Archive for Monday, October 27, 2008

Commentary: Mammoth game looms in Lubbock

October 27, 2008


They're ready to rumble in Lubbock, Texas, where the stakes never have been higher for a Texas Tech home game.

The Red Raiders (8-0, 4-0 Big 12), boosted by Saturday's 63-21 rout of Kansas, climbed Sunday to No. 6 in The Associated Press poll-one spot ahead of Southern California-and placed seventh in the BCS standings. Tech is 8-0 for the first time since 1976 and can reach 9-0 for the first time in 70 years by upsetting top-ranked Texas (8-0, 4-0) when the teams meet at 7 p.m. Saturday.

It will mark the first November matchup of undefeated teams ever held in Lubbock, a milestone that will bring the ESPN "College Gameday" crew to the Tech campus.

This will be the first November showdown between top-10 teams with title implications to hit the South Plains since 1976, when No. 9 Houston edged No. 5 Tech, 27-19, to claim a share of the Southwest Conference title and a berth in the Cotton Bowl.

Most important, it's a matchup Tech may be better equipped to handle than any of the three previous Big 12 contenders that have fallen to the top-ranked Longhorns in the past three weeks. How well that translates on game day depends on whether Tech coach Mike Leach can keep his troops as focused as they were while dismantling then-No. 19 Kansas in the Red Raiders' most impressive performance of the season.

"All of the games leading up to this game were big games," Leach said. "You just have to do the same stuff. We will prepare well and see where it takes us."

A victory would take Tech to the top of the South Division standings, with a 9-0 record. Only in 1938, when Tech posted a 10-0 regular-season mark, has any team in school history reached 9-0.

After watching the defense force five turnovers while stifling a Kansas attack that had been averaging 33.9 points per game, quarterback Graham Harrell said the Red Raiders were "tough to beat" when the defense clicks.

Kansas coach Mark Mangino was more direct, saying the Red Raiders administered "a good, old-fashioned butt-whooping" that proved Tech was more than just a prolific passing team.

That is precisely the formula needed for a team hoping to knock off Texas. These Longhorns have defensive vulnerabilities, especially against an accurate passer with time on his hands.

But first-year Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp keeps his young secondary from being exposed with a stellar pass rush and by relying on a relentless, chains-moving offense that kept the ball for 33:28 in Saturday's 28-24 victory over then-No. 7 Oklahoma State.

If Tech can force Texas' defense to stay on the field for 34 minutes or longer, an upset is possible.

It becomes even more possible if the Longhorns' pass rush is not constantly harassing Harrell.

Texas collected five sacks against Oklahoma State and averages 3.6 per game, ranking second in the nation. Harrell has been sacked only three times this season, although two of them came against Kansas.

Cornerback Jamar Wall is confident the Raiders won't be distracted by the extra attention they will receive this week.

"It's not really pressure," Wall said. "We've wanted it for so long, and now we have it. ... Everyone knows that this is our year."


davidsmom 9 years, 4 months ago

Wouldn't you know it - Harrell is sacked only three times this season and two of those by the Jayhawks, for all the good that did us.

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