OSU-Texas Tech:<br>Showdown in Lubbock

Following an open week in which the Cowboys accomplished a variety of tasks – from using the final recruiting evaluation day to getting some solid early work on Texas Tech to resting the cavalry of injured players – it is now time to focus in on the final game with Texas Tech on Saturday.

The game in Lubbock shapes up to be a showdown for the Holiday Bowl or Alamo Bowl – with the loser possibly falling to the Independence Bowl and a trip to Shreveport. Not that there is anything wrong with Shreveport, but let's be realistic about it. The riverboats and Cajun food in Louisiana is just fine, but much better when enjoyed in the crescent city of New Orleans on the eve of a Sugar Bowl. San Diego and San Antonio are much better destinations to celebrate a winning campaign and get a head start on next season.

Motivation should not be a problem for either team this week. The Cowboys remained 23rd in the coach's poll (ESPN/USA Today). Oklahoma State head coach Les Miles does talk bowl games with his squad – not so much particulars, but just the fact that winning brings better opportunities.

      "Our guys needed to get back in the win column (Baylor) after two difficult weeks prior to that and we did," Miles said this past week. "Now we go win and we count eight (wins) and we get the opportunity to go to a very nice bowl game and enjoy that with our family and fans."

Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach sounds borderline like the Scrooge when asked about bowl games, and he said he doesn't talk with his team about the possibilities.

"I never mess with the bowl possibilities," said the monotone Leach. "Nobody really knows. I've been involved in a bowl every year that I've been here at Tech. Never was it clear cut which specific bowl we were going to. I think that is a waste of time."

Whether Leach delivers the message or not, the Tech players will be able to comprehend where the situation stands. Utah's win last Saturday over BYU puts the unbeaten Utes in the BCS and unless USC were to lose to either Notre Dame or UCLA it will knock Texas out of the BCS and send them to Dallas and the Cotton Bowl.

That leaves the Holiday, Alamo and Independence Bowls to decide between Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. Both the Holiday and Alamo favor A&M and the Cowboys, in that order. A win over Texas and the Aggies can pack for the Pacific Ocean. A loss by A&M, coupled with an OSU win, would possibly send the Cowboys to San Diego and A&M to the Alamo. A loss by both, and A&M likely goes to San Diego, and the Alamo could take either OSU or Tech.

Miles will tell his players this week the smart play is to just work hard and go to Lubbock and bring home a win. Since the Big 12 was formed OSU has yet to beat the Red Raiders on the road. Texas Tech's spread, full throttle "crazy" passing attack has always given the Cowboys problems. Since Leach arrived at Tech, the Red Raiders have beaten OSU 58-0, 49-30 and 49-24 before losing last season 51-49.

Miles gives Leach plenty of credit for being crafty as a coach.

"I think he knows exactly what he wants to do," said Miles of Leach. "He adapts his system to his players, and he has been in the same system for a number of years. He keeps bringing up guys through the ranks that fit the mold and they execute the offense extremely well."

Last year the Cowboys outscored Tech in that 51-49 shootout that lasted more than four hours. It's not the way Miles or defensive coordinator Bill Clay would prefer this year's game play out.

"Certainly we are going to prepare for that eventuality if it occurs, but I think we are going to go into that game with the idea that we're going to stop them and stop them as many times as we can and slow them down," said Miles. "Hopefully, we'll have advantages in special teams and in offense where if we have to score more points than they do then we'll have that opportunity."

It's not just the defense that has the charge with stopping the Red Raider passing attack, this year led by quarterback Sonny Cumbie, who leads all of Division I in passing.

"I think the offense, defense, special teams all have to compliment each other," added Miles. "If the offense is three-and-out or throwing it to them or turning the ball over on the run then that plays into any team's hand, but certainly would play into Texas Tech's hand.

"We have to be an efficient offense and run and throw the ball and do the things that we do. We, obviously, have to be concerned about turning the ball over. All three phases have to work together, and when we kick the ball, we need to kick it way down there and make them go the long way. We have to do a good job of covering kicks. It all has to fit and then our defense needs to go out there and get to the passer and contain a very potent offense. You can't defend it with just one phase or the other."

Having had the chance to examine three teams that did a decent job of defending Texas Tech this season – Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor (first half) – there was something in common with all of them on defense. Each lined up in a variety of ways. They showed 50 front, four-man line and three-man line. They had anywhere between one and four linebackers. In the secondary they ran regular, nickel and dime personnel. There were a number of blitzes and many more different coverages. Yes, there was plenty of zone blitzing.

Tech's offense relies of lots of reads – reads where the quarterback and receiver have to make the same read and be right. If a defense shows so many different looks it is much easier to confuse reads by the offense. The secret to defending Tech may be in running as many things as you can without confusing your players, and hopefully, confusing theirs.

Texas A&M used a little of that ploy in the latest loss by Texas Tech, and that could have been the reason Leach made this comment just a few days after the game.

"I just think sometimes collectively playing together is a struggle," said Leach when asked about his offense's struggles in the loss at College Station.

To beat 'em, just confuse 'em.

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