Mack Brown can hear the drumbeat of a restless Longhorn nation...
"The worst 6-2 team in college football."
"The worst Texas defense in history."
"No reliable quarterback... again."
... and the drums get louder.
Brown went into damage control, not to save his own job, that is clearly secure until such time as he tires of it. No, Brown is trying to save his team — wisely asking them to avoid reading the criticism coming at them from every angle. After nearly losing to a 1-7 Kansas team last Saturday, that criticism is hard to miss.
And Texas Tech will be hard to beat. The Red Raiders are perhaps the most improved team in college football. Finishing 5-7 last year, Tommy Tuberville has turned his team around. They are 6-2 with loses to Oklahoma and Kansas State. The Tech defense is the reason — they're one of the top ranked in the country joining the traditionally prolific offense.
"[The Texas Tech defense is] No. 20 in pass efficiency defense, No. 57 in scoring defense, No. 12 in total defense giving up only 300 yards a game. They held Iowa State to a total 189 yards, which is nearly impossible in modern day football," said Brown.
"You look and four of the top six offensive teams in America have been our opponents. Ole Miss was No. 10 in total offense, Oklahoma State was No. 1 in both categories. West Virginia was No. 3 in both categories. Baylor was No. 2 in total offense and fourth in scoring. Texas Tech will be back in that mix. Oklahoma scored the most against with us and they were No. 26 when we played them."
The Red Raiders love to beat Texas. Jones Stadium is of course sold out and the traditional tortillas will be flying as Texas takes the field.
Brown has no wiggle room left. Had the Horns throttled Kansas, perhaps he could afford another stumble to a very good team. But patience is running as thin as the Texas linebacking corps and the Orangebloods want to see progress.
Maybe the signs are there. Texas' defense gave up only 75 yards to Kansas in the second half. "That's the first time we played like that all year. If we hadn't done that, if Kansas could have continued to run like they did in the second quarter, we would have lost the game."
Texas Tech is better than Kansas, a lot better. The Longhorns are not good enough to win, even if they were in Austin, unless they play a near perfect game.
What to watch for
- Big plays on both sides of the ball. The Horns' defense tends to give up huge yardage in a short time way too often, and against Kansas, the offense was unable to make big plays. Texas Tech feeds on the big play. Texas can't stop them, but they will have to minimize them. Brown says Texas must have eight explosive plays per game to be successful unless...
- Running success. Texas' offense would love to own the ground game. Keeping the ball, running the clock, and keeping the Tech offense off the field is a recipe for victory. If the game becomes a shoot-out, the Horns lose big.
- Turnovers. On the road, in a hostile stadium, winning the turnover battle silences the crowd and puts the home team on their heels. We've learned that winning the turnover margin is no guarantee of victory (see Texas vs. West Virginia), but it helps.
Texas Longhorns at Texas Tech Red Raiders
Time: 2:30 p.m. at Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock
Radio: KVET-FM 98.1 / KVET-AM 1300