Few would have predicted that Rajon Henley missing Texas Tech's game against Nebraska last Saturday would have had severe repercussions, though in fact it did. Henley excels at getting past a single offensive linemen, not a great skill unless it is paired with a high-motor player that can command double teams, which Henley has in fellow defensive tackle Colby Whitlock.
Should Henley return, look for the regular rotation to return as Richard Jones and Brandon Sesay will be the first defensive tackles off of the bench which should help the Raiders stop the Aggie running game.
The linebackers won't have to follow as many option plays as they did a year ago against A&M since new coach Mike Sherman has brought with him a more "pro-style" offense, which plays into Tech's hands. A&M lacks a dominant offensive line, which should allow Brandon Williams, Daniel Howard, and McKinner Dixon to rush the passer with great effectiveness.
It will be worth noticing which defensive back will start at right cornerback after the position by committee last week, one which did not benefit the Raiders. LaRon Moore continues to struggle while Brent Nickerson and L.A. Reed have shown flashes, though neither has been able to play consistently enough to win the position in his own right.
When Tech has the ball:
For the first time in quite some time, the once vaunted "Wrecking Crew" at Texas A&M is better against the pass than against the run. The Aggies give up an average of 223.3 yards per game on the ground and 386.2 yards overall.
However, this stat most-likely hides what is a somewhat overmatched Aggie secondary, since there has been no need for teams to pass the ball in games against A&M. Look for the one-two punch of Shannon Woods and Baron Batch to once again have a strong game but also look for quarterback Graham Harrell to light it up through the air, particularly to slot receivers Eric Morris and Detron Lewis.
Danny Gorrer suffered an injury shortly after the 2007 edition of the Rivalry that Isn't, ending his season. Gorrer is one of several familiar, and often burned, Aggie defensive backs that includes 2006 scapegoat Jordan Peterson who is now playing free-safety instead of cornerback. This seems like a more effective position for the junior, though it is unknown if this will be reflected in his play Saturday.
Another familiar name is Von Miller, moved from defensive end to linebacker, he was guilty of the late hit during the '07 game that energized Graham Harrell. With Marlon Winn having taken on the title of enforcer for the Tech offense, he and Mr. Miller might have a word or two about last year's game.
What will happen:
While Texas A&M has been hopelessly outmatched the last three times they've come to Lubbock, Tech's two wins in College Station during that time have been by a combined 4 points.
Look for the Aggies to keep the game close early, much like last year, but Tech should be able to pull away.
Don't expect a road blowout, though, as strange things seem to happen in the "Holler Hole" that is Kyle field.
Tech wins by 14-21 points in a solid, though not great, win.