VALERO ALAMO BOWL
THE ALAMODOME, SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
9:00 PM (ET), ESPN
"There'll be a few things different," Riley said. "You can't do a whole lot just because of timing, but there'll be a few new wrinkles. The way I call things may be a little different than Mike. How it is exactly, I can't tell you. One because I don't know, and two, because I don't want Michigan State to know."
Rucker was an aggressive corner, which is obviously helpful if DC Narduzzi had decided to pull up his corners in bump coverage.
What will Leach try against MSU?
The same thing he always tries, of course. Quick passes to wide receivers in space, slants into open grass, dump offs to running backs. On film, Leach will see the same things that have driven TRE and Spartan fans everywhere crazy, namely MSU's inability to keep their zone intact against crosses, no jamming wide receivers at the LOS, and a lack of pass rush from the front 4.
And, like every other year, it's been successful this season:
|Total Offense||461.75 yds/game
|Scoring Offense||36.67 pts/game|
|Passing Offense||380.67 yds/game
|Rushing Offense||81.08 yds/game
|Pass Efficiency Rating||142.67|
Leach isn't there anymore, obviously, but we'll assume that the points are still valid. (No way to preview this thing otherwise!) Our secondary is probably going to struggle no matter what; the key is going to be whether our front four can actually put some pressure on Taylor Potts. Happily, Texas Tech appears to be somewhat vulnerable to pressure: they allow 2.5 sacks per game, only 92nd best in the country (though those stats may be skewed because they throw so much.) As shown in the Penn State game, our defense is fairly effective when it's able to get ot the quarterback, and utterly awful when it cannot do so. Ideally, we'll be able to get pressure without selling out with linebacker blitzes, but I fear that we'll need to send Greg Jones early and often.
As for who Taylor Potts will throw to: the Red Raiders have 9 (!) receivers with 20 or more receptions this season. Alexander Torres (#86) appears to be the biggest threat, with 65 catches for 791 yards and 6 touchdowns, although Lyle Leong (#19) leads the team with 8 TDs on 42 catches. Depressingly, Tech is at least competent at rushing the ball this season: Baron Batch (#25) averages 5.4 yards per carry, and, more impressively, has 12 touchdowns; his 784 yards rushing exceeds the combined output of Larry Caper and Edwin Baker.
Beyond that, what else is there to say, really? There's not a whole lot from this season's result to hang your hat on here: our defense has been terrible all season, and Tech's offense is going to be good, Leach or no Leach. We'll need a fantastic effort from a shorthanded squad. One minor note of encouragement: Pat Narduzzi has said that of all the opponents we've played this season, Texas Tech's offense is most similar to Northwestern's. The game against the Wildcats featured our best defensive performance of the season: an excellent bend-don't-break effort which included quarterback pressure and great tackling. A similar performance will almost certainly be necessary.
The Spartans have had a month to prepare for Tech. That has been more than enough time to figure out how to replace the missing players, put all the turmoil behind them and put in a few wrinkles -- like very possibly inserting athletic backup quarterback Keith Nichol at wide receiver, going to the Wildcat formation more, and making more use of a talented corps of tight ends while, maybe, putting Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum, and even Garrett Celek, on the field at the same time.
There were a ton of question marks regarding how the Texas Tech secondary would perform, especially after the loss of three-fourths of the defensive backfield. In stepped [SS Cody] Davis and FS Franklin Mitchem and although the numbers may not be too terribly impressive, 72nd in the nation in pass defense, but in comparison to the rest of the Big 12, the Red Raiders are better than average, good for fifth in the conference. Davis is tited for second, along with CB LaRon Moore and CB D.J. Johnson, with six passes broken up and is second on the team in tackles with 72. The general thought that when your safety is leading the team or near the top of tackles made, something is wrong with the defense, but I would guess that most Big 12 defenses suffer the same fate and the nice thing about Davis, and the entire secondary, is that he will hit. Davis was recently named to the second team All-Freshman Defense by CFN, an honor that is well deserved.
Cotton BowlNo shortage of points [in the past three Texas Tech bowl appearances], but not exactly stingy defense either. Don't forget that the 2008 version featured Graham Harrell and Mike Crabtree, but Ole Miss put a lickin' on 'em anyway. [ . . . ]
[F]or the last three years, medium-level programs from the ACC, SEC, and Big Ten have held their own against Texas Tech. So don't lose all hope yet Spartans.