Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer -- On paper, this looks like the scariest game of the year for Texas. But what else is new when Texas Tech brings its Freak Show offense to Austin?
Let's get this out of the way: a Texas defense that still can't defend the pass, can't consistently pressure the QB, can't keep its backup (read: better) linebackers on the field and has forgotten how to tackle now faces the nation's top passing offense (481.2 ypg), nation's top passing QB (430.4 ypg) and the nation's top receiver (Michael Crabtree) in both receptions (10.4 per game) and yards (151 per game).
Can Longhorn fans stand a third-straight, fourth-quarter rally?
Texas isn't going to learn to tackle any better with just two games remaining, and its undersized DBs aren't going to grow another two inches by Saturday. That's why Texas fans are thankful that DEs Brian Orakpo and Aaron Lewis have returned to form following early injuries and that tackles Frank Okam and Derek Lokey are playing the best ball of their careers. Horn fans also have their fingers crossed that the bigger, faster, more athletic and more physical backup linebackers are on the field because that's where this game gets dicey. (Sergio Kindle, Jared Norton and Roddrick Muckelroy are everything but durable.) All those slants and screens are de facto running plays for Tech.
But save for a 38-7 win at Baylor last Saturday, the Red Raiders haven't won a Big 12 road game all year. (Then again, if Michael Crabtree hangs onto that last-play attempt in the back of Oklahoma State's end zone, the Red Raiders come to Austin tied with Texas with a league mark at 4-2). That play, however, encapsulates coach Mike Leach's tenure in Lubbock: a highly-competitive, high-flying offensive team characterized by lots of near-misses and a program that is ever-so-close to getting over the hump. The difference, again, is a mediocre Tech defense. Leach fired his DC on September 23, and the result is that an invigorated Red Raider defense is flying to the ball -- and chasing runners and receivers all the way down field. If Leach could ever elevate his defense to where its worthy of mention in the same sentence as his offense, then his program becomes a national power instead of just Texas A&M's worst nightmare. Statistically, it's the same old tortilla for Tech's defense, ranked No. 71 against the run (166.3 ypg).
From here, it looks like another year where the Red Raiders walloped the Aggies but still end up in a third-tier bowl with four or five losses. Texas 37, Texas Tech 24.
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor: Texas can't stop the pass but can run the football. Texas Tech can't stop the run but can pass the football.
Getcha popcorn ready.
All of the numbers indicate that this is going to be a high-scoring shootout. Of course, all of the numbers have indicated a lot of things this season. By the numbers, the Longhorns should be an unranked 6-4 football team. By the numbers, they shouldn't be anywhere close to BCS contention.
Yet they are, but the numbers will be much truer to form in this one as each team will knife up and down the field. However, Texas will be able to do it just one more time than the Red Raiders.
A couple weeks ago I had no faith in Texas' ability to win this game. Yet after playing even worse against the pass than before, my confidence in the Longhorns is actually heightened. For all of the problems and mistakes and issues that this team has shown, they've shown the resolve necessary to win games. They've also shown that they have a powerhouse running game in the fourth quarter. This time, though, that running game expands to the rest of the contest and Texas will rack up the points.
Tech will only be slowed, not stopped by the Horns, but that's all it'll take. Texas 38, Texas Tech 35
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor -- I get angry every year at this time. Watching Texas Tech play offense is like watching my four-year-old son stand in a pile of ants, crying his eyes out, yet refusing to move. The ants are everywhere, and he just can't seem to get them all off his feet and ankles. After seeing this – and after getting mad at my son for not moving and mad at the ants for biting – I finally jump in and brush the ants away.
Same thing with Texas Tech.
Mike Leach fancies himself a pirate, but he's more like a fire ant. He and his Red Raiders emerge from their hole in Lubbock ready to swarm and bite and generally irritate. And it hurts; it always hurts to play Texas Tech. They might not even travel with a punter this year. They go for it on fourth and eight from their own 30, just because. They always have a little receiver from Muleshoe that none of the Texas Five Stars can seem to cover. Blink your eyes, and it's 21-0 Tech. But luckily, blink your eyes again, and the Red Raiders haven't scored at all in two quarters and have thrown three interceptions.
And like those annoying little beasts in your back yard, they usually do no long-term harm. In the first quarter – or maybe the first half – they'll gnaw at your toes and munch your ankles and use the hair on your legs to crawl higher and higher, but once the realization sets in and your senses are gathered and you are sufficiently upset, you can brush them aside with minimal damage.
Same thing with Texas Tech.
The Red Raiders will crawl and bite and cause pain early on Saturday, but per usual, they'll get tired and their defense, such that it is, will be exhausted after chasing Jamaal Charles all over the place.
I assume Mack Brown's diatribe against Oklahoma State was well-heeded this week, and as such, I'm going to be a glass half-full guy now and claim that Texas will not play nearly as poorly as it did last week in Stillwater. Even still, Texas Tech will score points – 28 of them, to be exact, 21 in the first half – and Texas will score 48, 31 of them in the second half.
Same old Tech. Texas 48, Texas Tech 28.
Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher -- This game scares me to death. Texas' pass defense has been terrible the last couple of weeks, in part because the pass rush has been weak to non-existent. I just keep picturing those Nebraska and Okie State receivers as they roamed wild and free in the Horns' secondary, racking up catch after catch and TD after TD, while the Horn front seven failed to get within the same zip code of the quarterback. And the tackling of course has been just as bad.
Meanwhile, Texas Tech comes rolling into town ranked number one nationally in both passing and total offense, featuring two receivers in Michael Crabtree and Danny Amendola who just love to catch and run. That, my friends, is a burnt orange train wreck waiting to happen. To make matters worse, with no Drew Kelson or Eddie Jones, and with Sergio Kindle and Jared Norton likely to play but banged up, the Horns won't have a full arsenal of defenders to keep the rotation fresh.
But while the defense has been pretty bad, something positive seems to be happening with the offense, and maybe with the team as a whole. Texas pulled off a near miracle again last Saturday, and has come from behind dramatically to win the last two weeks. With Jamaal Charles running with renewed energy, speed and physicality, with Jermichael Finley adding big plays to the mix at tight end, with Quan Cosby and Jordan Shipley getting behind defenders deep, and with Colt McCoy turning it on with his legs, lighting the fuse on the zone read, the Horns have got to be building confidence. And let's not forget kicker Ryan Bailey. This kid is turning into a clutch performer for the Horns, doing exactly what he had to do to give Texas the wins over both the Huskers and the Cowboys. This team has momentum, and must be starting to believe in themselves and their ability to do whatever it takes to win.
So while I see Texas Tech racking up scads of yards and points against the struggling Texas defense, I also see the Horns' offense matching the Raiders yard for yard and point for point, and then some. After getting embarrassed by Kansas State and then barely scraping by a bad Nebraska team in their last two appearances at Royal-Memorial, Texas should be ready to play loose and have some fun in front of the home fans. This one will be another wild west shootout in a long line of ‘em between these two schools, but when the smoke clears, the Horns will still be standing. Texas 41, Tech 35.
Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher – I mentioned this in yesterday's Inside Texas Podcast, but I don't have a strong feeling one way or the other for this game. A convincing argument can be made for either outcome, and I find myself buying both arguments, to some extent. My biggest concern, of course, is that the Texas Tech passing offense – which is light years more potent than Nebraska and Oklahoma State's, the two that just torched Texas – will easily surpass the 500-yard mark against a no pass rush, no tackle Longhorn D. But that concern is balanced by the belief that Jamaal Charles has hit his stride at the perfect time, giving the Horns a ball control advantage setting up another strong offensive second half as the Tech defenders wear down over the course a long, surprisingly warm November afternoon at DKR.
For the sixth consecutive week, this team's back is against the wall. After losing that first must-win game in the Cotton Bowl, it's not going to win the Big 12 (barring a monumental, Texas-in-2006-type collapse from the Sooners), but four straight wins since has it in the hunt for a BCS berth. The players, at least from their public comments, don't seem to be eyeing that end-of-season prize, yet, but rather focusing on finishing out an improbable run (given the second-half deficits faced over the last two weeks) to 10 wins, starting with No. 9 this Saturday.
Perhaps that's the difference from this team and last year's, which came into week 11 last year needing just one win in two games to clinch the Big 12 South title and a trip to Kansas City. This one has no such luxury. Winning just one of the final two this year will probably send the Horns to the Holiday Bowl. Two losses and it could be worse, like San Antonio or Shreveport worse.
What I'm getting at is I think this team, with a healthy Colt McCoy at quarterback, has demonstrated a sense of urgency – often late arriving, yes, but there none-the-less – that last year's squad couldn't muster over its crucial closing stretch. That will be enough to power this less-talented-than-‘06 team to a win over the Red Raiders so that it will not face the same fate as last year's more-talented squad. Texas 37, Texas Tech 27.
Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 42, Texas Tech 30.