Frisbie -- "Shoot, we tried everything scratchin, clawin fightin . but, dadgumit, we just couldnt get to the ol quarterback."
This is what defensive coordinator Carl Reese said (in essence) after the Texas Tech game last year (not to mention the Arkansas and Oklahoma games this year). If we hear him say it round midnight Saturday, then this resurgent season will have headed south (as in, south toward San Antonios Alamo Bowl).
I dont think well hear Reese say it, though. Instead, Im counting on hearing something along these lines during Texas victorious post-game press conference:
"Dang, ol D.J. is a goodun. Sixteen tackles aint half-bad for a Butkus finalist. And ol Nate, he finally got that record. Eight interceptions? That sure keeps ol Coach Reese in the high rent district."
Heres why there should be a smile on Reeses face come Saturday night:
The defense is healthier. Last year, DE Cory Redding was the only healthy down-lineman to make the trip to Lubbock. By games end, Nathan Vasher and Derrick Johnson were hobbled by injuries. With nearly half your defense sidelined, on the road against record setting QB Kliff Kingsbury, Texas is in the game only because FL B. J. Johnson and SE Roy Williams had sensational afternoons.
Texas can run the ball now. Despite the defensive injuries, Texas wins that game in Lubbock if it could have run the ball in the fourth quarter. Of late, Texas has been pounding the ball against far superior defenses than Techs.
Its in Austin and its Senior Day. Tech tends to crater in Austin. And unless John Mackovic is on the Texas sideline, the Horns win by three TDs.
Even though Tech is not ranked (they should be), the game reminds me of the 1990 affair against Houstons run-and-shoot. Im looking for a similar outcome. (And will someone get that idiot off the goal post?) Texas 51, Texas Tech 23.
Pearle -- Clearly, Texas has not faced a passing offense this season with the devastating explosiveness of the Red Raiders -- well, maybe OU, but they are neck and neck. When B.J. Symons and Co. are clicking, and they click loudly just about every game whether win or lose, they appear virtually unstoppable.
The Raider offense gets opposing defenses so spread out that receivers seem to catch the ball in spaces as wide open as West Texas with room to run. On the ground, their running backs slither through defensive lines charging upfield to get heat on Symons to try and slow the pass. It is a lethally executed offense. Ive watched some or all of about five Tech games this year and the team I thought did the best job against them on defense, Missouri, still gave up 31 points and 527 yards of offense on a day where Symons threw three INTs. Of course, Mizzou put up 62, so I think that game is a pretty good blueprint for what we should see on Saturday.
Colorado "held" Tech to 490 yards of offense and only 26 points, so the Raiders can be reined in. The question is, can a Texas defense that looked absolutely helpless against the Kliff Kingsbury-led Raiders last season make a dramatic enough improvement to slow the Symons-led Raiders, allowing the Horns own suddenly-devastating offense to outscore them?
I think the answer is yes. Texas has found a semblance of a pass rush with Mike Williams, Kalen Thornton and Tim Crowder giving Carl Reese a nice rotation of athletes coming off the corners. Aaron Harris and Derrick Johnson are ferocious blitzers from their linebacker positions, and Marcus Tubbs and Rod Wright are healthy and have the ability to keep things contained up the middle. Nathan Vasher is having an excellent season and did a great job against Rashaun Woods last Saturday, and Ive been singing the praises of Phillip Geiggar every week in this column. So I think the Horn D is much stronger, much more experienced and should be much more confident than the depleted unit that played so cluelessly against Tech last season. And of course, the game is in Austin. All three of the Raider losses this season have come on the road, so the Texas crowd, which got loud and rowdy against both Kansas State and Nebraska, can help to disrupt the Raider offensive rhythm.
As for the Raider defense, well, the Horns should be able to score, and score, and score . . . The Tech defense has shown some improvement since Mike Leach excoriated them in the press following the Missouri embarrassment, but they will not be able to stop the Horns from doing about whatever they please on offense. When this thing finally ends, sometime early Sunday morning when most good people are fast asleep in their beds, I see Texas still standing, completely exhausted though they may be. Texas 51, Texas Tech 31.
Ross -- Let me get this out of the way immediately. Yes, I picked OSU over Texas last week in a real stinker of a pick. I am not immune from see 'em wrong, occasionally. I also picked Texas over Texas Tech last year in Lubbock, for what at the time seemed like very solid reasoning: the Horns would do what they had done to Kliff Kingsbury and Co. for the three previous seasons; pressure him and prevent the Raider dink-pass offense from getting in a rhythm while the Texas offense would control the game with long, time-consuming drives. Interestingly, that formula is exactly what I expect to see this year, and frankly, given UT's play over the last two weeks, this year's version of the Horns looks much more capable of successfully carrying it out than last year's bunch.
I've been gun-shy -- and still am, to an extent -- in believing that this Texas team has completely turned the corner both offensively and defensively from its performances earlier this season and that it has overcome for good the consistent failings of the last several seasons. Too often has the "We're Back" mantra been revived, only to be promptly crushed with a gut-wrenching defeat where the same ol', same ol' rears its ugly head.
But I will admit, the Longhorns' play over the last two weeks is forcing me to reevaluate, largely due to what looks to be some reevaluating on the part of the coaches -- see the Inside Scoop for more -- but also because of what I saw in the second half in Stillwater. The first half of the game played out largely how I expected the entire game to play out; close, with the Cowboys' balanced attack able to score while the Horns, after falling behind, would struggle against a good (but not great) OSU defense because of Vince Young's shortcomings in the passing game.
Instead, the first drive of the second half (among other things) proved that the Longhorn O is capable of balance even with runner Young under center. The down the seam pass to Bo Scaife on that drive was sheer beauty. The threat of the run by Young has opened up that type of pass play, and if Young is capable of completing it, few teams will be able to stop this Texas offense. Opposing defensive coordinators are facing a nightmare scenario: play the pass and watch Young and Cedric Benson, behind an improving OL and the lead blocking of FB Will Matthews, eat you up; play the run, and watch Young find Roy Williams or Scaife or any one of the Longhorn receiving threats for potential big-gainers.
On defense, the biggest and most important improvement over this two game span, I believe, has been in pressuring the QB, through the front four yes, but also with a return to more blitzing and man coverage. This defense can (and probably will) still be burned. It's not at the level of Oklahoma's D. But I'd rather it get burned occasionally because of aggressive play than be burned consistently because of passive play.
So, I simply can not see the Raiders stopping the Texas offense and, while Tech -- even with a gimpy B.J. Symons -- will almost certainly get yards and some points, I simply can not see the Red Raiders outscoring the new and improved UT O, the best unit Tech will see up to this point in the season (and that includes Missouri and its Vince-like QB Brad Smith, who absolutely destroyed the Raiders' D). Texas 55, Texas Tech 28.