Texas Tech has had its high points in the Mike Leach era, but it came up with its signature moment against Minnesota in last December's Insight Bowl. Early in the third quarter, Minnesota led, 38-7, and the Lubbock crew was wondering who thought it was a good idea to head west for the week between Christmas and New Year's anyway.Then came the ridiculous eruption. Tech started scoring. And scoring. By the time kicker Alex Trlica nailed a 52-yard field goal at the buzzer, the game was tied at 38. One overtime period later, the Raiders had a 44-41 win and the happiest of happy endings to the season.
Head coach: Mike Leach
8th year: 56-33
Off. 14, Def. 29, ST 5
Lettermen Lost: 15
Ten Best Tech Players
1. QB Graham Harrell, Jr.
2. SS Joe Garcia, Sr.
3. FS Darcel McBath, Jr.
4. CB Chris Parker, Sr.
5. RB Shannon Woods, Jr.
6. DE Jake Ratliff, Jr.
7. WR Michael Crabtree, RFr.
8. OG Louis Vasquez, Jr.
9. WR/PR Danny Amendola, Sr.
10. WR L.A. Reed, Jr.
what's next? What do you think? Another 4,500-5,000
passing yards from junior Graham Harrell, who had his
erratic moments and was nearly benched at times during
the year, but turned into the type of clutch performer
the program can rely on to pull wins out of the fire. As
always, there will be another collection of high-scoring
games certain to fry computer hard drives and leave fans
wondering whether a trip to the hot dog stand is going
to cost them a couple touchdowns.
Figure on more of the same for the next several years, since Leach signed an extension keeping him on through the 2010 with a $2 million payday if he's around that long. Yes, Leach's name has surfaced for an assortment of jobs, both on the collegiate and professional levels, but he's happy and feeling comfortable with the foundation and history in place.
Of course, the biggest challenge facing Leach is lifting Tech from a team that wins eight or nine a year to a school capable of challenging for a Big 12 championship. Tech will always be exciting, and its crazy offensive output will sell tickets, but beating the better teams in the Big 12 – or anywhere else, for that matter – will be elusive until the there's consistency on both sides of the ball. This year's team has the potential to be Leach's most even-keel yet, even with all the funnin' and gunnin'. This has always been one of the most fun teams to watch in college football, and now it could be one of the best in the Big 12.
What to look for on offense: Tech will run the wishbone with a power, conservative running game … yeah, right. As always, the offense will spread the field with five wideouts and will try to exploit the biggest mismatch on the field, with more efficiency than over the last few years, even with all the top receivers gone. Harrell's development will mean a few 500-yard days, no matter who's catching the ball, a completion percentage in the high 60s and 40 or so touchdowns. Until the new targets get their feet wet, expect more from speedy running back Shannon Woods early on. He'll end up running for 1,000 yards.
What to look for on defense: It's better than it'll be made out to be, but it'll get run on at will. The Red Raiders usually will surrender more than 20 points a game to the big boys, but as long as the defense bends but doesn't break too often, the offense will take care of the rest. This year could be tough early with six starters gone, including all but two in the front seven. If teams can control the clock against the Raiders, they can keep Harrell and his flyboys off the field and mess with Tech's timing. Everyone knows this so they'll try to pound the ball. Tech will get creative early to do what it can to sell out to stop the run.
This team will be much better if … it can stop somebody from running the football. Tech allowed rivals to gain 3.8 yards per carry last year, a big reason why the team had a time-of-possession deficit of 4:36. Sure, the Raiders throw the ball, which leads to quick scoring drives and many clock stoppages, but Tech can't beat the better teams on its schedule if it lets them chew up the clock with long drives. Stopping the run could be a huge concern this year, given the revamped front seven.
The Schedule: If Iowa State and Colorado haven't improved by leaps and bounds, the Big 12 schedule is decent, with home dates against those 2006 North bottom-feeders (although Red Raider fans might still be smarting from last year's 30-6 loss in Boulder). However, the trip to Missouri, the lone game away from Lubbock for a month, will be tough. There can't be too much complaining about the South games, getting two of the big three (Texas A&M and Oklahoma) at home. For better or for worse, the road trip to Texas comes the week before playing the Sooners. The non-conference schedule is a typical Texas Tech waste of time, playing at SMU, UTEP, at Rice and Northwestern State.
Best Offensive Player: Junior QB Graham Harrell. While he was inconsistent throughout last season, and flat-out awful at times, he showed a flair for the dramatic by pulling out wins against Texas A&M and Minnesota, creating a bit of Red Raider legend. After throwing for 4,555 yards and 38 touchdowns, he's going to have to be even better, given the slew of new receivers.
Best Defensive Player: Senior SS Joe Garcia. Part strong safety and part linebacker, the 217-pound junior is a big-time hitter who's decent at getting into the backfield and a rock against the run. While he's good at forcing the big play, he could stand to do a bit more when the ball is in the air. He'll team with Darcel McBath to form one of the league's best safety tandems.
Key player to a successful season: Redshirt freshman WR Michael Crabtree. Someone has to catch all of Harrell's passes. Crabtree might be the most talented receiver recruit Leach and his staff have brought in, and has tremendous skills and an uncanny knack to get open … at least in practice.
The season will be a success if ... the Red Raiders win ten games. It's a tall order, considering how many holes they have to fill on both sides of the ball, and it might take a bowl win to do it, but double-digit wins would be an enormous leap in the Mike Leach era, considering the program hasn't won ten since 1976. The schedule is just easy enough to do it, allowing for losses against Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma.
Key game: Sept. 22 at Oklahoma State. Facing Texas and Oklahoma in the final two games of the year, Tech can be in a great position to control its own Big 12 destiny late in November, as long as it gets by the other above-average conference teams like Texas A&M, Missouri, and Oklahoma State in the league opener. The Cowboys will have the offense to keep up in the shootout, but if the Red Raiders win, they'll likely be 6-0 going into the showdown with the Aggies.2006 Fun Stats:
- Second quarter scoring: Texas Tech 159; Opponents 125
- Third quarter scoring: Texas Tech 80; Opponents 55
- Penalties: Texas Tech 96 for 856 yards; Opponents 70 for 613 yards