Breakdown: Texas A&M

The Red Raiders got their first conference win last week against Iowa State at Jones AT&T Stadium. This week, the Texas A&M Aggies will be in town to provide a tougher test for new defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill. RaiderPower breaks down both sides of the ball to see where each team has an advantage.


Advantage: Texas Tech

The Red Raiders' Graham Harrell leads the nation in passing with a mind boggling 2,726 yards in only six games. Harrell has also shown his accuracy, throwing for 28 touchdowns and only three interceptions. A&M head coach Dennis Franchione had this to say about Graham at Tuesday's press conference: "Graham Harrell is really playing excellent right now. He just seems to have such a presence about him about where guys are and coverage and timing and things. They change faces, they've got a lot of new people out there; but they're still putting up big numbers."

While not much of a threat through the air, Stephen McGee has been very effective on the ground, rushing for four touchdowns and a team high 455 yards. McGee's completion rate through the air is a dismal 55%, and his four passing TDs for the season are routine in one game for Harrell.

Advantage: Texas A&M

The Aggies' run game is definitely the strength of their offense, and they are currently 7th in the nation in rushing yards. The RB tandem of Jovorskie Lane and Mike Goodson provide a 1-2 punch for A&M. Lane has an enormous 6'0", 263 lb. frame and can grind it out in short yardage situations, while Goodson is a speedy, more elusive runner who can break free for huge gains if he gets in the open field.

In Monday's press conference, Tech's head coach Mike Leach talked about Lane's strengths and his impact for the Aggies. "[Lane is a] good player; big, strong, and unique from that standpoint because he's bigger and stronger and more physical than a more typical back. He fits their offense real well, where in our case we want a guy that runs routes a little better and things like that. I would say, though, that he's easily the best short-yardage back in the conference, and maybe the country."

Texas Tech running back Shannon Woods continues to contribute valuable rushing yards in the pass-oriented offense as he averages a respectable 6 yards per carry, but perhaps his more valuable contribution to the team is his uncanny ability to lay spectacular blocks. Woods is also a threat as a short yardage receiver, and if the Aggies hope to pull out a W in Lubbock, they'll have to be sure they can contain both Woods and the talented Red Raider receivers.

Advantage: Texas Tech

With 17 touchdowns, Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree has nearly tripled the entire Aggie receiving corps' scoring, who only have combined for only six TDs for the season. Senior WR Danny Amendola is also putting up big numbers this season, and junior Eric Morris has turned it on lately and is a substantial threat at the H position. Of his receivers, Harrell remarked, "With this offense it's tough to double team one guy because we've got playmakers across the field. If you double team one guy, then you're leaving coverage that's not in your benefit on the other side."

Although passing is an afterthought for the A&M offense, WR Kerry Franks and TE Martellus Bennett have the talent to punish secondaries if they are not accounted for. Franks boasts an impressive 19.1 yards per reception, and Bennett follows with 12.1 yards per reception. That said, most analysts agree that for the Aggies to win, they are going to have to dominate the running game to have a chance to beat the Red Raiders.

Advantage: Texas A&M

A&M returned an experienced front five made up of four seniors and one junior, who were predicted by some to be one of the best offensive lines in the nation. After getting dominated by Miami's D line, expectations dropped off, but the Aggies are solid up front and have only given up five sacks in six games. The star of the line is senior Kirk Elder, who garnered first team All-Big 12 honors in 2006. In order to stop the run, Tech's defensive linemen are going to have to get a big push against the Aggies.

Texas Tech's O-line showed a few signs of weakness last week against Iowa State, allowing defenders to get through the line and pressure Harrell on occasion, but they were able to make adjustments and have looked fairly solid all year. Of the young Red Raider offensive line, Coach Fran remarked, "Obviously you have to give their line and backs some credit for their ability to manage and pick up pressure. I don't think you can go into the game against Tech and measure sacks. You have to measure hurries or making them throw a little out of rhythm as much as anything because they don't give up very many sacks."



Advantage: Texas Tech

Honestly, neither defensive line is enough to write home about, but Texas Tech has picked things up, especially in the past 2 games.  Last week against Iowa State, the Red Raiders racked up 3 sacks and 7 tackles for a loss.  The sack numbers will not be indicative of how well the defense plays against the run-oriented Texas A&M offense, but they will be called upon to hold their ground and plug up the middle when Jorvorskie Lane gets the ball.

On the flip side, Texas A&M has not been able to get a consistent pass rush all season.  Through the first half of the season, the Aggies have only managed a measly 6 sacks.  If they continue this trend in Lubbock and give Harrell a lot of time, he will pick the A&M secondary apart.

Advantage: Texas A&M

The Aggies have 2 solid linebackers in Misi Tupe and Mark Dodge, who will be forced to not only contain Texas Tech running backs Shannon Woods and Kobey Lewis, but also stick receivers on the short routes.  They both play aggressive football and are not afraid to lay a big hit on a receiver coming across the middle.

Coach Fran and defensive coordinator Gary Darnell have started calling the linebacker tandem of Mark Dodge, 26, and Misi Tupe, 25, the "Geritol Gang". The tandem's combined 51 years of age make them the oldest pair of starting linebackers in the nation.

Linebacker Brian Duncan, who has started the last 2 games, said, "We're pretty confident in our defense now. Once again, we have to continue to give other teams the respect that they deserve; we can't go into a game thinking we can beat them or anything like that. We want to make sure we give them their respect."

They will have their work cut out for them with the dominating ground attack that A&M will bring to Lubbock.

Advantage: Texas Tech

The Texas A&M passing defense is ranked 9th in the Big 12 and is allowing 237.5/game.  This could spell trouble when they go up against Graham Harrell and the #1 passing offense in the country.  The Aggies have given up big yardage in several games this season, but they were able to clamp down on Okalahoma State in the 2nd half last week.  Which Aggie secondary shows up on Saturday will largely determine the outcome of the game.

Texas Tech is giving up 186 yards/game through the air, which puts them at 3rd in the Big 12.  The Red Raider secondary has had some problems through the year but has played much better the past few weeks.

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