1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-6, 3-5)
Bad Guys: Baylor Bears (5-6, 3-5)
When to Watch: Saturday, November 24th @ 11:00 a.m.
Where to Watch:AT&T Stadium | Arlington, Texas
How to Watch: FS1 | FOXSportsGo
How to Listen: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
The Line: Texas Tech -7 (OddsShark)
2. Uniform Tracker
3. The Big Storyline
Most difficult 7 Point preview to write all year. Despite spending countless hours watching, writing, thinking, and discerning about this program, I don’t really know what to expect on Saturday. I don’t know if we’ll see the Colt Garrett show or if we’ll see McLane Carter bookend the season, opening the season as the starter and ending the season the same way. I’ll be honest, from what we’ve seen of Carter, I’m concerned that he’s maybe not all that great of a quarterback, this is despite the fact that he essentially won the quarterback competition coming out of the preseason camp.
Here we are and I’m not sure what I want to say other than I hope to thoroughly confuse you. By almost every advanced statistical category, Texas Tech is a better team than they were last year, maybe even a significantly better team. FEI is probably the one that’s the harshest critic of Texas Tech says that Texas Tech has only improved from 52nd in 2017 to 48th in 2018 (they were 65th in 2016). College Football Analytics says that Texas Tech was the 52nd best team in 2017, the 62nd best team in 2016 and has improved to the 38th best team this year. ESPN’s FPI says that Texas Tech is the 27th best team in the nation compared to 42nd in 2017 and 53rd in 2016. For S&P+, Texas Tech is 32nd in 2018, up from 58th in 2017, and 66th in 2016.
So even the harshest of the advanced stats, which is the reason I use those is because it encompasses all sorts of metrics that don’t get included in something as simplistic as total offense or total defense. The one thing that it doesn’t take into effect is the wins and losses. And the reason I’m thinking about all of this is that there is a real possibility that if a new coach is hired the product on the field will not only be worse, but perhaps significantly worse in 2019. I know that wins and losses are bottom line indicators of success or failure, but all of the indicators show that Kingsbury has the program pointed in the right direction, or in a direction that’s trending up and not trending down.
I suppose that there’s also the possibility that this could be similar to what Chris Beard did with the basketball program. Tubby Smith left a lot of good players (you could argue that he left good to great players because Keenan Evans in my book is a great player and if Zach Smith had been healthy for his entire senior year, who knows what he’s able to do) and a program in good shape that was at the very least trending upward. Chris Beard took what was very good and made it better, so there is the chance that if a new hire takes place, that the product on the field will improve because Kingsbury has the program trending in the right direction.
So maybe, there’s no risk at all.
Juxtapose all of that with Austin American Statesman’s Kirk Bohls’ tweet from yesterday:
I’ll be very surprised if Kliff Kingsbury survives this season at Texas Tech. Source tells me if he’s fired, Tech will look seriously at Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
I know what you’re thinking, which is what does Bohls know about Texas Tech’s situation and his son was Raider Red for a couple of years (I think he’s now Rowdy for the Dallas Cowboys) and he got to know Hocutt that way and I think has had a couple of interviews with Hocutt previously. In any event, that’s the connection from my end of things.
Couple that with Hocutt’s comments Wednesday and, well . . .
“Obviously, it was not the day that we expected or that we wanted by any measure,” Hocutt said. “We have talked on this show about our expectations and where we aspire to be and wanting to be relevant, but you are what your record says you are. We’re not where we expect to be and football is the ultimate team sport. You have 11 men on the field and you’re only going to be as successful as each individual executes their responsibility. Unfortunately we just seem to continue to have lapses in focus, lack of discipline at certain times. Those mistakes, those penalties continue to affect us and the success we’re not experiencing right now.”
4. Keys for Texas Tech
- Try not to get caught up in the “what if’s” and just go win the danged game. I think this is going to be tough, but kids are pretty resilient and I don’t think their psyche will be affected all that much. Play your tails off and be your best you can be. That’s not exactly a “key” that is definable, but I think for Texas Tech this one runs pretty high on emotion.
- I don’t even know if this is possible, but whatever Gibbs can do to take away Baylor’s ability to run would be the absolute best thing. Baylor is ranked 38th in Rushing S&P+ and although a lot of those runs are Brewer, JaMycal hasty and John Lovett both average about 6 yards a rush, so when they break free, they’ll gain some yards.
- I’m a bit surprised that Baylor and Brewer are 99th in Passing S&P+, Brewer was terrible against West Virginia, a negative quarterback rating, -39.40, which is something I had never seen, but I think he was injured. In any event, Brewer rebounded with a pretty good game against Iowa State (158 QB rating) and then fell back to earth against TCU where he averaged 5.6 yards per pass and a QB rating of 89. At the very least, maybe Brewer is inconsistent and he normally doesn’t throw a ton of picks, the WVU game was the only multi-interception of the year, but let’s hope we get the Bad Brewer for this game.
- Kinda tired thinking that Texas Tech is going to rush or should be better and I think that’s simply not going to happen, but it really needs to happen for this game. If McLane Carter or Colt Garrett starts, they’re going to need help, probably lots of help, but my confidence that the line can be better than what they’ve been the last few weeks is minimal at best.
5. What to Watch
When Rhule was hired, I really thought he’d go traditional tight end and smash mouth football and that’s not what we’ve seen. Baylor is pretty traditional spread in a very generic sense (I’m not at all trying to break down the X’s and O’s of the offense, just really speaking generally) . . . the first play is a horrible pass by Brewer, not even sure whey he threw it . . . the second highlight wasn’t great and not sure why they showed it . . . the touchdown run by the QB was designed and nothing special, nice blocking by OSU . . . the zone coverage looked pretty terrible, just sitting wide open there . . . the quarterback sneak for the touchdown looked pretty iffy . . . a blocked punt, that does not bode well and there were too many Baylor players and not enough blockers, better be ready for that . . . somewhat surprised how Baylor isn’t able to get outside and make the play . . . the touchdown pass is pretty traditional offense, one where the Baylor defender just doesn’t get in front of the receiver . . . the long Baylor run is pretty nice design play, just have to make one defender miss on the backside of the run and the rest is blocked really well and I’m honestly surprised the Baylor backs haven’t been better . . . OSU just lines up and moves Baylor back . . . the Brewer pass is a very nice sideline pass that looked the receiver made a terrific move and play . . . the touchdown to win the game was nice recognition of one-on-one coverage and an excellent catch, I’m a little nervous is Mims is on that side because that’s where Desmon Smith normally plays and that’s a bad combination for Texas Tech . . .
First highlight out of the gate is a Baylor fumble (please let this happen early and often) . . . Brewer makes a really nice throw, just drops it where only the receiver can get to it . . . a nice pitch and catch over the middle . . . the scramble for a touchdown was almost a disaster for Brewer, but a quick recognition to reverse field, the backside was blocked pretty well . . . another blocked punt and Baylor is just bringing a ton of players . . . another Baylor fumble, this time right inside the 10 yard line . . . we get to see Baylor’s inability to tackle all right there on that long Reagor play . . . then we get to see TCU’s inability to catch #5 for Baylor . . . a terrible pass for Brewer, just an absolutely terrible decision . . . a 4th and 1 for TCU ends up as the difference in the game and as a touchdown, just terrible . . . the way Brewer runs with the ball I’m surprised he doesn’t lose more fumbles . . .
6. Coach’s Corner
“Appreciate you guys being here for the last regular season press conference. Appreciate everything you guys have done all year and I mean that sincerely. Obviously, disappointed about Saturday. Really a case and a day of missed opportunities, chances to win the football game. Credit to TCU, they made the plays and we didn’t. Our seniors were tremendously disappointed, I know our young guys were disappointed that they couldn’t send those guys off with a win. Anytime you have three turnovers, I think the football statistics say you have a seven percent chance to win. Credit to our defense that they hung in there, gave us a chance to have the ball at the end of the game with a chance to go and tie the game up. The last three games we’ve played at McLane we’ve had the ball at the end with a chance to go win it. We were able to do it twice, we weren’t able to do it on Saturday. I know our guys are disappointed, they’ll come over today, but at the end of the day, we have one more opportunity this week to go play football together. One more opportunity to go try to be bowl eligible. I look at it like a playoff game. Oklahoma will play West Virginia on Friday for a chance to go to the Big 12 Championship game. Texas will play Kansas for that right. Ohio State will play Michigan. We, not to the same extent, we have a chance to play a meaningful football game in November. Last year, the games in November were for pride, they were for the future, but this year we have a chance to play a meaningful game. And we’ve had two chances now to go win it, and we’ve played against good teams, but we’ve really beaten ourselves. It’s time for us to take the next step and go play against a really good Texas Tech team who’s in the same situation. Go play playoff football. Win or go home, is what it says on my phone. It’ll be good for our seniors to have a chance to have this opportunity, go out in a showcase-type event. And it’ll be really good for our young players because as we continue to grow and develop, we hope that the program is one in which every November we’re playing games that matter. So, they better get used to it, and get used to it now. Have a good week of practice, let the guys go home a little bit on Thanksgiving for a day, come back and head up and look to take on Texas Tech.”
On preparing for multiple quarterbacks:
“I think really at the end of the day when we watch them, we don’t know who’s going to play quarterback but we know they’re all, when you play against a Kliff Kingsbury team, you know they’re all going to be good quarterbacks. For us, it’s trying to stop [wide receiver T.J.] Vasher and [wide receiver Antoine] Wesley. Wesley is one of the premiere wideouts in the country. Those challenges will be the same no matter who the quarterback is. The quarterback run game might add a little bit when Duffey is out there. We’ll focus mainly on ourselves. We’ll try to take away, at least concentrate on some of their core concepts. Again, the screen game really, really hurt us last year. We’ll just try to concentrate on us and see who plays quarterback for them.”
On the success and importance of blocking kicks:
“To me blocking punts for us has always been about the player. You find a guy who can do it who is not going to turn his head and not hit the punter and they earn that opportunity. Christian Morgan is just a natural and BJ [Thompson] got involved this past week. He is competitive, and he found a way to block two kicks. We don’t over scheme it, we just put guys in there who we know are going to go and make a play on the ball. On the PAT and field goal, I think it is just the mind set of we do it live on Tuesdays against each other. A lot of people don’t want to do that, but it is sort of who we are. We tell our guys, when they go up against a PAT after some scores a touchdown against you, you are going to be frustrated but you have to play the next snap. If you ever watch our PAT/field goal team, they never look back to see if the ball went through or not. They walk right off the field kind of symbolically which shows it doesn’t matter if the ball went in or not, it shows that they gave effort on that play. I think that has always been big with the players too. Greg [Roberts] has blocked a bunch and then Bravvion [Roy] got in the mix and now BJ. Great players make great plays on defense and that translates over to special teams. Those blocks have become a part of who we are, and we now lead the Big 12 which was one of our goals and hopefully we can find a way to get one this week”.
On his seniors:
“I have a great appreciation for all young people in our program. For those who sustain their period of time here, obviously an even greater appreciation. I think they’re young guys and not awful lot of starters in that group and young guys that have been very persistent, young guys that have fortitude and commitment, not just to the program, but to their teammates, which I greatly appreciate as well. Their teammates care a lot about them as well. A lot of good young people.”
On what the offensive line needs to do better this week:
“I think we have to not have the penalties, so we don’t have the first and twenties and long second downs. I think we have been pretty good in third and five or less but being in third and seven or longer you just have to give up the down or drop back and throw it. We knew going in that TCU likes to rush the passer. I made the statement on Saturday, that it was going to be battle and that statement kind of took off. We have a bunch of guys scratching and clawing. We just have to help them out. We have true freshman on the left side and some of the sacks they blitzed us, and the backs didn’t pick up the blocks. Maybe the quarterback misses the hot, so it’s not any one thing. If it were just one thing, we could correct it. It is just a little bit here and a little bit there. That is the difference between winning and losing. We just have to keep making steps. I think the offensive line will have to limit what we do this week. Especially on a short week where guys are going to go home for thanksgiving and then come back and we hope they can come back and play faster. The three-four defensives have been tough for us all year and this Texas Tech defense is another tough one”.
Light a Fire: No fire needs to be lit, if it’s not already lit, there are problems. The team is fighting for bowl eligibility and Baylor is fighting for the same thing and both teams are fighting for some one-upsmanship on this game as both teams are in that same range in terms of recruiting and everything else. It would be nice to be able to send Baylor packing without a bowl (and I’m sure they’re thinking the exact same thing).
Eraser Wanted: I doubt that Dakota Allen gets to play his last game, don’t ask me why I think that, but if he was unable to play at all last week, I doubt that whatever ails him is all that much better. I’ve loved watching Allen play this year and last year. It has been one of my absolute joys with this program to see him come back and be a major contributor for this team. It’s one of my all-time favorite stories for Texas Tech.
Needs Repair: At this point, lots of things need repair and I’m afraid that even if Carter starts, I’ll be writing about the offense after the game. I do not have a lot of confidence in Carter and I hope like heck he proves me wrong. And it’s not as I have any confidence in Colt Garrett because I’ve seen one pass against scrubs in a blowout game and I can’t honestly give an opinion one way or another.
Under the Microscope: Kliff Kingsbury
Tacos vs. Burritos Matchup of the Week: WR Denzel Mims vs. CB Adrian Frye & CB Desmon Smith – Given how much space Texas Tech was giving opposing receivers last week, I’m expecting the exact same thing and I’m disappointed about that. Texas Tech gave up 213 passing yards last week against Kansas State in the freezing cold and had only average 160 yards a game (with that 213 included, it would probably be less than that if you exclude that amount).