Burnt Orange Nation: Kliff Kingsbury hasn't made a great deal of progress with his win/loss record during his time at Texas Tech and his job may be on the line. What's the perception from Tech fans about how well he's performed and whether he should keep his position in the event of missing a bowl game?
Viva the Matadors: A majority of fans still believe in him while a few think he is not capable of elevating the program from its current state. The offense has certainly improved since he arrived and I think he’s proven himself to be a capable recruiter. While the defense is still a liability, we’re only halfway into David Gibbs’ second year as coordinator, and believe it or not there have been some signs of life. On top of all that, Kingsbury’s buyout is so hefty he will probably be here through 2017 at least barring a total collapse.
BON: Will the early start time have an impact on the crowd's intensity or will there be frozen tortillas and batteries flying as normal?
VTM: Well the whole battery-throwing deal is a myth. Oklahoma lied about it years ago but the rumor stuck as truth. As far as frozen tortillas, I’ve only heard one player claim those were ever thrown and I’ve never seen one myself.
But yes, the team and the fans are apparently late-risers. I expect there to be a lackluster atmosphere at the start of the game from the crowd. Kliff has noted our struggles with early kickoffs and has said he is going to adjust the schedule to try and improve in that respect.
(Editor’s note: Texas defensive tackle Paul Boyette claims that he’s been hit by a frozen tortilla and a battery in Lubbock).
BON: How much do you think the comments from Breckyn Hager about wanting to injure star Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes motivate the Red Raiders superstar? And just how healthy is he right now as he continues to treat his shoulder injury?
VTM: Mahomes is a pretty confident football player. He’s probably not too bothered by the comments, but I hope the team (especially the offensive line) uses it as bulletin board material for extra motivation. According to Kliff, the shoulder is better than it’s been since Mahomes first injured it against Kansas. He took a shot at the end of the TCU game last weekend, but says he felt fine afterwards and threw the ball without any discomfort. Kliff says he was a full participant in practice this week, so if Hegar wants to injure him it appears he’s going to have to start from scratch.
BON: The Tech running game was dangerous last season, but is now virtually nonexistent. Is that just about the loss of DeAndre Washington or is there more going on there?
VTM: DeAndre Washington was certainly a great running back, but I think losing three starters on the offensive line to the NFL and graduation is equally responsible for the decline in production. We did see some dedication to the run game last weekend when TCU dropped everyone into coverage, so maybe Tech will start running more as the season goes on. True freshman Da’Leon Ward has apparently taken over as the lead back, amassing 31 touches (23 carries and 8 receptions) against the Frogs last week.
BON: How surprising is it that Jonathan Giles emerged from relative obscurity to become one of the best receivers in the Big 12. What makes him so good and how does he compare to former star Jakeem Grant?
VTM: Giles is just a true sophomore, and while he got a little bit of playing time last season, nobody could have expected him to be one of the most productive receivers in college football. We can’t say we weren’t warned though, as offensive coordinator and former Tech receiver Eric Morris said before the season started he thought Giles would lead the team in receiving.
Giles is sure-handed (as of last week, quarterbacks have a perfect passer efficiency rating when targeting Giles) and appears to be a sophisticated route runner, seemingly getting a lot of separation from his defender. Jakeem Grant’s raw speed and quickness made him great, but Giles is a more well-rounded receiver in my opinion.
BON: The defense ranks near 100th nationally or worse in every S&P+ defensive metric. Are things really as bad as they look and why can't the Red Raiders even show any progress on that side of the ball?
VTM: Prior to 2014, Tech tried to plug in JUCO recruits every season which created a patchwork defense devoid of talent developed over a player’s four or five-year career. Since then, Tech has strayed away from that philosophy, recruiting more freshmen out of high school instead.
Unfortunately, that means a lot of young guys starting or receiving considerable playing time. It will probably be two years before we have substantial experience and depth across the board on defense. We saw improvement last week for sure, and last season we saw a huge spike in turnovers forced, but we’re still a long way from seeing it all come together consistently.
BON: Does that defense, which ranks No. 123 in S&P+ against the run, have any hope of stopping star Texas running back D'Onta Foreman?
VTM: No. If I were Texas’s offensive coordinator I would break the single game carries record with D’Onta Foreman. I wouldn’t attempt a pass unless absolutely necessary. I still have nightmares about Chris Warren on Thanksgiving last season, and expect Foreman to have a comparable performance Saturday on his way to earning Big 12 player of the week honors.
BON: What are your predictions for this game? How do you see things going down?
VTM: I think Texas Tech needs a strong start to have chance, like scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions and forcing Texas to play from behind and throw the ball. Ultimately I think our defense won’t get off the field enough and Texas will be able to run wild. Our offense might put up big numbers but it won’t be enough. Texas 45, Texas Tech 35.