It feels like we’ve been here before. While the Texas Longhorns have never been a #1 team facing a top 10 Texas Tech team, it seems each year the Horns have entered a Tech game undefeated, the whispers have begun. “Maybe this is the year Tech upsets Texas and spoils their season.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.
After running through a gauntlet of #1 Oklahoma, #11 Missouri and #6 Oklahoma State, the chattering class seems to think that there is no possible way the Horns have enough fight left in them to withstand the offensive assault of Mike Leach’s Red Raiders. Not this year, not with the young Longhorns secondary. But is there really any hard evidence to suggest that the Raiders have the Longhorns number this season?
Shouldn’t the amazing test the Longhorns have just passed in their previous games be testament to how good they are? Since when does beating three top 10(ish) teams in a row mean that you are primed for an upset? Can’t a team just be really good? Is it just a case of us needing to find some kind of compelling storyline for this, their 3rd game presented by ESPN’s College GameDay in the past four weeks?
But could this year really be different? The Horns don’t have All-American corners the way it has in the past. Tech is learning to run the ball a little and actually seem to care about playing defense. But isn’t that argument just putting lipstick on a pig?
There is no arguing the fact that Graham Harrell has slaughtered the Horns through the air the past two years, throwing for almost a thousand yards and completing 70% of his passes. But if it wasn’t enough in 2006 and 2007, why should it be enough now? Some think he may have an even bigger day (night) Saturday in Lubbock, considering the Horns will be running out two defensive backs who are so we behind the ears that their helmets even look extra shiny. But Deon Beasley and Curtis Brown kept OSU all-world receiver Dez Bryant to less than a hundred yards last week, and he didn’t even sniff the end zone. Michael Crabtree is just as good as Bryant, no doubt, but what makes people think he can double or triple the production of Bryant?
I think a lot of the love for Tech is coming simply from their scores last week. The Raiders had not beat anyone all year until getting over on Kansas in a big way last weekend, but that score was not really indicative of the game. Todd Reesing threw three interceptions in the span of just a few minutes, making the final a foregone conclusion. And had Texas been able to punch the ball in on their final 4th and goal, they would have won by double digits against a good OSU team, and people would probably be thinking the Longhorns were unstoppable. Greatness is in the eye of the beholder.
While Tech has done a better job of pressuring the quarterback and playing man coverage, they have not faced anyone on the level of Colt McCoy. They won’t be getting gift-wrapped interceptions from the Heisman front-runner. If they do, then this game will probably fall to Tech. But, again, what makes us think we will see anything different this week than we have seen all season, or the past decade?
Over the past three weeks, against that brutal schedule, McCoy averaged 335 yards in the air and completed 85 percent of his passes, moving him up to second in the nation in passing efficiency. And during that time he has only thrown one interception. And I can tell you that Tech’s defense does not come close to the level of OU’s, which McCoy carved to pieces. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis is running four receiver sets, spreading the field and using slashing routes over the middle. The passing game for Texas still isn’t vertical, but gone are the days of 10 wide receiver screens in one half.
The Horns have looked amazing on defense, under the crazed enthusiastic leadership of Will Muschamp but did fall off a bit on the tackling department against the Cowboys, giving up 125 extra yards after missed tackles last week. But that slip-up could not have come at a better time. You can bet your house on the fact that Muschamp has been coaching his guys up all week, getting in their faces, letting them know about their failures against OSU. He knows how to relate to players, and you can guarantee they will step up to try and make their coach proud.
The Raiders are as good as they have ever been. But so are the Longhorns. While it seems sexy to take the Raiders in an upset in the biggest game in school history, my feeling is that you don’t bet against the best until they have been proven to be not the best.