TEXAS TECH | It really wasn't until after the game that I realized that there was more than just DE Scott Smith who was not available for the game. The defense was bad, but it was also without DT Myles Wade, DT Bobby Agoucha, CB Will Ford and S Franklin Mitchem (out for the entire game, except for the first series). That's a lot of depth that's out for a track meet of a game. So my hope, especially since I think that the Oklahoma St. game will also be a track meet is that there's plenty of depth available. Overall, I think the defense will be playing on their heels quite a bit this game, but so will the OSU defense, I just think that's just the way that this game is going to play out.
So where is the Texas Tech defense, especially now that Smith and this morning we learn that DE Aundrey Barr are both out for the year? A little thin, but I think this is why DC James Willis wanted to play 25. Perhaps he saw the writing on the wall, that the Big 12 is an offensive league where offenses like to go fast. Having 25 players that have seen significant time throughout the course of the season could mean that by the time conference play heats up that there aren't many players that are going to have that "deer in headlights" look. This morning, I mentioned that we might see DE Christopher Knighton or maybe moving ILB's Bront Bird and Tyrone Sonier move to the outside to give OLB Duncan a rest. I expect a ton of plays and Duncan is going to need to get a rest so someone is going to sub in for Duncan at some point.
The defensive line should get pressure on Weeden, but it concerns me that OLB Brian Duncan may be the primary focus of the OSU offensive line. Someone has to step up, and there seem to be plenty of players that could do so. Whether it be DT/DE Donald Langley or DT/DE Myles Wade, I tend to think that DC Willis will give the OSU offense multiple looks along the defensive front four. And keep in mind that Wade (I think) started against Iowa St. and was out all of last week. Having an additional body that the staff has used at multiple spots along the line helps significantly.
ILB Bront Bird had his best game last week and that's going to have to continue against OSU. Bird was, and rightfully so, criticized for having a rough year thus far, but last week he was excellent stopping the run. Bird will have his hands full with Hunter, but it wouldn't surprise me to see OLB Julius Howard be a more significant player this week, especially given the fact that he's a former safety and has a better chance to keep Hunter in front of him. I don't think that Bird is going to leave the field and will essentially be the guy that fills the gaps once the defense goes to their assigned gaps. Bird's ability to do what he did last week will be imperative.
All hands will be on deck for the secondary. I talk a little bit below about the importance of the hopeful return of CB Moore, but truthfully, the entire secondary will be getting a significant workout from the OSU receivers. OSU OC Dana Holgorsen likes to utilize quite a bit more motion and it's so important that the Texas Tech secondary is coordinated. Last week, D.J. Johnson was burned a handful of times, as was S Cody Davis, but both of these players are better than they showed last week. Perhaps with Ford being out all game and S Franklin Mitchem being out most of the game, it forced DC Willis to play these guys in positions that they weren't all that comfortable. It bothers me that Mitchem continues to have problems staying on the field because of his health, but Mitchem being on the field might be as important as any other member of the secondary.
More after the jump.
OKLAHOMA ST. | Let's start with the guys up front for OSU. LT Nick Martinez, LG Jonathan Rush, C Grant Garner, RG Lane Taylor and RT Levy Adcock are your starters. As a group, they are helping the running game average 164.2 yards a game, good for 51st in the nation. The line is giving up 1.4 sacks a game, which is in the top third of the nation (tied for 39th) in terms of sacks allowed. I can't tell you a ton about the line, but if I remember correctly this line had a ton of attrition, especially after losing all-world LT Russell Okung. The current line will all return next year, as four of the five starters are juniors and Taylor is a sophomore.
The receiving corps is in a bit of disarray, but WR Justin Blackmon is a constant. He's averaging 9.4 receptions a game and 149.6 yards a game and we'll throw in 2 TD's a game as well. Yes, he's pretty good. I wouldn't mind Texas Tech putting two defenders on Blackmon and forcing any of the other OSU receivers to beat Texas Tech. And with the possibility that Josh Cooper (OSU's 2nd leading receiver) and Hubert Anyiam (OSU's 4th leading receiver) are the two biggest possibilities that might not see time this weekend. You can expect that Joseph Randle, Tracy Moore, Colton Chelf and Bo Bowling to pick up the pace. Chelf and Moore are both averaging over 10 yards a catch, but other than Blackmon, the only receivers that have more than 1 touchdown catch are Anyiam and Michael Harrison (also possibly out this weekend).
I love Kendall Hunter and I love watching him play. He is quick, he is fast, and his shifty, he can make people miss. He's really good at finding holes along the line of scrimmage. He can get past defenders, quickly. He's just a darn fine running back. Hunter isn't a huge receiving threat out of the backfield, only 12 receptions this year for a 3.41 YPR average. If Hunter is going to beat Texas Tech, and I think the defense would be wise to load up and try to limit the damage that Hunter does, it's going to be on the ground.
QB Brandon Weeden is a former baseball player that came back to college, is the ripe old age of 27. For those of you who remember LT Rylan Reed, he did the same thing. The interesting thing about Weeden is that he's been awfully good from the beginning. He's completing 68.9% of his passes, he's averaging 8.5 yards/attempt, which is just outstanding. The one spot that appears to be a weakness is that his touchdown to interception ration is 3:1. If you wanted to compare his interceptions per attempts, he's averaging one interception per 31 attempts and for comparison purposes, Potts is averaging one interception per 60.75 attempts. So this is Weeden's one downfall and I think it's a tough call for the Texas Tech defense. There's only so much that the defense can do and only so many players to hone their focus. Do you rush Weeden and hope that he makes a poor decision? Do you load up and stop Hunter? Do you double-team Blackmon and force Weeden and other receivers to step up their game? This is a versatile offense, much like Texas Tech's, but I do think that OSU's options are a bit more limited, especially because of the injuries to the receivers.
WR Justin Blackmon vs. CB LaRon Moore
It just seems to make sense that the most experienced cornerback will see plenty of time against OSU's most dangerous threat. The problem of course is that Moore is coming off an injury that essentially held him out for a good part of the spring and most of this year, seeing his most significant playing time against Baylor last week. It seems that most things with this defense will be a collective effort and would expect to see plenty of CB's Will Ford, Jarvis Phillips, Tre Porter and D.J. Johnson, but given Johnson's struggles against Baylor's deep threat, it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see Moore make a run at Blackmon for a good part of the game.
|5 Tackles | 1.0 TFL | 1.0 Sacks
With the suspension of DE Scott Smith, Hyder has some big shoes to fill. Granted, he won't have to do all of the heavy lifting, and as mentioned above, DC Willis will probably use more than a handful of players that try to fill Smith's void. Hyder will get the start and it's imperative that he, at the very least, play smart gap-control football. Don't let anything go outside and keep your man in front of you. I can't imagine that Hyder will be able to do what Smith did, but Hyder was a fairly athletic player (he dunked in high school) coming out of LBJ high school in Austin. Not the most highly recruited player. Bottom line, Hyder has to be productive on the field and give DC Willis a handful of productive plays.