Texas-Texas Tech: Viva the Matadors Q&A

Michael C. Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Breaking down Thursday's game with Seth C. of Viva The Matadors, SB Nation's excellent Texas Tech Red Raiders site.

Wescott Eberts: Hey there, new Thanksgiving Day opponent (for odd years). What's the take on the Red Raiders coming to Austin every other year for Thanksgiving without ever returning the favor and play a T-Day game in Lubbock? Any sense that the arrangement isn't exactly fair to the garnet and black faithful?

Seth C: The problem with playing on Thanksgiving Day weekend is that so many of the students that go to Texas Tech are from the Dallas and Houston areas. It's the reason why Texas Tech has been playing Baylor at the Cotton Bowl and Cowboys Stadium for a handful of years, which is that during that weekend, there are no students at the game. So, the thought was to move the game to a location, like the DFW, and make some money that way. As to UT's arrangement with the Big 12, sure, it does seem strange that they get to dictate that game, between Texas Tech and TCU, but UT and TAMU dictated that game for a handful of years and I wasn't upset about that, so logically, I probably shouldn't be upset about this either.

Wescott Eberts: How do Texas Tech fans feel about the quarterback situation? Baker Mayfield is the much better option as a runner against a Texas defense that has struggled to defend running quarterbacks, but Davis Webb is the No. 15 passer in the country by QBR. Is there a fan favorite at this point? Is this only about the back injury to Michael Brewer or has the other Lake Travis product been passed on the depth chart because of the merits of the two younger quarterbacks?

Seth C: I think that Mayfield and Webb starting was largely because of Brewer's back injury. I was tweeting back and forth with Michael Felder (@inthebleachers) and asked him about quarterback repetitions and he said that if a team has young quarterbacks, those young quarterbacks get almost all of the practice reps during a week, while if a team has a veteran, the back-up quarterback can receive some of those reps.

With two freshmen, I'd guess that the starter got as many reps as possible, so to answer your question, sure, Brewer did get passed on the depth chart, but I think it's because he just wasn't available for all of fall practices and the first five weeks of the season. Kingsbury really didn't have a choice but to rely on the quarterback that was healthy.

I'm really happy with all three quarterbacks and they each have their own unique style. Mayfield is more accurate, especially on third downs, can run a bit, but has trouble holding onto the ball. Webb has a bigger arm, but he had a pretty good stretch where he couldn't hit anything deep and the short passes were struggling. I don't know what to expect from Brewer, but it wouldn't surprised me at all if he played. /wink/

Wescott Eberts: I mentioned on Twitter the other night that I thought Jace Amaro might have been a better fit at Texas Tech because the inside receiver position in that offense has maximized him in a way that Texas probably wouldn't have, preferring to use H-back and attached tight ends to fuel the power running game under Bryan Harsin and now Major Applewhite, the latter certainly by necessity more than preference, it would seem.

So, there are two questions: 1) As a Texas Tech fan, is there any way that you could see Texas devising a flex tight end or inside receiver position that would use him as well as he's been used in Lubbock? 2) Texas took MJ McFarland and then passed on Amaro, so would McFarland have been nearly as productive in your opinion in an offense that would have utilized him in a natural and easy way as an inside receiver?

Seth C: To answer the second part of your question would have to assume that McFarland is the physical specimen, receiver that Amaro is and I'm guessing that he's not really anywhere close. And I type that without having ever remembered that MJ McFarland is a football player that played the game of football. Amaro is really one-of-a-kind, a projected top-20 NFL draft pick, and if a coach is worth anything, they'll figure out a way to get him on the field.

There's just too much film out there of tight ends lining up in the slot or anywhere on the field for a decent offensive coordinator to figure out what a weapon Amaro could be. By lining him up in the slot, you don't get a lot of defenders playing close to the line of scrimmage, so he's got the first five yards essentially free. Amaro's dad played for Texas Tech and had a sister attend there, so Texas Tech had a lot going for them already in terms of recruiting. So to answer your first question, Harsin or Applewhite would have figured it out pretty quickly that Amaro needs to be on the field somewhere.

Wescott Eberts: In looking at the demise of the Red Raider defense in conference play, it feels a lot like the 2011 team that started out well and then cratered in games against Big 12 opponents -- everyone is running on Tech (most rushing attempts against in Big 12 play) and picking up more yards per carry than against any other team. Considering that Texas badly wants the ball nearly every play, how worrying are those facts when assessing how this game plays out? And what exactly is going on with that run defense?

Seth C: Depending on who you ask, I think that Texas Tech is still recovering from five coordinators in five years and not really having a game plan. Imagine recruiting for a 4-3, then a 3-4, then a 4-2-5, a 4-3 and now back to a 3-4. Obviously, there's some lack of continuity going on there.

I'd also add that I think Texas Tech still really lacks the depth to compete on a high level. With Michael Starts and Delvon Simmons leaving, before the start of the year, that young defensive line depth took a serious hit, add to that there being some injuries to some key players, and you've got a recipe for a defense that's going to struggle. So yes, Texas Tech is struggling mightily against the run and Texas would be crazy to do anything but run the ball.

Wescott Eberts: Turnover margin has been an issue for Tech for some time, but this year the team has recovered just six of 13 fumbles forced. How much of the turnover problems seem like terrible luck and how much of it are deficiencies in personnel or coaching? Why has the offense done such a poor job protecting the football?

Seth C: I mentioned above that part of it is having two freshmen quarterbacks, one is prone to throw interceptions and the other is pretty reckless with the ball, so there's your answer. And actually, this is something that happened last year too, losing a handful of games to end the season and you're absolutely right to correlate it to the turnover margin. Texas Tech is still trying to figure it out defensively, and with some continuity on defense, the hope is that players can play without having to think about the system and create more turnovers.

Additionally, if the quarterbacks were a bit more seasoned, you would think that some of those numbers would be cut down. Texas Tech has been living on the edge in turnover margin for six weeks straight, not a single game at zero or in the positive side of the margin. Pretty much the same thing last year as five of the last six games, Texas Tech was in the negative in turnover margin.

Wescott Eberts: There's no question that the last few weeks have been tough for Red Raider fans after the promising start. How much of that was expected because of the schedule and how much, if at all, has the perspective on this team and its new coach changed in since the struggles began against Oklahoma?

Seth C: I'm not sure that it's changed -- there's really no other reality because Texas Tech obviously isn't a top 10 team. Texas Tech fans aren't happy about losing four in a row, but if the expectations for a first year head coach were to win eight or so games for the year, I think we would have been pretty happy about that. It just stinks as to the manner it's happened.

Wescott Eberts: How do you see this game playing out?

Seth C: I suppose it depends on who starts at quarterback. I'm not incredibly confident in Webb right now, but if it's Mayfield or Brewer and the offense can get off to some quick scores, then I do like Texas Tech's chances for the game to be pretty competitive.

I'm not real excited (understatement) about watching what I think the Longhorns will do on offense, which is run like Kansas St. did, just run every single play. I don't think that either offense is great by any means, and this is despite Texas Tech having, statistically, a highly-rated offense. There are issues scoring for Texas Tech. I could easily see this game being in the 28 to 31 range and if Texas Tech has some defenders that get healthy in the bye week, then I think it could go either way.

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