Questions and my answers for this week's questions heading into tomorrow's game. Your thoughts in the comments below.
1. Defense: worried or terrified? I'll take both. Defending Texas Tech is never an easy proposition. Defending Texas Tech with the personnel and schemes we've deployed to date in '07 is a losing proposition. Duane Akina will earn his paycheck this week, and let's hope he spends a healthy amount of time in the film room watching the Colorado and Missouri games against the Red Raiders.
One thing Akina absolutely must resist this week is the Bobino Plunge strategy. Blitzing Derry and Killebrew will be equally crippling. The Texas defensive strategy as a whole this season sets up beautifully for what Texas Tech wants to do. We're maddeningly easy to screen against. Our starting linebackers provide no help on the pass rush and no help in the pass coverage.
What, then, to do? I'm watching for two things. First, Texas will desperately need Sergio Kindle to play and play well on Saturday; he represents Texas' best hope at laying the thunder on the crossing and underneath receivers who fuel the Tech offensive engine. Second, assuming we stick with the 4-3, the defensive ends must have good games getting to Graham Harrell. If Brian Orakpo and Lamarr Houston are in his face early and often? I'll relax a little. If not... duck.
2. Can we get the offense on track before half time? Gosh, it'd be nice, wouldn't it? Unfortunately, so much of our offensive success has come on the back of good fortune, broken plays, and McCoy improvisation. Channeling that systematically is, as you'd imagine, a tall order.
I said before last week's game that Greg Davis tends to follow up his poor performances with good ones. But what do we make of last week? We were oddly mute for much of the game before exploding down the stretch. For the second week in a row.
I honestly don't know, but I do think this offense is getting closer. Here's one thing we do know: the Red Raiders can be run on and have struggled in that department in their losses. Here's to hoping Greg Davis prepares the team well in the rushing department.
3. What to do with Michael Crabtree? That's been a tough question for every team this year, but one thing I wouldn't do is stick Ryan Palmer or Brandon Foster on the kid. Missouri and Colorado both assigned a defender to harass Crabtree throughout the game. Deon Beasley would be my choice for Crabtree duties, but Tech will give Texas so many different looks that there won't be any one formula for slowing them down. I still think that getting legitimate pressure on Harrell with the front four will be as, or more, important than anything else we do. If he's got time to wait for receivers to clear - they'll clear. And he's great at getting them the ball in space.
4. Prediction? Same as last week: who knows? A disappointing loss would shock few. A turn-the-corner win seems well within our reach. Best to aim for the middle, huh? The Longhorns under Mack Brown have handled Mike Leach reasonably well over the years; even on Saturdays when we've let them rack up big yards, we've almost always managed to pick up the win.
My confidence in our defense right now is frighteningly low, but I like our chances to run the football successfully this week. And maybe even from the get-go. I'll call it close, but once again for Texas: .