Instant Analysis: Oklahoma State-Texas Tech

One of the hallmarks of athletic excellence is the ability to simply declare one's intended approach, show it to the opposition, and still prevail with ease. That's what Texas Tech has done to football foes throughout a glorious season, and Saturday night's rout of Oklahoma State proved to be no exception.

There's no pretense or disguise involved in the Red Raiders' modus operandi under coach Mike Leach. Graham Harrell will pitch the pigskin, a flotilla of fleet-footed flankers will catch it, and an airtight offensive line that has allowed little more than a handful of sacks this season will ensure that the aerial show goes off without a hitch. It's not complicated, but it sure is powerful, and on this night in Lubbock, Mike Gundy's men felt the full fury of the No. 2 team in America, which took a giant step to its first-ever BCS bowl game.

After an early fumble that led to a quick Cowboy touchdown, Harrell got back to business, and the results were plenty devastating for the visitors from Stillwater. Staying interception-free despite being the nerve center for Texas Tech's entire offense, Harrell stood in the pocket and carved up the Cowboys without fail. Finding star receiver Michael Crabtree with regularity, Harrell also spread the ball to several other pass catchers in a customarily clean performance that has the quarterback alongside Colt McCoy at the top of the Heisman Trophy leaderboard.

There was no single moment that distinguished this game from his other masterpieces in 2008, but what Harrell is showing the country—now that Texas Tech is receiving the scrutiny and publicity that accompany the prime-time spotlight—is that his consistency is second to none in all of college football. Forgetting both his good snaps and his bad plays, Harrell's icy focus has enabled the gunslinger to deliver darts with machine-like regularity, time after time after time. Instead of resting on his laurels or relaxing after a few good drives, Mike Leach's main man under center just kept staring down defensive looks, squaring his body before each throw, and daring his opponent to come up with a credible response. Staring, squaring, and daring—because Graham Harrell can do those three things, he can enable his Texas Tech offense to engage in the most important activity of all: scoring. The Red Raiders rolled up the yards and rang up the points, dispensing with the drama one week after toppling Texas with a single tick left on the clock.

Beyond Harrell's unstoppable offense, the larger storyline to emerge from this Tech triumph is that the Red Raiders didn't let down after their victory over Mack Brown's Longhorns the week before. The hard part of being an elite college football team is that every opponent will bring its best, week after week, forcing the bearer of a bulls-eye to stay on top of its game. One week's shining success has to lead to the next week's focused and forceful follow-through. Texas Tech hadn't been accustomed to a two-week two-step such as this double dip involving Texas and Oklahoma State. Everyone in Lubbock was jacked up for the mighty Longhorns, but tonight's conquest against the Cowboys shows that Tech has more than a little staying power in this sport. As a reward for their concentration, the Red Raiders are now in good position to play in a premium postseason contest. Even with a loss in two weeks at Oklahoma, Tech is likely going to finish the regular season with an 11-1 record. This means that both Texas and Oklahoma would have to run the table in order to keep Tech out of a BCS bowl. Given that the Longhorns and Sooners both have other significant tests remaining (Texas at Kansas and possibly in the Big 12 title game; OU at Oklahoma State in addition to its aforementioned date with the Red Raiders), Texas Tech has achieved a position of strength in the Big 12 South, which is sure to produce two BCS representatives provided that the division winner ultimately takes the conference crown.

Go ahead. Try to stop Texas Tech's aerial offense. You know it's coming, but as Oklahoma State personally discovered on Saturday, that doesn't mean very much against Graham Harrell's group.



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