Reason #1: Texas Tech CAN Run The Ball
If there's anything that most of you have already figured out and what TB from BOTC has told us, it's that Texas Tech can run the ball against K-State and it's been years since Texas Tech fans have been able to confidently say that Leach may have changed his ways and is actually starting to run the ball on a more regular basis.
|Opponent||Total Plays||Running Plays||Percent|
Are you kidding me? Texas Tech actually ran the ball for almost 40% of the time against UMass? That's downright unbelievable, but such a welcoming statistic. Last year Texas Tech ran the ball 24.3% and 25.0% in 2006. KSU has been absolutely horrible stopping the run their past two games and it comes as no surprise that this is the #1 reason why Texas Tech wins on Saturday. And just in case your curious, these are the rushing totals given up by K-State thus far:
Reason #2: Improved Linebackers
I think all Texas Tech fans have plenty of memories of running quarterbacks running wildly over Texas Tech defenders and make no mistake, Josh Freeman is a running quarterback. So why the hope? Brian Duncan and Bront Bird. The last two games there hasn't been many opportunities, but the one other team that was similar to Kansas State was Nevada, at least in terms of having a mobile quarterback and Brian Duncan (12 tackles) and Bront Bird (14 tackles and 1 sack) were pretty in this game. I would imagine how McNeill chooses to play K-State, which if its anything like Nevada, he'll keep his linebackers in play as much as possible. The problem, at least matchup wise, is that KSU has 3 smallish recivers along with a decent sized and productive tight end in Mastrud, which means that McNeill might play it safe, play the nickel or dime and keep the receivers in front of the defense. On the other hand, I could also envision, McNeill sticking with his starters and adjusting as needed, and if that's the case, I like our chances. Brian Duncan and Bront Bird have both shown a pretty good ability to play well against running quarterback a team that I think will try and run. I like our chances
Reason #3: Less Dependence on Graham Harrell
We talked about this some last week and I think it bears repeating, that the improvment of the running game means that there's less of a need to rely on Graham Harrell to make every single play, which makes Texas Tech less susceptible to the bad loss, which makes a Texas Tech victory more likely. That's a very long sentence. In any event, the running game is only going to make the decision making process that much easier for Harrell and if things go according to play, will create so many more opportunities for him as a quarterback and for this offense.
Reason #4: Containing Kansas State
Texas Tech has mastered the art of giving up yards, but keeping opponents out of the endzone. I think Texas Tech fans have done a fair amount of hand-wringing over the method by which McNeill has decided to play close to the vest in non-conference play. Most fans, I think, were expecting a bit more gambling against non-conference opponents and it left some fans wondering why. I think I understand why McNeill decided to play it so safe. Playing it safe doesn't allow any future opponents have a glimpse into how your team blitzes, stunts, etc. It's the element of surprise. Secondly, if Texas Tech is a more physically dominating team then Texas Tech should be able to keep most teams out of the endzone despite playing it safe.
This is a really long way to say that I get the feeling that McNeill is going to play it safe until he absolutely doesn't have to. Kansas State has a couple explosive receivers in Brando nBanks and Aubrey Quarles and if I had to guess, McNeill is going to do everything possible to keep these guys in front of them. We've all forgotten the two long pass touchdowns that Jamar Wall gave up against E. Washington and Nevada and it's been rare that we've heard his name recently. Let's hope that Wall has fixed whatever issues he was having and is ready for some quality receivers.
Reason #5: This Is Where The Championship Begins
It's a bit of a hyperbole to say that this is where the championship begins, and it matters not whether you're talking about the mythical national championship, or a Big 12 South title, or perhaps winning the Big 12. Whatever Texas Tech is playing for begins on Saturday and this is the time that this team has to realize that you had better be all in each and every game. I realize that this isn't a statistically based reason, and more of a rah, rah, rah reasons, but it's true. Take this one game at a time and you'll be fine.
Hat-Tip to the great South Carolina blog, Garnet and Black Attack for the idea.