When Captain Edward J. Smith took command of the Titanic, he had the largest most advanced passenger liner ever created with state of the art technology and a seasoned, well trained crew.
Yet, something as simple as miss-judging a block of ice (albeit an unusually large block of ice) led to the sinking of his command and the death of his passengers in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.
While it is unlikely that any Texas Tech Red Raiders will find themselves in the North Atlantic Saturday as they take on the K-State Wildcats, the analogy fits. A simple case of underestimating ones opponent, whether a block of ice or a football team with defensive struggles, can lead to disaster.
When the Raiders are on defense
It is important, imperative, even critical, that Tech rattle Josh Freeman early and often. Freeman seems to his best games against the University of Texas, joining the ranks of Stephen McGee and Jason White as quarterbacks who have beaten the Longhorns two years in a row.
Freeman is a more than competent, though not great, passer who has a cannon for an arm and can throw the deep ball extremely well. While he does have a tendency to miss some of the short passes on occasion, he's also capable of getting a ball in the air for 40 or 50 yards.
Freeman is also a dangerous threat on the ground with Vince Young type elusiveness that has plagued the Raiders throughout head coach Mike Leach's tenure.
However, this year the Red Raiders have several players that should be able to help contain a player who has shown incredible bouts of athleticism over the last two seasons.
Daniel Howard as an upright pass-rusher has already shown that he can be a dangerous player and force the offense into mistakes, allowing his fellow defensive players to make plays through the offense coping for him.
However, Howard has yet to drop into pass coverage or utilize his combination of speed and size to spy any quarterbacks. It wouldn't be unreasonable to see Howard shadow Freeman at different times throughout the game.
McKinner Dixon is another player whose presence should help derail any plans that Freeman has of a big day. While Dixon isn't as fast as Howard, he is the type of players that makes plays because of sheer hustle and tenacity, not because of raw speed.
While Daniel Howard may flash past the quarterback and then be blocked out of the way, Dixon is usually a step or so behind to make the sack.
One final player that could help contain Freeman is safety Jordy Rowland. While Rowland sees the field exclusively during the Jet defensive package, he has shown a knack for strong tackling and a good feel for space which could allow him to be an element of the Raiders defense that K-State has not yet had to cope with this season.
When the Red Raiders are on offense
While it has been proven that Graham Harrell doesn't have to throw for 500+ yards in a game for the Raiders to win, it certainly helps. Harrell won't have to face the Big XII Defensive Newcomer of the Year as Gary Chandler has been suspended for the game this weekend.
However, Harrell will have to contend with Brandon Harold who has already notched an impressive 8.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks in only four games. Harold plays left defensive end, which would pit him against Marlon Winn. While Winn isn't the best offensive linemen on the Tech roster, he does play the game very physical and can expect help from guard Brandon Carter to slow down Harold.
Perhaps Kansas State's biggest weakness and Tech's most surprising strength could be the run game. While the Raiders are known for their prolific passing offense, it's been the tough running of Shannon Woods and the slashing attack of Baron Batch that have truly surprised Raider faithful throughout the start of the 2008 season.
While it is unrealistic to expect these two talented running-backs in this offense to have 300 yards rushing, it is a great asset to the Air Raid when the running back can pick up 7 or 8 yards per carry, something that they've been able to do fairly consistently this season.
What Will Happen
While the Wildcats are a talented team, the Raiders are as well. The game will finally come down to which team wants it the most. Tech was reminded throughout the week of what can happen when a top-10 team plays an unranked team with a 5 foot x 8 foot sign showing the results of the USC-Oregon State game from September 25th.
This game will be decided by the Tech defense, not the offense. Kansas State will have trouble stopping the pass and has already shown that they are nearly inept at stopping the run, so the Air Raid offense will score points and rack up yards.
However, Tech lost a game 49-45 to Oklahoma State in 2007 when the offense had a strong day against a poor OSU defense but got even less effort from the Swarm.
With Ruffin McNeil in-charge of the defense, there is unlikely to be a repeat of last years lackluster performance.
Red Raiders win and cover the 7 ½ point spread, though not by an unreasonable amount. Kansas State has no answer for the Air Raid or the revived rushing attack and the Swarm defense continues to do what it does best, stifle opposing offenses and limit they to field goals.
It won't be a pretty game, but a win is a win in this year's ultra-competitive Big XII conference.