Cotton Bowl Preview: Texas Tech & Mississippi

The Texas Tech Red Raiders prepare for their 3rd New Years Day Bowl in 4 seasons under Head Coach Mike Leach. After having been in the BCS talk for most of November, Tech now faces a feisty Ole Miss team and themselves as their own worst enemy in an attempt to re-kindle the fire that led the team to 10-0. Come inside as football analyst Mitchell Fish makes his pick for the 73rd annual Cotton Bowl.

When Tech has the ball:

All-Americans Brandon Carter and Rylan Reed have led the Texas Tech offensive line which gave up only 11 sacks in 2008, arguably one of the best groups of pass-blockers in NCAA history.

But the true story was the Raiders renewed ground game which played a large part in Tech's offensive success throughout the season.

Rushing for 1412 yards, Baron Batch and Shannon Woods were a dynamic duo but now face a strong test as Mississippi defensive tackle Peria Jerry and company look to put the clamps on a resurgent Raider rushing attack.

While the Rebels rank 6th against the run, they rank 62nd against the pass. Mississippi will try to use the Alabama game plan from the 2006 Cotton Bowl in putting the Raiders in 3rd and long, allowing them to unleash the "land shark" defense to rush the passer.

Tech will counter with draws and screens to try and take advantage of an aggressive Ole Miss defense and also attempt to stretch the field with All-American Michael Crabtree and speedy wide out Edward Britton.

When Mississippi has the ball:

The Rebs were in danger of a 5th consecutive losing season halfway through October when they went on a 5 game tear, finishing the season 8-4 (5-3 SEC).

Behind the arm of University of Texas transfer Jevan Snead and the running of talented juniors Cordera Eason and Dexter McCluster (644 and 558 yards respectively), the Rebs return to a bowl game for the first time since the Cotton Bowl following the 2003 season.

Ole Miss runs what might be called an Southeastern Conference office, basically an NFL pro-style offense with multiple personnel groupings and formations.

While Tech doesn't see many offenses like this in league play, especially with the Big XII being on the leading edge of the Spread offense development.

For the Raiders to stop Ole Miss, they'll need strong games from the Big XII's leading sacker in Brandon Williams and 6th in the conference McKinner Dixon.

Sophomore nose man Colby Whitlock will also be an important cog in the Raiders defense, as he has started 22 games out of his first 25 and 22 consecutive.

Brian Duncan, Marlon Williams, and Bront Bird will have a big task in not only stopping the Rebs standard running and passing plays but also slowing down Dexter McCluster, the talented junior receiver/running back who lines up in the shot-gun for direct snaps as a change of pace.

What Will Happen:

Texas Tech has was 5 of its last 6 bowl games, but haven't scored more than 7 points in the first half since beating California in the 2004 Holiday Bowl.

Mississippi looks to prove that it deserves to be amongst the big boys in the SEC and nationally, trying to win their 2nd Cotton Bowl in 5 years,

In the end, it will come down to Mississippi's defensive line against Texas Tech's offensive line.

While Rebel fans have seen their line dominate at different points in the season, Tech's line matches up well and should be able to protect senior quarterback Graham Harrell and allow the Raiders to execute their offense and win in a game decided by 10-14 points.

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