Tech seems like a hard team to gauge. They've had some internal struggles, two losses in a row to ranked teams and a quarterback change.
Instead of insinuating and grasping, it's easiest to ask people who know the answers. In this case, that would be Seth at Double T Nation, our SB Nation Texas Tech site. He joins us for a blogger Q&A.
It's hard to gauge what's going on at Tech. It seemed like things were coming apart after the loss to Houston, Twittergate and Brandon Carter's suspension. Where is this team right now?
There may not be a team that deals with drama better than Texas Tech. In regards to RG Brandon Carter's suspension, he wasn't suspended because he was on Twitter, he was suspended for what happened after the Houston game (i.e. being angry, very angry, about the loss). I thought LB Marlon Williams' tweet was inappropriate (i.e., why is he here waiting on Leach for practice), but it turns out that practice was canceled so really it's not that big of a deal.
As it turns out, giving 18 to 22 year old kids a place to voice any and every concern might not be such a good idea. If the team was in any sort of disarray, it was after the Houston loss and the lackluster first half against New Mexico. There's the thought that QB Taylor Potts still wasn't right after the hit against UT and his rough play was a result of that. In steps 6'4" and all 180 pounds QB Steven Sheffield who seems to have captured the attention of this team and has been lights out against New Mexico and Kansas State. The ship has been righted, at least for now.
Potts or Sheffield? or Both?
I like both. Potts has taken quite a bit of criticism because he's thrown some interceptions, and he hasn't been perfect, but I do not believe that his performances against Texas and Houston were the reasons Texas Tech lost. Did he play perfectly those games, certainly not, but he wasn't the sole reason for either of those losses. Potts still has a 2:1 TD to INT ratio and was part of the team was at the top of the nation in passing. I think Potts' struggles have been exaggerated a bit and I try to keep in mind that he's a 20 or 21 year old kid who got the crap knocked out of him and wasn't quite the same since.
With Sheffield at the helm, he's been absolutely electric and the team seems to have responded to his energy. The last two games, Sheffield has been near perfect, sans a couple of interceptions, one in each game. Sheffield is a bit more mobile and more likely to dodge pressure. Sheffield's arm isn't quite as strong as Potts, but he can still make all of the throws required by this offense. If I had to pick a starter for the Nebraska game, I'd go with the hot-hand in Sheffield. If I had to pick a quarterback who I think who has the better chance to lead the program going forward, I'd pick Potts. Sheffield's been great but he hasn't been tested . . . yet.
What receivers should Husker fans be watching?
All of them? Seriously, it's somewhat ridiculous to see so many receivers step up each game.
Tramain Swindall has consistently been this team's leading receiver and averaging almost 20 YPC, which is ridiculous in this offense. Detron Lewis was expected to replace Crabtree in some respects, but Swindall's been electric, and Lewis has been a tad injured and reliable, but hasn't really had a break-out game.
Alexander Torres has proven to be a very reliable receiver outside, he won't beat you deep, but he'll catch just about anything thrown his way and he's pretty strong. Lyle Leong has been relatively quite since his 3 touchdown performance against Rice, but he's still a threat.
Nebraska will still need to account for the running backs who have been really good catching the ball out of the backfield (Harrison Jeffers is averaging 10.5 YPC and Baron Batch is averaging 8.87 YPC).
Tech has been exceptional at home, horrible on the road. 2008: 4 for 5 in road games last year (losses - OU); 2007: 3 for 6 (Oklahoma St., Missouri and Texas); 2006: 3 for 6 (TCU, Colorado, and OU). Can you explain such a huge discrepancy?
I think programs that are struggling to break-through to an upper tier of the football elite tend to do this for a period of time. Last year was an exception, and I think that most teams that make it to middling bowl games tend to follow the same path that Texas Tech has (i.e. win the non-conference home games + beat the crappy teams on the road = bowl game).
I'm not sure I can explain it other than it's tough to win on the road and for a program trying to make that jump, I think it just comes down to having better players and that happens over time. And for the record I think a Texas and OU would have worse road game records if they didn't have a neutral game at the Cotton Bowl. I went to Norman last year and cannot imagine what that town would be if Texas were to ever roll into town and the same thought goes for Austin.
Last year's game was weird in that Nebraska held the ball for around 40 minutes. We don't have the same ball control passing offense we had last year (although we're working on it). Where should Nebraska attack if we're going to be successful on offense?
Even if Nebraska doesn't have the same type of offense, I think I'd stick with a similar plan of just taking what the defense will give you. Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill has had quite a bit of success relying on his offense to outscore the defense, and I've always thought that Leach and McNeill discuss prior to the game how creative he needs to be to be successful on defense.
Some games, McNeill will stunt and blitz more than others. Surprisingly, Texas Tech leads the conference in sacks, this after losing their top guys in Brandon Williams and McKinner Dixon. Most of that success is due to out-working opponents and I think the Cornhuskers would be wise emphasize the quick passing game. Nebraska will have success running the ball against Texas Tech and I think that the key will be if the Texas Tech offense can score quickly, taking Nebraska out of what they might do best.