Keys To Victory Over Red Raiders

The Texas Aggie football team hopes to stretch its winning streak to two against a Texas Tech team struggling to find its way under new head coach Tommy Turberville. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a sneak peek at the game and lists the keys to victory for the Aggies.

It's game week for Texas A&M and Texas Tech and no fireworks yet? Over the past decade under former head coach Mike Leach, this week has been ripe for back-handed compliments, Aggie jokes, and anything involving a pirate. Mix in a good goal post throw into the Aggie section and a little beat down of a future Texas A&M chancellor and the state of Texas had another heated confrontation on the football field.

Well, the goal posts are now collapsible, Mike Leach is long gone, and the Red Raiders and Aggies are both struggling to reach the .500 mark in Big 12 conference play. With that, this street fight is now back to being just another game. Even the two head coaches are now friendly and cordial with nothing but respect and praise for each other this week in the media. But while the fireworks may not be flying off the field this year, this isn't just another game. It's a crucial test for both schools looking to jumpstart the second half of the season and get a step closer to becoming bowl eligible. The Aggies need just two more wins to go back to the postseason, but the remaining schedule includes Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas, and a resurgent Baylor squad on the road. So a win on Saturday against Texas Tech is not only critical for the Aggies in 2010, but also for Mike Sherman and his career at Texas A&M.

The wolves were howling after the 30-9 Missouri loss, although after seeing the Tigers manhandle the Sooners a week later one has to wonder just how bad that loss was…or wasn't. Then Ryan Tannehill made his successful debut at quarterback and the Aggie faithful are once again hopeful of a turnaround after a head-turning performance completing 12-of-16 for 155 yards and four touchdowns (one rushing). A step backward against a mediocre Texas Tech team at home will certainly put Aggie fans in a bad mood about year three of the Sherman era. A win and there could be some momentum and light at the end of the tunnel with the Sooners coming to town. First things first – the Aggies need to take care of business Saturday against Yosemite Sam. Here are the keys to success for the Aggies:

1) Offensive Line Must Pass Protect

The Texas Tech defense is one of the worst in the nation, ranked No. 119 out of 120 Division I. The Aggies have the No. 10 passing offense in the country. That spells trouble for the Red Raiders unless the pass rush can disrupt the quarterback into rushed throws and scrambles. Linebacker Brian Duncan is tied for the Big 12 lead in sacks with six while the defense is ranked third in the conference with 18 sacks as a unit. The Aggies are last in sacks allowed with 25. It doesn't matter how wide open the receivers are downfield, if the pass rush gets to the quarterback first, it's a moot point. If the offensive line can give either Jerrod Johnson or Ryan Tannehill time in the pocket to throw, the Aggies should be able to move the ball early and often.

2) Quarterback Play Must Be Clean and Effective

You have to simply go back to the Oklahoma State game to see that an explosive offense can throw 400+ yards and five touchdowns but still lose the ball game with four interceptions and a fumble by the quarterback returned for a touchdown. Texas A&M has the advantage on most match-ups when looking at the statistics, but that's all thrown out the window if you bring mistakes and turnovers into the equation. Inside sources are indicating that Ryan Tannehill will see a majority of the snaps on Saturday and while he played a clean game last weekend, you have to keep an eye on a signal caller making his first career start on Kyle Field.

3) Linebackers Will Need To Cover Middle of the Field

The defense under coordinator Tim DeRuyter has been generally effective throughout the 2010 season, but the unit has been vulnerable to the tight end and/or slot receivers dragging over the middle and separating from the linebackers in coverage. Missouri and Kansas were both successful and scored touchdowns on these routes. Texas Tech knows this and they will look to take advantage of this hiccup, so the Aggie defense will need to fix this hole if they expect to slow down the productive Red Raider passing attack.

4) Turnover Margin

Turnover margin is always critical in every football contest at every level. However, when talking about the 2010 Aggies it takes on a completely different meaning. In three games this season, Texas A&M has been turnover free. However, in the other four games, they've lost the ball 18 times which is still bad enough for last place in Big 12 in turnovers lost. If the Aggies secure the ball, the chances for a victory go up exponentially.

5) Account for Baron Batch At All Times

He may not be having his most productive season with 60 yards rushing per game, Batch is a running back that can give Texas A&M fits in zone read packages. The Texas A&M rush defense had been stellar all season until last week's game against Kansas where Jayhawk quarterback Jordan Webb and running back James Sims found holes in the Aggie front seven to the tune of 200+ yards. If Texas A&M can't seal that up and allows Batch to make some big gains, that will open up the passing game and that's not a good idea with the No. 8 passing unit. If the Aggies can control the line and stuff Batch without much help from the safeties, then DeRuyter can focus his secondary and linebackers on slowing down the explosive Red raider passing game.

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