The Numbers (Based on 2006):
|Passing Efficiency Defense
The Players (Based on 2006):
|Graham Harrell: 412 Comp., 616 Att., 4,555 Yds., 38 TD, 11 Int.
|Justin Willis: 182 Comp., 270 Att., 2,047 Yds., 26 TD, 6 Int.
|Shannon Woods: 152 Att., 958 Yds., 10 TD
|Justin Willis: 132 Att., 354 Yds., 3 TD
|Shannon Woods: 75 Rec., 572 Yds., 2 TD
|Emmanuel Sanders: 46 Rec., 605 Yds., 9 TD
|Joe Garcia - 87
|Wilton McCray - 70
|Brandon Williams - 3.5
|Cory Muse - 7.0
|Darcel McBath - 3
|Devin Lowry - 3
WHEN TEXAS TECH HAS THE BALL:
Texas Tech Passing Offense v. SMU Passing Defense: Give me this match up all day every day. The Mustangs pass defense gave up a 133 passer rating last year and they've lost some key players, especially up front. Despite the fact that Phil Bennett has had all fall practice to prepare for the Air Raid offense, I just can't imagine a scenario where Graham doesn't pick this team apart. There are just too many match-up problems that the Mustangs haven't seen for SMU to consider, including the speed that the Texas Tech receivers present, something they have had to face in year's past.
The matchup to watch here will be Cory Muse (if he plays - right now he's doubtful), most likely against Rylan Reed. I know that some of you may have your doubts about the offensive line, but I think they'll be fine. I think Coach Leach told offensive line coach Matt Moore to get the most talented group of offensive linemen on the field, regardless of position. Although Reed is untested I think he's going to be an absolute rock on the left side, there will be few defensive linemen who will be able to get around or push Reed around. Teamed with Vasquez, you have a formidable duo on the left side. On the right side you have 2 guys who weigh 350 pounds and can apparently move. Bottom line, I'm not worried about protection.
I am worried, or perhaps a little anxious about how the receivers will perform. Right now I have very high expectations and I would think that these guys are itching to perform on the highest level. Crabtree, Reed, Britton, Amendola, Morris Bros., Leong, etc., I get the feeling that they're all going to contribute, some more than others, obviously, but this is going to be a deep group of receivers before it's all said and done.
Texas Tech Rushing Offense v. SMU Rushing Defense: The Mustangs are respectable against the run, in fact leading their league in rush defense. My biggest concern isn't with SMU, but if Leach is going to give a few carries to Woods, Lewis and Batch. I've always preferred one running back that carries most of the load, and I'd like to Leach stick with just Woods, to get him back into being the feature back.
As for the offensive line, I've already said that I'm not too worried about how they'll perform, but it will be interesting to see if they big guys on the right side of the line will be able to effectively create space for Woods and if Woods will need to be patient enough to allow the hole to open up.
One other key consideration is that SMU's best defensive player, linebacker Reggie Carrington, out for the year, so I like who ever is running the ball for Texas Tech to have a decent game.
WHEN SMU HAS THE BALL:
SMU Passing Offense v. Texas Tech Passing Defense: I really like Willis and think he's going to be a nice test for the vaunted Red Raider seondary, but stopping Willis means stopping the Mustangs. We've heard quite a bit about this defensive line, but now we'll be able to see them in action. Emmanuel Sanders is a special talent and whoever he's matched up against will be a nice battle to watch all game long. The Texas Tech safeties need to keep the receivers in front of them and not allow the Mustangs to make big plays. The Mustangs can't score rushing the ball, so there's no need to give up the big passing play.
My big question is how this defensive line is going to perform. Will the ends get pressure on Willis? Will the linebackers step up and make plays this year? Will the defensive linemen stop the run and and create pressure up the middle?
SMU Rushing Offense v. Texas Tech Rushing Defense: This is where the Red Raiders need to be able to dominate this game. SMU rushed for 125 yards a game, but much of that was through Willis scrambling. SMU only rushed for 7 touchdowns last year, and as I said above, I'm not worried too much about the SMU punching the ball in the endzone.
I'd love to see the line dominate SMU because this game is the type of game that a this line has the capability of dominating. This would be a great confidence booster for a young defensive line that hasn't seen live action in game situations, for the most part.
The one player to keep your eye on is DeMyron Martin, he's returning from injury and could really help with the overall rushing attack.
PREDICTION: I need a reason for this to be a close game, but I just can't find one. Of course, much of my thinking depends on the defense and what they're able to do. I'm not so worried about the offense, Harrell will get the ball into the right people's hands to make plays. Perhaps it's the homer in me, but Texas Tech has superior athletes and an overall better team. Both teams return 2nd year quarterbacks, but I think Harrell is head and shoulders better than Willis. I'll take Texas Tech 34-14.