't run the ball well.

Conclusion: The Texas Tech Red Raiders do a better job of protecting their quarterback, is on par with Virginia in terms of rushing average and much more efficient at running the ball in the endzone inside their own 20 yard line than Virginia. Call me a homer, but I'll take the Red Raiders.