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Quarterbacks, Defenses, Intangibles And Other Stuff About Texas Tech

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Seth C, from SBN's Texas Tech site Double T Nation, is aboard the Machine today to give a fan's perspective on this weekend's opponent. We've seen crazy things happen in Lubbock during Oklahoma's last two trips there and now a team that's been snake bitten over and over this season travels to play in the Twilight Zone.

CC Machine: Tell us about the quarterback situation at Tech. What's going on between Potts and Leach and how healthy is Sheffield? Who should we expect to see Saturday morning?

Seth C: Leach mentioned earlier this week that he regrets pulling Taylor Potts out and putting in an injured Steven Sheffield.  Sheffield was clearly not ready to go and despite his early season magic, without an offensive line that will adequately protect him, he's simply not as effective as when he had an ankle that wasn't broken.  To answer your question, I think you'll see Taylor Potts for the entire game on Saturday, barring an injury.  If Potts is injured during the game, I think Leach will probably turn to redshirt freshman Seth Doege.

CC Machine: The Red Raiders are dead last in the conference in rushing. Is that because of inability or is it just pass-happy game planning?

Seth C: The rushing numbers do look abysmal this year and there's lots of reasons why those number don't look so good.  I mentioned this in my Five Reasons Texas Tech Will Lose as Texas Tech has lost a total of 283 yards to sacks this year.  Compare that with 2008 where the Texas Tech offensive line gave up a total of 113 yards for the year.  I'd also add that the line is giving up 2.7 sacks a game and to do the math quickly, that's a little over 10 yards a sack.  That will hurt a running game quickly.  I'd also add that Texas Tech is only averaging about 2 attempts less than last year, so it's not as if the running game has changed dramatically.  The offensive line has also struggled in replacing 3 starters from last year, and despite thoughts that the team would have no issues replacing those guys (I'm sure that Sooner fans can relate), there has been consistency issues along the line.  For the first time, in quite some time, the offensive line is starting the same unit for what appears to be 3 consecutive games and there's the thought that that consistency will pay off a bit with an improved running game this week.

CC Machine: This game features the Big 12's top passing attack against the conference's best pass defense. Share some intangibles that could work for and against Texas Tech in this matchup.

Seth C: If there's one intangible I'm counting on this week, it's the fact that the receiving corp is littered with guys who have the potential to make plays.  The previous two years, it was a one-man-show with Crabtree and this year, it's really been a combination of guys who have stepped up at various points of the season to lead the team in receiving.  Conversely, you could say that having a lead receiver generally means that you've got at least one player that an opposing defensive coordinator has to account for during the game.  The fact that there are 10 players with 17 or more catches for the year should demonstrate that it's not just one guy.  I also keep thinking that the running backs are due for a break-out game catching the ball out of the backfield.  Last week, the passes to the running backs were telegraphed and just didn't work.  I'm hoping like hell that Potts and Leach make a determination if they need to stay in for pass protection, and if not, then get those guys in open space, especially Baron Batch.

CC Machine: How in the world did this team lose 52-30 to A&M?

Seth C: For me, it was the defense and this is really symptomatic of the entire season.  Quarterbacks who have the ability to scramble for first downs have had  quite a bit of success against Texas Tech.  Whether it be Case Keenum, Jerrod Johnson or Zac Robinson, all three guys were more than capable of seeing that the Texas Tech defense was dropping all but the front four into coverage, leaving huge chunks of yards for the quarterback to easily get first downs.  Third down conversion rates for Texas Tech's four losses are 50.00% (Texas); 52.63% (Houston); 57.14% (Texas A&M); and 50.00% (Oklahoma St.).  There's also something to be said for the fact that DE Brandon Sharpe hardly played against Texas A&M and he is Texas Tech's best pass rusher.  I don't think he would have made a huge difference, but he's still a big part of getting to the quarterback and not having him hurt some.

CC Machine: When it comes to Texas Tech football most people immediately think of the fast paced spread offensive attack. However, Tech has made significant strides of the defensive side of the ball the last two years. Tell us about some of the strengths and weaknesses of the Red Raider defense.

Seth C: The biggest strength lies in the pass defense, and really all facets of pass defense.  The Red Raiders are tied with the Sooners for 2nd in the nation in sacks.  This is in large part credit to the defensive ends, including the aforementioned Brandon Sharpe, Daniel Howard and Rajon Henley.  All guys play with fairly high motors and I think that's been a big key to their success, aside from being talented, in that they are all hard workers.  I also think the entire secondary has done a pretty good job of not giving up many big plays (this again goes back to playing it safe, typically in a cover-2 scheme) and the cornerbacks have been really good.  The unit is 3rd in the Big 12 in passes defended at a little over 6 a game.  The biggest difference has been an increase in overall athleticism across the board.  I think the safeties, Cody Davis and Franklin Mitchem, are overall more athletic than their predecessors and corners Jamar Wall and LaRon Moore have been much better at defending the pass.  Fortunately for Oklahoma, it looks as if the hit that laid out OSU's Zac Robinson will keep Wall out for this weekend's game.