Position matchups after the jump. [Note by Seth C, 09/22/09 12:10 PM CDT ] I was in a hurry so there may be errors.
|QB/WR: So I think we have a leader. It's real easy to say that you're the leader of an offense, but the truth of it is that unless something happens where you actually lead the team in some form or fashion it's lip service. Taylor Potts can lead this team. I can't talk enough about the play of the receivers. Honestly, guys like Lyle Leong are supposed to be on the rec team, not leading the team with 5 touchdowns. If the Longhorns can't really contain the Texas Tech receivers, then I really don't see any reason for the Cougars to be able to contain them. It would be nice to see Detron Lewis fully healthy, but Tramain Swindall, Austin Zouzalik, Alexander Torres, Edward Britton, etc., have shown they're capable.
QB/WR vs. DB
|DB: A good mix of size and experience returns in the secondary for Houston, starting 2 juniors, a senior and a sophomore. The problem with believing their current group, which all return from last year, is really 34th in the nation isn't an indication that they've arrived. In 2008, this group was 91st in the nation and although there's reason to believe in maturation of this group, the biggest competition has been Northwestern St. and Oklahoma St. There's nothing necessarily wrong with the OSU pass defense, but it's a running offense. Cornerback Jamal Robinson has the team's only interception and are only 6th in C-USA in passes defended with 10. I can't say that I've watched any Houston games this year, but I get the feeling that Houston plays a lot like Texas Tech. Let the offense win the game, the defense should bend, but not break.
|RB: Just no production. It's a chicken or the egg argument. Is it the offensive line not opening holes or is it the running backs not making plays? Add to these questions, as to whether not Texas Tech is even giving enough carries to their runners, a paltry 17 a game. In 2008 this group was getting 24 carries a game, and this is a situation where not having even a semblence of a running game is going to catch up with Texas Tech sooner rather than later. Right now, Harrison Jeffers is the odd man out because he's lacking in pass defense (a result of the offensive line having trouble) and Baron Batch isn't quite right yet, whether it be fumbles or just not playing up to his potential. Eric Stephens is certainly exciting, but it's tough to do much with only 4 carries a game.
RB vs. LB
|LB: Like most teams, this unit is lead by their linebackers, including WLB C.J. Cavness, MLB Marcus McGraw, and SLB Matt Nicholson. Both Nicholson and McGraw had a sack last year, so there's a good chance that you'll see the Cougars blitz every so often, but this year, the team has managed two sacks thus far. McGraw and Cavness lead the team in tackles, while reserve Phillip Steward is third. Not to harp on the rush defense too much more (we'll have to talk about it the next position), but in 2 games the Cougars have given up 175 yards a game. That's probably just fine for a team like Texas Tech where the running game has been deficient, but not likely to work against other teams.
|OL: One step forward (Rice), two steps back (Texas). That's how this works right now until Moore can find players that he's comfortable with on the field. I don't know that Moore does much with the starting lineup this week, although I wouldn't put anything past him. I think that Moore's biggest problem is that he's not been able to settle on a guard, and it wouldn't at all surprise me to see Terry McDaniel move to guard, just to plug a hole. Moore doesn't seem entirely happy with Lonnie Edwards or Mickey Okafor. Marlon Winn was embarassed by Sergio Kindle on Saturday and I hope like hell he gave Taylor Potts his own personal Tim Tebow speach on Sunday morning that went something like this, "Never again, Taylor. Never again." Despite all of that, you're still talking about a unit that gave Potts 46 opportunites to give up a pass and 3 sacks to a talented UT defense. They're inexperienced, but they'll be fine.
OL vs. DL
|DL:As I keep writing this, I realize something that we've all known, in that Houston and Texas Tech are nearly mirror images of each other, it's just that Leach has had longer to get his guys than Sumlin. With that being said, Houston is pitiful against the run, can't get past the line of scrimmage, and can't sack the quarterback. The defensive line isn't small by any means, and NT Isiah Thompson and DT David Hunter are making tackles, by they are by no means getting behind the line of scrimmage. Defensive end Zeke Riser barely shows up in the stats and Tyrell Graham is by far their best pass rusher. The Cougars get credit for taking advantage of turnovers, not that the DL necessarily created them, but the defense is pretty ragged, even early in the season.
|DL: I'm not sure that I should talk about any of these players, lest I jinx one of them. No Rajon Henley, Brandon Sharpe or Ryan Haliburton. Instead, you got a team effort that was somehow able to manage 8 tackles for a loss against Texas alone, and 1 sack. If you have the time, go back and watch the defensive line on Saturday. Yep, they got tired, but this group was tremendously effective. If I would have known that Victor Hunter could get in the backfield like he could, I would have suggested the additional hamburgers quite some time ago. Colby Whitlock, Richard Jones, Chris Perry (is really surprising me) and Victor Hunter spent the better part of Saturday containing a Texas offense that's averaging close to 500 yards a game. If you want to talk about production, thus far, the Texas Tech defense is 27th in the nation in rushing defense, 17th in sacks and 4th in TFL.
DL vs. OL
|OL: A relatively young and mobile group of offensive linemen that are able block for Beal, get down the field on the bubble screen and give Keenum plenty of time to get the ball down the field. Again, this was a relatively unheralded group before the season started, but thus far this group is 9th in the nation in sacks allowed and leads a rushing offense that's over 118 yards a game. The edge pass protectors are relatively inexperienced in that LT Jacolby Ashworth is a redshirt freshman and RT Jarve Dean is a JUCO transfer. I'm hoping and praying that someone on Texas Tech's roster can take advantage of his inexperience. The middle group are all returning starters: LG Jordan Shoemaker, C Carl Barnett and RG Chris Thompson.
|LB: I'm sorta running out of superlatives for this group. Marlon Williams has completely stepped up his game from 2008 in that he's not just out there, he's making plays. Bront Bird has also turned himself into a playmaker and Brian Duncan, who many thought was Texas Tech's most reliable linebacker heading into the season, may be the 3rd best linebacker on this team right now. It's not necessarily difficult how many plays this group is making when Williams, Bird and Duncan are 1, 2 and 4 in tackles and Williams is 1st on the team in TFL (5), while Bird is 2nd (4).
LB vs. RB
|RB: Bryce Beall is a phenom, there's no doubt about that. Beall is the typical Texas Tech running back, but he's in a Cougar jersey. As a freshman last year, Beall was unbelievable, and right now, Beall is averaging 68 yard rushing and 46 receiving. I would kill for that type of production right now. Houston is also getting help from 2 freshman running backs in Charles Sims and Chris Wilson. Sims and Wilson got most of their work done against NW St., but there's no doubt that as the season wears on, Beall is this team's biggest and most talented rushing threat.
|DB:Considering the players who have not been available the defensive backfield deserves a lot of credit. After 3 games, this unit is 39th in the country in pass defense and 42nd in pass efficiency defense. We like to complain about the bend-but-don't-break methodology of Ruffin McNeill, but thus far, that has proven to be effecitve. FS Cody Davis is 3rd on the team in tackles with 18 and CB Jamar Wall has been an incredibly effective tackler thus far. And perhaps that last statements sums up this group more than anything else, in that they are sure-handed, they are making plays and they're making tackles. I think that's going to be a little tougher with Houston, although UT spreads the ball around as much as many now a days.
DB vs. QB/WR
|QB/WR: The skill positions are as scary as you're probably thinking. Not quite as varied as the Texas Tech offense, the Cougars are led by three main receivers, Charles Sims (also a running back), Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards. It isn't just one guy that's leading the team in touchdowns and Beall is the only player with more than 1 touchdown. Case Keenum is just as scary and efficient as you think he is, where he's completing 72% of his passes, has thrown only 1 interception in 2 games and is averaging over 9 yards per passing attempt. I don't know what else to say about this group other than they're really good, Keenum knows how to lead this offense and it will be interesting to see how McNeill deals with the Cougar spread offense.