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M-I-Z Q&A: Texas Tech

I had a chance to exchange Q&A with Seth over at Double T Nation in preparation for this weekend's interdivisional matchup between the Tigers and Red Raiders. Below are his responses to my questions, and my responses to him can be found here.

RMN - A lot has been made about Tech's early schedule. Does anyone really know just how good this team is given the competition they've faced?

-- I'm not real sure what this team is capable of doing.  There is part of me that knows the offense is as good as advertised, it matters not the opponent.  Defensively, I see the improvement, but so much has happened in such a short period of time, including the firing of Texas Tech's defensive coordinator, Lyle Setencich and hiring of Ruffin McNeill.  The first 4 games of the year it was depressing to watch the defense give up points and yards to inferior offenses. Setencich was canned and the defense has been significantly better.  Numbers wise, the improvement hasn't been something to write home about, but I think the fans appreciate Coach McNeill on the sidelines coaching up the defense (the practice of a defensive coordinator on the sideline was a concept foreign to most Red Raiders during the Setencich term) and holding opponents to under 40.  

RMN - Was the holding Texas A&M to 7 points a statement that the Aggies offense is just that bad or that the Raider defense is turning a corner?

--Probably a little of both.  I was quite nervous going into that game because the new defense had not been tested.  Prior Texas Tech seasons are littered with runners who have rushed for way too many yards and I've seen way too many pathetic displays of non-tackling.  Coach McNeill had 2 games to get his house in order (Northwestern State and Iowa State) before the Aggies came to town and the mere fact the Texas Tech defense only gave up 7 points is a true testament to what he's done.  

RMN - How do the Raiders plan to stop/slow the Missouri offense?

-- I'm not sure what to expect.  In past years you could expect the corners to play 10 yards off of every receiver, no blitzes at any position or real stunting by the defensive line.  Now, I think you'll see Coach McNeill mix it up a little bit.  He's had a chance to watch the Missouri/OU game and he saw what the Tigers did against the Red Raiders last year.  If there's a defense that knows how hard it is to stop a spread offense it's Texas Tech.  Personally, I'd make sure and stop Chase Daniel and contain him in the pocket.  Next, I try and figure out who can stop Rucker and Coffman and I'm not real sure how that's going to work.

RMN - What's the difference in Graham Harrell in 2006 and Graham Harrell in 2007, and exactly how scared should I be of Michael Crabtree?

-- Mistakes and being overwhelmed in a big game.  Red Raider fans can quickly rattle off the games where Texas Tech has struggled and typically it's a direct result of Harrell struggling (I'm sure Missouri fans are very familiar with this concept).  This year, there's been a presence about Harrell.  He hasn't gotten rattled, even under pressure.

As far as Crabtree is concerned I hope you guys can just appreciate him.  Never in following Texas Tech sports have I seen a player like Crabtree and I think it's rare that we as fans get to witness a player as great as Crabtree.  Keep in mind, I'm not trying to be boastful, he's really just that good.  If he does something great, and I hope he does, just shake your head in disbelief and say that was awesome.

I thought the following video properly displayed the incredible ability of Crabtree and the toughness of Harrell:

RMN - How much does last year's homecoming game in Lubbock weigh into this year's homecoming game in Columbia?

--It bothered me to no end, but that's because I had a bet with my best man who is also a Mizzou fan.  The thing that bothered me the most about that game was that Harrell essentially gave that game away.  That's not to say that Missouri didn't earn that win, but it's not as if Missouri ran all over Texas Tech.  Of course, the Tigers didn't need to run up a bunch of yards because Harrell gift-wrapped 14 points in the 2nd quarter.  

If Harrell can eliminate the turnover, which he has to this point, then I like Texas Tech's chances.

RMN: Bonus - Your prediction and final score.  

-- My head tells me to pick the home team, Missouri, as Texas Tech has typically been bad on the road against a quality opponent, but my heart tells me that this Texas Tech team is a completely different squad from last year.  Texas Tech 35, Missouri 31.