I had some thoughts on beating our sand-crotched brethren from the Outback, fresh off of a 2-0 start with wins over SMU and New Mexico.
Although we're 44-15 against Tech all time, we're only 3-3 against the Red Raiders under Brown in Lubbock (9-3 overall). This game has the look of coin flip.
Scores in Lubbock since 1998:
1998 35-42 L
2000 29-17 W
2002 38-42 L
2004 51-21 W
2006 35-31 W
2008 33-39 L
As you can see, points haven't been hard to come by in Lubbock, but we've not generally covered ourselves in glory defensively.
This is Tech's little Super Bowl and they've printed up game theme t-shirts with the slogan "Put Up Or Shut Up" - which narrowly edged out:
A Carton of Marlboro Reds Says We Whip Your Ass
The SAT - That's Some Bullshit, For Real
Whether It's a Couch, When You Piss, Or Your Corners, You Will Leave Lubbock With A Burning Sensation
Very little has changed except for the fact that Tech is making a slightly more concerted effort to run the ball, the QB has less latitude in audibles, and they've cut their line splits. They're uptempo hurry-up and they're averaging 80+ plays per game. They actually haven't been all that explosive overall, getting yardage at a 5.5 yards per play clip against SMU and New Mexico; they're putting up numbers with volume more than a litany of big plays. Their skill players are much better than anything we've seen thus far.
Taylor Potts has been very solid with 7 TD passes and no interceptions on 56 of 87 for 652 through two games. He has gotten away with a couple of regrettable throws that were dropped by defenders, but he continues to show a good arm and pocket presence. Taylor isn't going to create any plays with his feet and that's going to pose a problem for their offense when our guys cover downfield.
I've been surprised by the modest output of this talented group as Tech has struggled to run the ball so far, averaging 112 yards per game at a 3.3 ypc clip. All of their RBs can catch out of the backfield. Baron Batch is a solid all-around RB who runs through arm tackles, Harrison Jeffers is a speedster, and Eric Stephens may be the most talented all-around pure runner of the bunch. I like these guys and I don't think the running game disappointment thus far can be laid at their feet.
Many of these guys lost 30 and 40 pounds in the offseason, but they're still a massive OL averaging about 315 or so. They're doing pretty well in pass protection and Tech OC Neal Brown has cut down their splits considerably. They don't get great push off of the ball and they've not yet hit their stride in the running game. Their attempts at zone blocking are amusing at times - lots of waddling about. When they fire off and maul, they look a lot better. My primary concern with this bunch is that late in the game their size will wear on our inside guys, particularly Kheeston Randall. If they can convert some third downs to stay on the field, they may be able to create some opportunistic plays in the running game late or at least slow our pass rush to a crawl.
Potts' favorite mark former high school teammate Lyle Leong already has 5 TDs on the year, but Tech does a pretty good job of distributing the ball widely. We'll see 6-7 guys play (Zouzalik is back) with Detron Lewis representing their best chain mover. Franks is a relatively new face catching a lot of underneath stuff. These guys are all solid and not world beaters, but once they get in rhythm they start to break you down with death by a thousand cuts with a coup de grace eventually coming over the top. They've also traditionally fed off of their home crowd to make acrobatic catches and play at a speed they usually don't match for the rest of the year. Their tempo seems to shock people initially and then teams adjust. They're outscoring opponents 28-3 in the first quarter so far this year.
How Tech Will Attack Us
They'll test Chykie Brown deep and attack our safeties. I'd run four wide all vertical/stop combo routes to get Gideon or Scott isolated over the top or giving up so much ground underneath that they can hit 8-10 yard stick routes at will. They need to avoid working our other corners unless it's on crossing routes with picks. They better get the ball out quickly too and Potts hasn't always had a great internal clock.
If they can't punish us at all in the running game when we run more exotic situational packages, they're in for a long day. I don't think they're hoping or expecting to put up more than 30+ points as they have in their previous wins. Tuberville is gunning for a 23-20 type of win.
How Will We Attack Tech
I don't expect Robinson or E Acho to leave the field and I anticipate heavy snaps from Kenny Vaccaro, even if it means going small to a 3-2-6 and playing Vaccaro in the box or going to a Big Nickel 4-2-5 and zoning.
Tech has a major quickness deficit against our DL. If they can't run against our DE fronts, they're in trouble. Similarly, Potts is a bit immobile and his toughness, though laudable, can play against him with guys like Acho, Robinson, and Eddie Jones taking shots on him. I might be tempted to stick Curtis Brown on Leong as a shadow as he has a similar body type and can match his quickness step for step. It's an intriguing thought, anyway.
Several of our DL role players - Okafor, Higgins, Wilson, Johnson - need to come up big and give us starter quality snaps. Depth will be huge for us on the DL and at DB.
Ruffin McNeill's 4-3 base defense approach was as predictable as his second breakfast before 11:00am and that's gone now. Tech lines up as multiple as we do. Mostly, it's an effort to mask some deficient personnel in their Front 7 and to find ways of manufacturing pressure and negative plays with high effort defenders.
I don't think Tech's D is all that great, but they're opportunistic and they're better than their statistics suggest given the number of plays they must defend.
The baseline talent level in their DBs is the best it has been in a while in my lazy viewing of three plus quarters. Usually, Tech could be counted on to have 1-2 guys you could pick on back here, but they're all solid athletically. I don't think they're particularly experienced though and I saw some busts against SMU.
I'll just deal with their front 7 as a whole. Colby Whitlock is their best player and he'll play NT in their odd fronts and a shaded DT in their even fronts. He's not a playmaker - more of a line plug. He won't show up on the stat sheet, but he keeps the LOS against double teams. If Snow can handle him one-on-one, we will be able to run inside on Tech.
Brian Duncan - former MLB - is now a pass rushing terror and he already has four sacks. He has that Dwight Freeney low base and crazy first step and it's tough to get your hands on him. We have to account for him and we can't allow Tech to get him isolated on our RBs in blitz pick-up.
I'm not much impressed with the rest of their DL and they're basically in there just to fill space for their LBs. Except for Kerry Hyder - he does have some pass rush ability. Bront Bird has transformed his body from a rangy OLB to a run-plugging ILB and he's solid. LB Sam Fehoko is a pretty good athlete too.
Beyond Duncan/Whitlock, I'm unimpressed with Tech's front 7. However, it's not as if their personnel are worse than Wyoming or Rice and they had no problems holding our offense down under 400 yards.
How To Attack Tech
Play real offense. The play calling has been bullshit thus far and the combined field goal in the first quarter of play is testament to that. Gilbert will gain confidence by running real offense, not some watered down training wheels kit that purports to protect him from the cold, cruel world. Tech can be run and thrown on and there's no excuse not to take the fight to the opponent on the road as we did against Mizzou last year. Work Mike Davis in the slot heavy early like he's Shipley and then come back over the top to Malcolm or Marquise when a safety decides to become a hero. The running game will open up like a Tech co-eds legs after a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20.
How Tech Will Attack Us
We haven't seen much in terms of pressure this year. Tech is a blitz heavy team, but they do it without bringing the house. I expect Tech to test us to see if they can get our fragile offensive confidence to crumble in a hostile environment. Think Washington State if you're a fan of dredging up impotent offensive game plans and need a worst case scenario.
Overall, I feel like we can get out of Lubbock with a close win with defense and a special teams play, but anyone who thinks they have their finger on the pulse of this team is delusional.
What say you?