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Texas Tech v. Virginia: Coaching and Intangibles

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:

Coaching: Because I haven't seen Virginia play I've tried to break down each position using statistics rather than me attempting to sell you something I don't own, which is personal knowledge of what we can expect from the Virginia offense. Unfortunately, I wasn't sure what stats to take a look at from a coaching perspective other than wins and losses. I've based just about everything up to this point on numbers, there's no reason to stop now. Let's look at some numbers.

Texas Tech Record Bowl
2000 7-6 Bowl (L, 27-40 East Carolina)
2001 7-5 Alamo Bowl (L, 16-19 Iowa)
2002 9-5 Tangerine Bowl (W, 55-15 Clemson)
2003 8-5 Houston Bowl (W, 38-14 Navy)
2004 8-4 Holiday Bowl (W, 45-31 California)
2005 9-3 Cotton Bowl (L, 10-13 Alabama)
2006 8-5 Bowl (W, 44-41 Minnesota)
2007 8-4 Gator Bowl (?, Virginia)

Bottom line for coaches is that it's all about the wins. Coach Leach is sitting at around 60% for games won while at Texas Tech, his only coaching stop to date. Coach Leach has been to a bowl game in each of the 8 seasons while head pirate for Texas Tech and has won 4 while only losing 3. Leach has come under fire for perhaps not winning enough, or not going to any conference championships, or BCS bowls, but I think he's done more with less than any other coach at Texas Tech.

It's no secret that Leach favors the offense However, I do believe that Leach has perhaps had a change of heart this year. Coach Leach made a change at defensive coordinator this year and effectively fired long-time friend, Lyle Setencich, handing the reins to Ruffin McNeill. I think the change has been good, and although we may not be able to see the improvement on paper, the team was better.

On some level I tend to think that this may have been one of Coach Leach's better coaching jobs, as he's taken a very young team and made them competitive, very competitive. I personally don't have any doubt as to Coach Leach's ability to lead this team and this program for years to come.

Virginia Record Bowl
2001 5-7 None
2002 9-5 Continental Tire Bowl (W, 48-22 West Virginia)
2003 8-5 Continental Tire Bowl (W, 23-16 Pittsburgh)
2004 8-4 MPC Computers Bowl (L, 34-37 Fresno State)
2005 7-5 Music City Bowl (W, 34-31 Minnesota)
2006 5-7 None
2007 9-3 Gator Bowl (?, Texas Tech)

It seems like Groh has been both good and bad. Starting off with a 5-7 season, he was able to lead the Cavaliers to 4 connsecutive bowl games before going 5-7 again last year.

Much like Coach Leach, Groh hasn't been able to take that next step. A bad loss to Wyoming started the season and it's scary to think where this Virginia team could be if that game had been won.

I still can't explain last year's 5-7 season and you would think that with the talent available, Groh should produce a winner each year, despite any loss of talent. It would seem that the program should be well enough along to weather loss of talent or upperclassmen.

Conclusion: Perhaps it's a matter of personal preference, but I've always appreciated how Leach coaches to win, and not to lose. There's something satisfying about letting it all hang out and if the opposition is better, it's not because you didn't let it all lay out there. I think that perhaps that's part of my personality and I personally find it comforting to know that Leach isn't holding back at any point. With Al Groh, I tend to get the exact opposite feeling. Be conservative and win while playing close to the vest. It's worked for the most part for Groh, but playing that way can mean that your season hinges on a game here or there. Groh's close to the vest style has resulted in a winning season, but it's also resulted in games that were much closer than they probably should have been against less talented teams.

Despite Mike Leach's propensity for pirates and all things offense, I think Groh will have a more difficult time trying to contain Texas Tech's offense. Give me Coach Leach, who doesn't play not to lose, but plays to let it all hang out.

Intangibles: I wasn't real sure how to do this part of the examination and thought that this section might best be served by just listing things that I think that I think about the two teams.

  • More than anything else, I'm curious to see how this offense matches up against the Virginia defense. I don't think that Texas Tech has faced two defenders, Long and Sintim, who have rushed the passer so well. Harrell isn't exactly a big quarterback and I wonder how he'll hold up to getting hit, because I'm pretty sure that he will at some point today.
  • Rylan Reed had better be good. I know that Long is supposed to move up and down the line, but I would imagine that Reed will be the primary blocker against Long. I've thought that Reed is one of the more underrated offensive linemen in the Big 12 and he has a perfect opportunity to show that he's athletic enough to contain Long, but as we know strong enough to handle him as well.
  • It seems like it's been forever since the OU game and despite my warm-fuzzy memories about the Texas Tech defense all but shutting down OU in the 1st half, worry is starting to creep back into my thought process. I think Whitlock and Henley have made progress this year, however, I just worry about their ability to hold up after a very long season. Virginia is going to try and run the ball at all costs and if they are at all successful, it could be a very long day.
  • Virginia is 40th in the nation in turnover margin with a +0.25. They've turned the ball over 18 times while recovering 21 on defense. Compared with Texas Tech, who turned the ball over 25 times while only recovering 19 on defense. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at ratios as well, especially considering the volume of plays with Texas Tech, for example, if we take into consideration the total number of plays in relation to the turnovers, Texas Tech turns the ball over once every 36.80 plays while Virginia turns the ball over once every 46.83 plays. Conversely, on defense, Texas Tech takes the ball away once every 47.78 snaps while Virginia takes a turnover once every 39.76 plays.
  • Chris Long is tied for 10th in the nation in tackles for a loss, yet Virginia is 73rd in the nation in tackles for a loss.
  • Michael Crabtree is 19th in the nation in all-pupose yards despite having 0 rushing yards 0 punt return yards and 16 kick return yards. Which means that Crabtree gained 99% of his yards just receiving and for comparison purposes, fellow freshman Jeremy Maclin had 13% of his yards rushing, 38% of his yards receiving, 11% of his yards returning punts and 38% of his yards returning kicks. I don't think there's anyone in the top 20 in all-pupose yards who has done this. Pretty amazing that Crabtree is able to do this from just one facet of the game.
  • I get the feeling that we're going to see a heavy dose of Aaron Crawford early in the game. I think that we can assume that Virginia is going to focus on stopping Crabtree and would imagine that the underneath stuff to Crawford should be readily available.
  • I don't think there's been a bigger game for the Texas Tech linebackers than this game. We know that Virginia is somewhat limited offensively and there isn't any doubt that they are going to try and run. The D-line has to do their job, but the linebackers should sell out to stop the run.
  • Virginia is poised to play without Chris Cook, who was 2nd on the team with 6 pass deflections. Only corner back Mike Parker and Trey Womack saw significant playing time in the secondary. I would have to imagine that this game changes dramatically without Cook, if for nothing else, Virginia, who is not a deep team, loses a warm body.
  • Despite all of the numbers, this game really does just come down to how well the Texas Tech offense adjusts to the Virginia defense and conversely, how well the Virginia defense adjusts to the Texas Tech offense. I would imagine that this will be a fascinating cat-and-mouse game all game long.

Conclusion: I'm a homer and I tend to think that at the end of the day Leach and Harrell will be able to make the right adjustments a little quicker than Groh, or at least I hope that Groh is more reactive than proactive in his attack. I think Texas Tech's defense and Virginia's offense are each sub-standard units, although I think Simpson is a talented back and Texas Tech's best unit is the secondary. Unfortunately, Sewell isn't a real accurate passer and would love to see Garcia and McBath stepping up to stop the run and force Virginia to throw the ball, something that I think they'll have trouble doing. Give me Mike Leach and the Red Raiders.