Guns Up Today?

With the exception of last season's 11-1 campaign, the Texas Tech Red Raiders under Mike Leach have typically been a bit bi-polar.

There are the Red Raiders who have defeated both Oklahoma and Texas over the past few years, then there are the Red Raiders who drop games to teams they shouldn't. Count last week's 52-30 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies as the latter. The Red Raiders committed all kinds of mistakes that allowed the Aggies — who were smoked by the same Kansas State team that Texas Tech crushed — to take the game and knocked Texas Tech back to a 5-3 record, including a 2-2 mark in conference play.

Still, as always, this is a dangerous team, one capable of putting up 60 on a defense that isn't prepared. The Kansas Jayhawks found that out the hard way last year. The two offenses traded scores early, but the game got away from Kansas and continued to get worse. The end result was a 63-21 lashing that nobody really saw coming.

Typically for Tech, as the Red Raider quarterback goes, so goes the team. Junior quarterback Taylor Potts (6-foot-5, 218 pounds) sustained a heavy hit in the Texas game and hasn't really been the same since. Sure, his numbers look fairly strong — Potts has completed almost 68 percent of his throws for more than 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns to eight interceptions—but other than a seven touchdown, no interception effort against Rice, Potts has been a victim of untimely turnovers. Those mistakes led to Potts getting pulled for third-string sophomore quarterback Seth Doege (6-2 205) against the Aggies. For his part, Doege controlled the game well and didn't commit any turnovers. That may be enough to gain Doege, who hasn't played a lot of football since his sophomore year of high school (he sustained two consecutive ACL injuries, one to each knee), the start against the Jayhawks.

Whoever starts will have the luxury of plenty of weapons. Arguably the most unheralded is running back Baron Batch (5-11 205), who averages 5.4 yards per carry and is a threat through the air. One of the Big 12's top backs, Batch can create headaches for anybody too focused on the Red Raider air assault.

But the Red Raiders' roll is buttered by their prodigious passing attack, one that spreads the field and spreads the ball around to any number of receivers—Texas Tech boasts eight different players with 20 or more catches on the season. The best of the bunch is probably Y-receiver Detron Lewis (6-0 205), who has 41 catches for 538 yards and four scores. Z-receiver Alex Torres is tied with Lewis for the team lead in catches, and has added 481 yards and another four touchdowns, while H-receiver Tramain Swindall (6-3 180) has 512 yards and five touchdowns on the year. X-receivers Edward Britton (6-0 167) and Lyle Leong (6-1 165) have combined for another 53 catches, 678 yards and eight touchdowns. When the Red Raiders go a little bigger, Ryan Hale (6-1 227) steps in at the BH-receiver spot in kind of a tight end role.

The Red Raider line is tall and big, but has allowed 21 sacks already this season. The Red Raiders have shuffled their line repeatedly this season, with Marlon Winn (6-6 312) likely to get the start on the left. That would probably put Joe King (6-6 319) at the right tackle spot. Lonnie Edwards (6-5 290) and Brandon Carter (6-7 334) are listed as the starters at left and right guard, respectively, while Shawn Byrnes (6-4 307) is scheduled to start at center.

The Red Raider defense has seen its ups this season—witness the performances against Kansas State and Nebraska—and its downs—the A&M game. The Red Raiders' defensive numbers are mostly average across the board. Still, this is an aggressive defense that can get to the quarterback.

That charge is lead by defensive ends Brandon Sharpe (6-3 254) and Daniel Howard (6-3 240). The two have combined for 44 tackles and 14 sacks on the season and have created steady pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Nose tackle Colby Whitlock (6-2 287) is among the conference's best at his position. He and defensive tackle Richard Jones (6-1 281) are active and have 58 tackles, including seven for loss, between them.

Three of the team's top four tacklers have homes in the linebacking unit. Mike linebacker Brian Duncan (6-1 240) has 57 stops on the year, while Will linebacker Marlon Williams (6-0 218) has added a playmaker to the group. Williams has 50 stops, six for loss, two sacks and an interception on the year. Sam linebacker Bront Bird (6-3 240) has also been effective this season.

Cornerback Jamar Wall leads the Red Raiders with seven passes broken up, while his position mate LaRon Moore has four tackles for loss and an interception. Cody Davis (6-2 200) and Franklin Mitchem (6-2 198) will get the starts at the safety spots.

The Red Raiders often find themselves going for it on fourth down. But when they do kick a field goal, Matt  Williams (5-8 164) has typically hit it. Punter Ryan Erxleben (6-0 190) averages 40 yards per punt, with 10 of his 23 kicks downed inside the 20-yard line. Donnie Carona (6-0 218) serves as the kickoff specialist, while Austin Zouzalik (6-1 181) and Eric Stephens (5-8 182) return kicks. Zouzalik also averages 9.4 yards per punt return.

How the Jayhawks fare in this game will likely depend largely on which Red Raider team shows up. But whichever team does show, if the Jayhawks can pull out a valued victory over a South team, it would be worth its weight in gold.

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