Posted: Friday October 21, 2005 12:35PM; Updated: Friday October 21, 2005 12:35PM
At the beginning of the season, if someone told me that Texas' toughest remaining hurdle to the national championship game at this point in the season would be Texas Tech, I would have called them crazy. But here we are and the Red Raiders are in position to spoil the Longhorns' season. With another high-powered, throw-it-all-over-the-field attack, coach MikeLeach's team is dangerous, but Tech hasn't faced a defense like Texas'. The Longhorns have an opportunity to make a statement and clear the road for a trip to Pasadena.
(10) Texas Tech at (2) Tech
3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Daryl K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (80,082)
Vince Young is fourth in the nation in passing efficiency, with a 67.39 completion percentage.
Texas has won 13 consecutive games thanks to quarterback Vince Young, who is 23-2 as a starter. Young is dangerous whenever he has the ball and has become a much more proficient passer this season. He has thrown for 1,357 yards and 12 TDs, while completing 67.4 percent of his passes. The Longhorns are difficult to defend because they are extremely balanced, averaging 264.7 yards rushing and 229.8 passing per game. Aside from Young, a big key to the ground attack has been fabulous freshman Jamaal Charles (571 yards, 6 TDs). But Charles sprained his ankle against Oklahoma and barely played in the win over Colorado last week. He's expected to see some action on Saturday and his effectiveness could play a role in the game. But Texas has plenty of other weapons: running back Selvin Young, tight end David Thomas and receivers Billy Pittman and Limas Sweed. While much of the credit for Texas' success goes to Young -- rightfully so -- the Longhorns' defense is underrated. The swarming unit, led by dominating defensive end Rodrique Wright, has produced 16 sacks and is third in the nation in total defense (240 yards per game). The secondary will be tested, but if Wright & Co. can get a consistent pass rush, it will be a long day for Texas Tech QB CodyHodges.
If you think Texas Tech's offense resembles a video game, you're not alone. Every year, Leach finds a senior quarterback to throw for a zillion yards, and this season Hodges is at the controls. Taking advantage of four-and often five-wide formations, Hodges leads the nation in total offense. The Red Raiders are No. 1 in scoring (53.6 points per game) and second in total yards (572.8). In a 59-20 rout of Kansas State last week, Hodges threw for 643 yards -- 643 -- completing passes to 10 different receivers. Joel Filani (16.7 yards per catch 7 TDs) is Hodges' favorite target, but he is one of five wideouts with at least three touchdown receptions. Quick, name a member of Tech's defense? I had a hard time doing so myself. All kidding aside, the Raiders' D is much-improved and has allowed 117.8 yards rushing and 184 passing per game. Free safety Dwayne Slay leads the team with 47 tackles, while linebacker John Sildi (6.5 tackles for loss) is a disruptor up front. To have a chance to win, Tech's D is going to have to get stops and force turnovers.
Texas Tech has proven it is no fluke (though it was very lucky to win at Nebraska), but are the Red Raiders really the 10th best team in the country? I'm not sure. Tech entered last year's game in Lubbock in a similar situation and got steamrolled, 51-21. And this Texas team is better. The Red Raiders may keep it interesting for a while, but in the end the Longhorns are bigger, more physical and simply better.
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