Longhorns @ Red Raiders: For their seasons!

Here we are folks, the most important game of the season for the Red Raiders, and possibly for the Longhorns as well… No matter their records, this is always the most important game for me as a Red Raider fan. Not because I hate Texas. In fact, I actually like the Longhorns, always have. I’ve never really understood why Tech fans put so much energy into hating the Longhorns, acting like it’s a heated rivalry. When in reality, it’s a friendly rivalry at best. UT fans have never treated Tech the same way as they do OU or A&M. So why give them the big brother treatment that they think they deserve? I will admit, since the departure of the Aggies from the Big12, maybe the rivalry has stiffened a bit. But I still put much more energy into my hatred for Baylor, TCU, and even the Oklahoma schools than I do Texas. But back to the original point, this is one of the most important games of the year, every season, for me. Why? Because my family is split down the middle, Scarlett on one side, Burnt Orange on the other. Bragging rights in the Maddox family is no joke, we will go at each other relentlessly for 365 days about this game… So forget the fact that both teams have lost two in a row and are in desperate need of a win, this game still matters!

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Speaking of bragging rights, Texas Tech has a chance to have more bragging rights over UT than they ever have if they can get a win on Saturday. Tech has won 2 of the last 3 match-ups, moving that edge to 3 out of 4 would be huge. Especially when you consider that Tech also beat Houston and TCU, and at this point look like they’d be favored over Baylor (with a chance to take their 3rd straight in that rivalry). Simply put, Tech could hold wins over all major teams in the Lone Star State other than A&M (who remains scared of a match-up with any team in Texas). Obviously, Texas has the same opportunity, with wins over TCU and Baylor already.

As for the more relevant stakes of this game… Both teams are coming off back-to-back losses, both teams need a win to avoid a disappointing end to a season that started off well, and there’s a chance both teams will be coming into the game Saturday night with banged up defenses. Dakota Allen could miss this game after getting banged up (knee) against OU. While UT has 4 defenders potentially our, defensive end Brackyn Hager, who’s a certified weirdo but really good player, is questionable. Tech fans should remember him as the guy that sort of threatened to cheap shot Pat Mahomes a couple of years ago. Defensive end Markez Bimage is out, and DBs Brandon Jones and Davante Davis are questionable. Offensively, Texas seems pretty healthy. Ehlinger looks like he has fully recovered from his shoulder issue. For Tech on the other hand, all signs are pointing to Alan Bowman not being able to suit up on Saturday. Which certainly complicates things for the Red Raiders.

Before we talk about how Tech can be successful without Bowman, lets talk a little about the Longhorns.

At this point for Tom Herman and his crew, national (and local) reaction to the Longhorns wins AND losses are never quite accurate. After every win, they get overrated. After every loss they get underrated. So sitting at 6-3, and coming off of two consecutive losses, it’s hard to know exactly how good this team is. They lost the opener to Maryland and everyone made fun of them for the next month… Turns out Maryland is a decent team. They beat OU a few weeks later and everyone starts asking if they’re a Natty contender… Fast forward to present day, they’ve lost back-to-back games, including the disappointing loss to Oklahoma State. So just how good is this team? I think they are what they record is, at 6-3, their pretty good. But FAR from unbeatable. Sam Ehlinger has really come into his own this season, they have a committee of nice running backs, a nice trio of WRs in Devin Duverney, LJ Humphrey, and Collin Johnson, and a solid offensive line. While they haven’t been able to be a consistently explosive offense the way that OU, West Virginia, or even Tech (when healthy) has… They have a good group. Defensively, they are extremely talented, always are. But the past couple of weeks, plus the injuries mentioned earlier, make them seem fairly vulnerable. As always when talking about opposing teams, I won’t pretend to be an expert on this team. But I feel comfortable with saying this will be a close game, regardless of who comes out on top.

For Texas Tech, hopefully you have followed this blog weekly and know pretty much why they currently sit at 5-4. I talked about the “what if’s” that will always define last weeks loss to OU here. What Kliff and company now have to do is make sure those “what if’s” stay right where they are and don’t become the defining theme of the 2018 season. Defensively, there’s no shame in the performance against OU. You’d have liked a bit more hindrance in the run game, but overall I thought that group played well enough. I think they have pretty much played well enough all season… Dakota Allen is a question mark going into the game. After hurting his knee vs OU, I would be surprised to see him suited up come game time. That’s a big blow, but Riko Jeffers has been solid all year, and I think he can step in admirably for the defensive captain. The issue is going to be depth. Brayden Stringer got some playing time last week, I would think we’ll see more of him, but I know the hope was to redshirt him and I’m not sure he can play anymore and keep his redshirt… So we’ll have to keep an eye on that situation.

For Tech’s offensive outlook, might as well be a mirror image of the defense. All signs are pointing towards Alan Bowman missing another game with issues relating to a partially collapsed lung. So, once again, in comes Jett Duffey. Jett has played a lot this year. He got some garbage time minutes against Lamar where there was some good and some really bad. He came in against West Virginia and lead an incredible come back attempt, only to single handedly squander that come back with a BAD pick-6. He started against TCU, struggled for the first half, got benched, then came back in after it was clear that McLane Carter was still not healthy. After coming back in, he lead two impressive TD drives to seal the victory against the Frogs. And last week, he once again comes in at the half for the injured Alan Bowman. I thought he did as well as one could have hoped, he took care of the ball and gave his team a chance. It’s pretty clear that Duffey doesn’t measure up to Bowman’s proficiency in the pass game, but the talent is, and always has been, there. Kliff will have a tough job this week game planning the offense to cater to Jett’s strengths. Two reasons I think Jett will have a good game: 1. I have said it all year and will continue to do so, for all of Kliff’s failures as a HC, QBs and offensive creativity have been second to none. I think he will have Jett ready to go. 2. UT has no real idea of what to prepare for. Im sure they’ll rely heavy on the TCU film, but theres no guarantee that the offense will be similar at all to that game.

Prediction

I admitted that being a homer played a small role into my prediction that Tech would beat OU last week… But I actually think I was right about that game. Kliff had a perfect game plan, the defense forced some turnovers, and I truly believe that Tech would have won that game had Bowman stayed healthy. So with that said, I’m gonna ride with my guys to get a must win on Senior night. Duffey will play well, the defense will hold strong in the red zone and force some FGs. And Tech will be two wins (over BU and KSU) away from their best season since 2009.

Tech: 38

Texas: 34

GunsUp

-Josh-

It’s “What If” SZN in Lubbock

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It’s 4:48pm on Tuesday as I start writing this, and I’m still very, very sad. What happened on Saturday was a microcosm (vocab brag) of this entire Texas Tech seas… Check that, of my entire life as a Texas Tech fan. It was right there… We had it… We outplayed the #7 ranked team in the country in a game that could have been the defining moment game of Kliff’s best season in Lubbock. Leading at the half, this offense looked as good as they had all season, the defense was doing their best to stick with Kyler Murrey and that explosive Lincoln Riley offense. After 2 early interceptions by Vaughnte Dorsey (have a day young man!) it looked like they had done enough. Bowman’s offense would take care of the rest in the second half…

Then… Everything changed.

While warming up for the second half, Bowman collapsed in pain. After taking a hit earlier in the game, he apparently aggravated his previous lung injury and was hospitalized once again with a partially collapsed lung. More on that later.

So the second half belonged to Jett. Despite being proved wrong on my pre-season prediction that Jett Duffey was the best QB on the roster, I still have confidence in him. He came in and did all you could have asked him to do. He took care of the ball, didn’t make any head-scratching decisions, and gave his team a chance. However, the offense was clearly not the same once the QB change was made. Bowman was abusing OU’s small CB’s with quick strikes to the big fellas on the outside (Wesley & Vasher), he was dumping it off to De’Leon Ward on screens and check downs at a very successful rate, and despite the complete lack of a running game, the offense looked unstoppable, at least against that defense. With Duffey, the quick striking, which requires quick decision making, was no more. With Duffey at QB, the entire identity of the offense changed, that doesn’t necessary have to be a bad thing, but it’s obviously not ideal to have to completely shift the game plan half way into the game. In fact, that is precisely what Kliff has been forced to do in 3 of this teams 4 losses. With Duffey, ideally you’d like to be a run-first offense, which is not a spot that Texas Tech is in the position to be. For whatever reason, this offensive line has lost its ability to run block. They do a fine job in pass protection, but simply haven’t been able to move the LOS since the Oklahoma State win.

Defensively, I have a hard time being too upset about that performance. Yes, Sermon ran all over the place. Yes, Kyler quick twitched his way to first downs time and time again. But that’s just whats going to happen against OU… The fact that Tech was able to force two quick turnover’s, where Kyler was clearly rattled. Then force a huge 3 and out to start the 2nd half was, in my opinion, really impressive. As high on this defense as I have been all season, this is still the Big12. Honestly, making enough defensive plays, without their best player in Dakota Allen, was all you could ask for.

Something that has to be talked about, officiating was quite simply atrocious. I’ve already gotten into it with a few OU fans on twitter about this. Somehow, they have the belief that they were screwed over by the refs… They apparently think it’s a travesty that their CB’s aren’t allowed to grab, push, and shove WR’s for an entire game. They can’t believe that their offensive linemen aren’t allowed to punch Tony Jones in the face, because “Jones started it!!” They have chosen to ignore the fact that said offensive lineman should  have been ejected for that punch… But hey, those are just rules. Why would I expect them to be followed!? I guess they conveniently forgot the “face mask” call against Tech’s center, the replay shows CLEARLY that there was no face mask, instead OU’s defensive linemen was palming Jack Anderson’s face like a basketball… Now realize they aren’t the brightest of folks up there in Norman, but surely they know that’s not allowed… No? They don’t? Yikes!

Look, the officials, as bad as they were did not cost Tech this game. But the whining and crying from spoiled OU fans is just pathetic. They refuse to see, or are too stupid to realize that Big12 refs have NO reason to be biased towards anyone except the Sooners, as they’re the only sure thing for the playoffs if they win out. When I see comments like, “well we’re in Lubbock, so we’ll have to beat the refs too” I literally laugh out loud. Big12 refs are not good, everyone knows this. But for that fan base to act as if they haven’t benefited from the crooked stripes for the past 20 years is a joke.

I firmly believe that Tech would have gone on to win that game had Alan Bowman been able to finish. But he didn’t… So what now? Well, sitting at 5-4 overall (3-3 in the Big12), Tech now needs to win out to ensure Kliff Kingsbury returns as Head Coach in 2019. With Bowman likely out for next week against UT (and possibly the rest of the season), that will be tough to accomplish. As petty as it may seem, the difference between 8-4 and 7-5 is massive. I think this team can do it. Will they? We will see…

Stay tuned for my preview of Tech Vs Texas coming very soon. Should be a fun one…

 

GunsUp

-Josh-

Texas Tech Vs OU Preview… Lets #getweird!

Most of us Red Raider fans are probably still mad about last week, but it’s time to move on folks. Tech has an opportunity to change things in a big way tomorrow night when they host the 7th ranked Sooners.

For all the complaints about Texas Tech football since Kliff Kingsbury has been here, the one that I think is most legitimate, and also a bit confusing, is the lack of big game performances at home. I don’t think this is necessarily all Kliff’s fault, but Jones AT&T Stadium used to be a place opponents, no matter their record or ranking, feared. Now, I could probably write a book on why it is The Jones hasn’t had that same intimidating feel to it since the Pirate roamed the sidelines. But the most obvious reason is simply lack of opportunity. A number of variables need to line up to get the perfect atmosphere at The Jones… First, and most importantly, Tech has to have at least a pretty good team. As loyal as Tech fans are, they don’t always show up when the product is lacking. I don’t really blame them for that, not everyone is like me and willing to make themselves miserable by watching every snap of a blow out loss… And although there is still much that could go wrong for the Red Raiders this season, this is at least a pretty good team. So expect Lubbock to #getweird tomorrow night for the first time in awhile. The second ingredient for waking up The Jones, night game. With the fall of Texas Tech happening during the middle of the SEC “dominance” *rolls eyes* and an array of changes in TV deals, it’s been a struggle to get a night game in Lubbock for a few years now. Third, quality of opponent. Again, Tech fans are pretty loyal. But they aren’t going to #getweird against just anybody. With #7 OU coming to town, this one is covered as well. The fourth one is a wild card, but might be the X-factor for this crowds ability to ramp up the weirdness. It’s Halloween weekend folks, same weekend as that glorious night in 2008 when Crabtree made the most famous catch in Texas Tech history to defeat the then top ranked Longhorns. Every Tech fan remembers that crowd atmosphere, even for those if us that were not there… The weirdness was one point, scary costumes, horrifying face paint, and most importantly, the most raucous and impactful student section I think I have ever seen.

So, tomorrow night checks all the boxes for a vintage Texas Tech crowd atmosphere. But obviously, it will take more than that to defeat the Sooners…

We all know the question marks for this Texas Tech team coming off of the ISU loss… Shaky offensive line play, inability to run the ball, and defensive penalties. But what I haven’t heard much in the lead up to this game is the questions for OU. Like how he last good team the Sooners played beat them and got their DC fired… Since then they have blown out both TCU and Kansas State. Obviously, the TCU game has to be acknowledged here, seeing as they had FAR less trouble with the Horned Frogs than Texas Tech did. But I’d caution against trying to compare some of these match ups simply because of how quickly things have changed from week to week in the Big12 this season. For example, Tech blew out Oklahoma State in Stillwater, then Oklahoma State upset the Longhorns last week, this doesn’t mean that Texas Tech won’t have any trouble with the Horns in a couple of weeks. But the point remains, OU has not proves that they have answered the questions on defense that lead to the firing of Mark Stoops. Offensively, I can’t lie, there aren’t really any glaring holes… They are right there with West Virginia, maybe ahead of them, as the top offenses in the conference. This will be a huge challenge for Tech’s defense.

So expect this game to be, probably, pretty high scoring. It’s crazy to say this about a Texas Tech football team, but I think the lower the score of this game, the better chance Tech will have. I do not like this offenses chances to stick with Kyler Murray in a shootout. With the the Chiefs/Browns (Mahomes/Mayfield) matchup on Sunday, everyone is talking about the classic 66-59 game in 2016. Im extremely confident that this game will not be like that one. This offense is going to have to slow things down. They have to establish the run game. The defense will, again, have their hands full. They’ll need to limit big plays, and get a couple turnovers. Obviously, OU presents a different challenge than ISU did, but I think if the defense plays like they did last week (minus the penalties) they’ll have done their part.

 

Prediction

I don’t know that it would be fair to call this a must win for Kliff as far as his job security is concerned, but winning it would likely take him fully off the hot seat. Even with a couple of big wins this season, Kliff still lacks the big home win. The field storming thriller that used to be a yearly occurrence at The Jones.

I think Bowman bounces back with a nice game. De’Leon Ward steps up in the run game, and Antoine Wesley makes his presence felt as usual. Defensively, Tech will have a “bend don’t break” mentality and limit OU to FGs. They’ll have to force a couple of turnovers as well… In the end, Clayton Hatfield hits a game winning FG as time expires.

Tech- 31

OU- 30

 

GunsUp

-Josh-

Gut Check Time in Lubbock

If you read last weeks blog than you know how I much I hate Ames, Iowa… Well I was hoping after Saturday my feelings towards that place would be a little better. Unfortunately Saturday just reminded me how frustrating it is for Texas Tech to play there. Saturdays 40-31 loss wasn’t nearly as frustrating as the last two losses to Iowa State, but it still stings heavily. Plus, the Red Raiders have now lost 3 strait games to the Cyclones. As much as ISU has improved under superstar Head Coach Matt Campbell, that’s still inexcusable. In no world should Iowa State own the Red Raiders the way they do… Yet here we are. So let’s talk about it. What went wrong on Saturday? What, if anything, went right? And what should we expect next week against the Sooners? A game that could be season defining.

What went right?

Let’s get the positives out of the way first… First and foremost, Antoine Wesley is quickly becoming a household name and very well might be the best WR in the Big12. That group of wideouts in West Virginia certainly deserve consideration here. But Wesley once again topped 100 yards last week. Barring injury, he’ll top the 1,000 yard mark next week. If Tech can rebound and get back in the Big12 title race (big if), he could be a Biletnikoff finalist at seasons end.

When was the last time Texas Tech scored on a blocked punt? I have watched every Texas Tech football game since 2007, I’ve only missed a handful since 2004, and I can’t recall it happening even once. I could be wrong here, maybe it has happened a time or two throughout my near 15 years of Texas Tech fandom, but its certainly a rarity. When Thomas Leggett came in untouched, blocked the punt, and fell on it in the end zone, I was ready for a blowout victory… The fact that I was wrong doesn’t take away from the special teams performance though. In addition to Leggett’s big play, Punter Dom Panazzolo was awesome, consistently pinning the ISU offense deep in their own territory. He could be a big weapon against OU this upcoming week if he can keep that up. Other than the continued questionable decisions by kick/punt returner DeQuan Bowman, special teams have been a plus this season.

Lastly, the 40 points that Iowa State scored was in no way the fault of the Texas Tech defense! Not only was there a pick 6, but a safety, and two other turnovers that put the defense in tough spots. David Gibbs’ group showed up once again. For all we heard about Iowa State’s stud Freshman QB Brock Purdy leading up to this game, the Texas Tech D got the better of him for the majority of the game. Now, the kid is clearly really talented and has a bright future, so he made some plays, especially with his feet. But Tech held him to a less than 50% passing percentage, and had the young fella confused for most of the game. I thought the secondary showed huge improvements overall. Demarcus Fields, Douglas Coleman, Des Smith, and Adrian Frye did as well as you could hope for against Iowa State’s big WR’s. Despite losing Jordyn Brooks to a bogus targeting call in the first half, the linebackers were solid for the most part. Dakota Allen did his thing as always, and Riko Jeffers stepped up big time in Brooks’ absence. Jeffers made what looked like a game changing play when he got to Purdy for a strip-sack in the end zone. And the D line was really good for the first 3 quarters. The guys got some pressure on the QB early, and held David Montgomery (possibly the best RB in the Big12) down for 3.5 quarters. Montgomery eventually got his yards, but he’s gonna do that against everyone they play.

Eventually I will stop celebrating just solid performances from this defense, but we’re not there yet. Until I can no longer remember 180lb linebackers and 5’6′ defensive backs, I will celebrate every single pretty good performance on that side of the ball. I still have nightmares of Kalen Ballage scoring 7 TDs in 2016, Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams running for like a million yards in 2014, and the infamous 82 points allowed in Fort Worth in 2014 when they literally ran out of fire works to set off after a score. So holding the Big12’s best RB to 125 yards on 33 carries is still a huge positive for this group.

 

What went wrong (again)?

I wasn’t blogging about Texas Tech football in 2016, or 2017 for that matter. But if I were, the post-ISU blogs would have looked very similar to this one. Matt Campbell’s 3 high cloud defense continues to get the best of Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. For all of Kliff’s failures, no one can doubt that he’s one of the brightest offensive minds in college football. For whatever reason though, Kliff has never been able to get a running game going against Campbell’s defense. Despite the fact that ISU constantly dropped 8 guys in coverage.

Even though they were facing just a 3 man front the entire game, Tech was completely unable to get anything out of the run game. Now, it may not be fair to put all of this on Kliff. The offensive line has been a strength of this team all season, but they absolutely worked by the ISU front. Personally, I would have loved to see more opportunities for the guys in the backfield, but I understand why Kliff got away from it… The line simply wasn’t getting a good enough push. But I do question the decision to give up on the run game so quickly. It’s also fair to question the decisions within the run game… Like, why did Tre’ King get a whopping zero carries…? I was glad to see DeLeon Ward back in the mix, but King has been solid this year. And why were almost all of the running plays designed to get to the outside, instead of attacking that 3 man front? The injury to starting fullback Conner Kilian probably had a lot to do with that, but it’s still worth questioning.

Back to the offensive line… Not only were they not getting a push in the run game, but they failed to protect their freshman QB for the first time all season. Bowman was pressured consistently throughout the game, he wasn’t good on his own, but it certainly didn’t help that his line left him out to dry on multiple occasions. Even Paul Stawarz (the center, senior, and captain) let the young QB down when his high snap caused Bowman to get off schedule, leading to the costly pick-6. Bowman obviously deserves blame for that play as well, but the high snap is worth mentioning.

Now lets talk about Alan Bowman… Look, we have all sang his praises after every big time performance so far this season. It would be intellectually dishonest to not come down pretty hard on the kid after his poor performance against the Cyclones. Despite the poor performance by the offensive line, late-game success of Montgomery, and Kliff once again struggling to find plays that work against this defense, the mistakes made by Bowman were the main reason Texas Tech lost this game. You simply CANNOT make some of the decisions he made! All 3 passes that got intercepted never should have been thrown. Even on the pick-6, where the bad snap threw the whole play off, Bowman has to know that and either throw the ball away, take sack, or try to get a few yards with his feet. For the other interceptions, there really isn’t much to analyze. He simply made terrible decisions. The kids that picked him off didn’t make any special plays, they simply caught the ball that Bowman threw straight to them. However, even after 2 inexcusable interceptions (the 3rd had not yet happened), Bowman had a chance to redeem himself; down 7, about 4 minutes left, and a chance to go tie the game. Instead of seizing the opportunity, he fumbles the ball while faking a handoff, picks up the ball and makes the one mistake he couldn’t afford to make… Runs into the end zone, throws the ball away, and gets called or intentional grounding… resulting in a game clinching safety for the Cyclones. I like Alan Bowman, and I think he is going to be a very, very good QB. In some cases he already has been a very, very good QB. But he’s still a freshman… There have plenty of QBs put up big numbers early in their career, only to end up flaking out later on. Tech fans saw it with Davis Webb, although he did end on a good note with in Cal, he never could live up to his expectations that his freshman season set up. Other examples: Kenny Hill, Trevor Knight, Shane Buechele, Blake Bell, just to name a few… Bowman’s story is still being told, we don’t know how good he will eventually be. He has a great opportunity to turn things around next week against Oklahoma. Whether or not he can do that could have a huge impact on the future if this program.

 

What’s next?

I will have much more in a game-preview later this week. But initially, I think Iowa State presented a unique challenge for Texas Tech. Again, Campbell is a superstar HC and has designed a defense that is perfect for air-raid, pass reliant offenses like Texas Tech. Oklahoma, on the other hand, doesn’t present these same challenges, as they recently fired their defensive coordinator and have struggled on that side of the ball all season. I love Ruffin McNeal as much as any Tech fan for what he did while he was in Lubbock, but I don’t think he’s in a position to fix all of their defensive issues at this point, as the interim DC. Obviously Lincoln Rylee and Kyler Murrey will present a multitude of problems of Tech’s defense as well. But, with this game being at night and in Lubbock, Tech will have a chance to win this game… More on that later this week.

As always, GunsUp

-Josh-

Kliff Kingsbury’s revenge tour heads to Ames, Iowa… Also I hate Ames, Iowa!

Don’t look now College Football fans, but we’re just about half way through the season. As sad as that is, this is where things either start to get really fun, or really miserable. For Tech fans, its unfortunately been the latter for the better part of Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure as Head Coach. In the final 5 games (6 for Bowl seasons) of each of Kliff’s 5 seasons as HC, Tech has a woeful record of 6 wins and 21 losses. That hurts me to type. Literally makes my fingers ache as I think about some of the losses this team has suffered over the years. Like each of the final 5 regular season games in 2013, after a 7-0 start and a top 10 ranking… We quickly realized that the backloaded schedule was the main cause of that 7-0 start, but that didn’t make it any less frustrating. I could bring up some of the late season losses in 2014, but that entire season was a dumpster fire. There was the 2015 blowout loss to Oklahoma, followed by a wild 70 to 53 loss to Oklahoma State (a game I was in attendance for). 2016 was an especially strange way to fall flat on our faces. After missing the game tying extra point, Tech lost 44-45 to the top 15 ranked Oklahoma State. Tech played really well in that game, despite the heartbreaking fashion in which they lost, it was reason for hope. Then they followed that performance up with what I believe is the most disappointing game in Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure, a 66-10 loss to Iowa State… Where else but in freaking Ames, Iowa! A place that, honestly, nobody cares about… But is somehow a nearly impossible place to win. Which brings us to Texas Tech’s Week 9 matchup.

Texas Tech comes in at 5-2, their best record since 2015. In 2015 they finished the regular season 2-3 and lost to LSU in the Texas Bowl, finishing with an overall record of 7-6. Simply put, that’s not good enough this year. Tech absolutely must finish this season the way they have started it, and that all starts with this game in Ames. The Cyclones are just 3-3 overall (2-2 in the Big12), but they have loads of momentum coming off of their 30-14 win over West Virginia. After a tough start to the season (1-3), ISU has won two straight in impressive fashion. Beating Oklahoma State 48-42 before the upset over West Virginia. This 2-week turnaround for the Cyclones offense came with the insertion of QB Brock Purdy. He, along with RB David Montgomery, have stabilized this offense and made them a legitimate threat to defenses in the Big12. On top of this new offensive development, Matt Campbell is one of the best coaches in the Big12, and their defense is always stout. In the two times Kingsbury has matched up with Matt Campbell, Campbell has coached circles around Kliff. Make no mistake, this Texas Tech team is not treating Iowa State as a 3-3 football team. And this coaching staff sure as heck will not be taking this game lightly. So far this season, Kliff has gotten over the Oklahoma State hurdle, he and the team proved that they can come from behind and show some fight in their close loss to West Virginia, and now it’s time for Kliff to exercise some demons against Campbell and the Cyclones. So lets dive into the matchup.

 

Tech’s offense Vs ISU’s Defense

The Cyclone’s defense is stout. They rank 2nd in scoring defense, 1st in rushing defense, 2nd in passing defense, and 1st in total defense. I feel comfortable saying that this is one of the 3 best defenses in the Big12 (TCU & UT being the others). The thing about this group is that no one player, or position group stands out above the other. They’re just solid at every level. They’re incredibly well coached. Having said that, they DID allow 42 points to an average Oklahoma State offense, so Tech can have some success if they execute the game plan well. This should be much easier with a healthy Alan Bowman back at the wheel running this high powered offense. Had he still been out, I would not feel great about this offenses chances to have success this Saturday. But after seeing Bowman back in action against Kansas (yes, I know its Kansas), I’m confident that Tech can score points against Iowa State. The offensive line has been solid all year long, even with some injuries, they haven’t really missed a beat. The RB spot looks to be a two man group right now with Tre King and TaZhawn Henry getting the vast majority of the carries. I wouldn’t expect huge numbers on the ground, but I do think they’ll be able to trust the run game. While that would have been the case even without Bowman, getting him back adds that world famous air attack that was missing with Duffey under center. Bowman has been able to establish every WR position each time he’s taken the field. Expect a heavy dose of Antoine Wesley, with that stout secondary of ISU’s, Bowman will lean heavily on his top target. If you’re looking for a barometer for Tech’s success during this game, look at the amount of WR’s Bowman can get involved in the offense. If he can consistently find Seth Collins and JaDion High in the slots, as well as TJ Vasher opposite of Wesley, that will equal success for this offense.

 

Tech’s Defense Vs ISU’s Offense

In fitting with the rest of this Texas Tech season, this is the side of the ball that I think Tech has the advantage. Yes, Purdy has been really good in his two games as the Cyclones starting QB. But I feel like we may be overreacting a bit to two good games by the kid. I got in a brief twitter exchange with the Barstool Big12 account about Purdy Vs Bowman… The person running this account seemed like he or she may have been a ISU student, or alum, or maybe just a fan, I don’t know. But they seemed to be confident that Purdy was the better player… After two games?? Nah, I don’t buy it yet. And if ISU is a top 3 defense, Tech is no lower than 5th. They rank 3rd in pass defense and 4th in pass defense efficiency. But what I think is the most important defensive statistic, Tech is 1st in the Big12 in 3rd down defense. In a conference that has high powered offenses everywhere you turn, the most important job of the defense is to get off of the field, and so far, no body has been better than Texas Tech at this so far in 2018. When you look at the schedules, I think Tech’s defense is just as proven as ISU’s. The key to success will be limiting Montgomery and getting off of the field on 3rd downs.

 

Prediction:

I started this blog taking about how much I hate Ames, because it really is a tough place to play, especially for Texas Tech the past few years. So by no means do I think this will be an easy game for Texas Tech. But all year I have said that this is a different Tech team. They’ll be ready for this matchup, and they’ll be thinking of the past two losses to ISU every step of the way. I think this one stays fairly low scoring, and Tech’s defense makes enough stops to get a huge road W.

Tech: 28

ISU: 17

 

GunsUp!

-Josh-

NBA: Houston Rockets Season Preview

houston-rockets-t3

Well folks, the absolute best time of the year is finally here. We have college football in full force, with UT threatening for playoff contention, Texas Tech seems to be on the correct side of relevancy for the first time since 2013, and A&M is in the middle of a promising season. We also have The World Champion Houston Astros in the middle of their quest to repeat and solidify themselves as the best team of this generation. And now we have the beginning of what should be an incredibly fun NBA season for the Houston Rockets. Brace yourselves, much like the NBA regular season, this blog may run a bit long, but it will be action packed, dramatic, and hella petty! Lets go!

Full disclosure, I am not just a Rockets fan. I don’t simply root for them. I live and breath Houston Rockets basketball! It’s honestly been a problem. I will prioritize watching Rockets basketball over almost anything. I rarely socialize with anyone who admits to being a James Harden hater (and there are many), even right now I am writing this blog in stead of studying for a test that I have tomorrow morning. By the time this is posted, I’d have already given a solid C effort on the test… But its okay because Rockets basketball is BACK!

So now that you know that about me, you really should not be surprised about whats to follow…

As soon as Chris Paul went down with what turned out to be a Grade 2 hamstring strain, I officially declared that there would be no 2018 NBA Champion unless that team was the Houston Rockets. Sure, Golden State went on to defeat the Cavs in what was quite literally a 12 on 1 matchup. LeBron is the GOAT, there’s no debating that. But even he could not overcome the star-power of GS, awful officiating (more on that soon), and his own teammates going completely brain-dead late in the only game they had a chance to win. But anyone who watched the Western Conference Finals knows (even if they don’t admit it) that it took a combination of 3 absurd oddities in order for the Warriors to get past the Rockets. 1. Obviously, the Chris Paul injury. He was the best player in that series, he proved time and again that he was not going to let GS win down the stretch of these games. Guys, games 4 and 5 were not even that close. 2. Games 6 and 7 were quite simply the worst officiated games I have ever seen in my 10+ years of closely following the NBA. It was a joke, GS was basically tackling defenders in order to get open 3’s, Harden got fouled 3 times on shots from behind the arc and not once did he his free-throws, I could go on and on… And 3. The only one that was actually the Rockets fault, the extreme aberration of going on an 0-256 (basically) from the 3 point line in game 7. And EVEN with all of those factors, the Rockets lead by double digits in the second half of both potential close out games! Even if I take off my red-tented goggles, it’s obvious that if even one of those circumstances go slightly more in Houston’s direction, they close it out and go on to win the title. But they didn’t, so the Warriors and Cavs played an exhibition series for the right to call themselves 2018 Champs*. I said it after game 7, and it has remained true, losing to that smug, elitist, soft, Warrior team in the Western Conference Finals the way that we did changed me. I will never get over it. I think about it at least once a day. The Rockets did something that NOBODY said they could do, they assembled a team capable of beating greatest team ever, and t was taken away from them by Scott Foster and a bad hamstring. The Rockets were the better team… But my gosh, how soon we forget!

If you’ve paid attention to NBA coverage over the offseason and leading up to the start of the new season, you would think that the Rockets were just some cinderella story that has no chance to match last years potential. Just yesterday ESPN dropped their first power rankings… 1. GS, 2. Boston, 3. TORONTO, 4. the little ole 65 win Rockets. A couple days before that, NBA TV’s The Starters debated on their show who posed a greater threat to the Warriors, the Rockets or the Jazz… The bloody Utah Jazz! Fox Sports’ Jason McEntyre (probably spelled that wrong, don’t care because he’s a complete idiot!) picked the Rockets to finish in the bottom half of the Western Conference playoffs… All this because of the loss of journeymen Trevor Ariza, and Luc Mbah a Moute. Now, I love Ariza as much as any Rockets fan, and Luc was a nice surprise last season. But acting as if these guys are irreplaceable is idiotic at best. Trevor Ariza missed 15 games last season, in those games the Rockets were 14-1. The one loss was the final regular season game when they literally signed dudes off the street to keep from playing the rotation guys. Basically nobody played in that game. Oh, and that 0-578 3 point stretch in game 7 was lead by Ariza going 0-11 himself. This is who the national media thinks is irreplaceable!? Now for Luc Mbah a Moute… Again, he was a nice player and a big part of the team for most of the season. But who remembers what Luc was doing during the playoffs? The answer is absolutely nothing. Coming off of a second dislocated shoulder, he was completely out of the playoff rotation. And who would like to tell me the state of Luc Mbah a Moute’s career before he got to Houston and apparently became James Worthy? I’ll answer that one too… He was a bum! Thats why Morey was able to sign him to a vet minimum contract. Once again, if you think that either of these guys’ contributions can’t be replaced fairly easily, your an idiot. Its just that simple. Maybe if Morey didn’t do anything to make up for these losses there would be a point here, but that’s obviously not the case. So with that said, lets look at the 2018-19 roster and talk about how this team can get back to the WCF and take what is rightfully there’s!

So far the focus has been on the loss of Ariza and Luc, but the Rockets also lost sharpshooting big man Ryan Anderson, as well as some fringe rotation guys like Tarik Black and Joe Johnson. Anderson was awful last season. When he went down with injury, PJ Tucker took over the starting PF job and the Rockets went to another level. He’s a good player, and he’s probably the nicest player in the league, so I will continue to root for him. But the Rockets will not miss him or his monster contract. Trading him was addition by subtraction… But is was not the only addition made by Morey this offseason.

The Rockets will replace Ariza with James Ennis, another journeyman wing who’s career has been a carbon copy of Mbah a Moute’s was before he came to Houston. Only difference is that he’s a better athlete, he’s already shown his ability to score in transition during the pre-season. He’ll match Ariza defensively, and be a mor constant threat on offense. Another minimum signing that’s going to look a lot better than some expected is the guy that will likely take Luc’s role, though he has a much different skill set. That guy is Michael Carter-Williams. MCW is another guy who has basically been a journeyman. His career started off hot, winning ROY. But that draft class was a joke, and he’s never been able to improve off of that season. With that said, he’s a really good athlete, better than average wing defender, and has shown an ability to get to rim at a high success rate so far in the pre-season. He will likely play more of a wing with the Rockets, as opposed to being primarily a PG so far in his career. The Rockets have more natural spacing in their offense than any team in the league, and while MCW is not a threat from behind the arc, he’ll be able to attack and create offense much like Shawn Livingston does for Golden State. Before we talk about Carmelo, the Rockets didn’t just get cap relief in the Ryan Anderson trade. They also acquired young big man Marquese Criss, and combo guard Brandon Knight. Criss seems like a great backup option for Clint, but I don’t see him cracking the rotation at this point. Knight is still dealing with a knee issue, and at this point its unclear what his role will be. At the very least, he should provide some nice depth at guard to help modify the minutes of CP3 and Harden during the regular season.

Okay, lets talk about Carmelo Anthony… Who remembers the narrative a year ago, after OKC pulled off the trade for Melo? All of a sudden the fact that Daryl Morey pulled off a masterful trade to get the Point god, all of the talk was about Westbrook, PG13, and Melo being the Warriors biggest threat in the West. Well Melo never found his role with that team, refused to come off the bench, and was a defensive liability to say the least. The Thunder struggled on their way to the 4th seed in the west, and that “big 3” ended before it ever got started. When that group got together last year, I said it reminded me of when Houston teamed up Scottie Pippen, Barkley, and Hakeem in the late 90’s, in that in a few years Melo would be long gone on and nobody will remember the fact that he played with the Thunder. Much like nobody remembers that Scottie Pippen played for the Rockets. I get that it might seem a bit contradictory to claim I was right about it not working out in OKC, and then claim that it will work for Melo in Houston. But it will, and here’s why. For starters, Melo has a clear role on this team. That’s already been proven to not be the case in Houston. In OKC, Melo refused to come off the bench. In Houston, he’s stated that he will do whatever he’s asked to do in order to help the team win, and when the Rockets were at full health during the pre-season, guess who’s been coming off the bench!? That’s right. Melo has shown more self-awareness and a “team first” mentality this pre-season than he did all year in OKC last year. Why is that? Because there’s a proven culture of winning with this group. Melo wants to fit in, and I’m confident that he will. Now, this won’t be Denver Melo, NY Melo, or even Olympic Melo. Expect to see a brand new guy in Houston, 6th Man Melo is unselfish and all about winning. With his role clearly defined, thats exactly what he’ll do in Houston.

We’renow over 1800 words into this and I have barely mentioned anyone that contributed to last years 65 win Western Conference Finalist team. Most of the guys that really mattered to that 2018 team are back. A couple of guys you may have heard of, the reigning MVP James Harden, the Point god Chris Paul, former 6th Man of the year Eric Gordon, the junk yard dog and leader of this defense PJ Tucker, and the best possible Center to fit with this group of Hall of Famers, Clint Cappela. Not to mention the best offensive mind in basketball Mike D’Antoni. The loss of assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik will be a tough hurdle to get past, but this team will still be fine defensively simply because of the leadership on the floor. When Chris Paul was asked about the defense during media day, he responded by saying anyone not willing to play defense will have to answer to PJ Tucker. Similarly, Gerald Green was asked about the losing a leader like Ariza. He answered, “Everybody knows who the leaders are. 3 and 13. Everybody else is going to fall in line. If they don’t fall in line, thats why I’m here.” Honestly, how can you not love Gerald Green. The dude would die for this team!

I say all of this to try and prove that this team, despite what the bums in the national media are saying, is better than they were last year. Will they match that 65 win mark again, I don’t know. But they will go after home-court again, and the roster is even more equipped to take down the Champs* this season than they were last year. Compare the rosters for yourself…

2017-18

PG: Chris Paul – Eric Gordon

SG: James Harden – Eric Gordon – Gerald Green

SF: Trevor Ariza – Luc Mbah a Moute – Joe Johnson

PF: PJ Tucker – Ryan Anderson

C: Clint Capela – Nene/Tarik Black

2018-19

PG: Chris Paul – Eric Gordon – Brandon Knight

SG: James Harden – Eric Gordon – Michael Carter-Williams

SF: James Ennis – Michael Carter Williams/Gerald Green

PF: PJ Tucker – Carmelo Anthony

C: Clint Capela – Isiah Hartenstein/Marquese Criss/Nene

Its not even really debatable… This roster is younger, deeper, and just simply better than it was last season. I genuinely believe that James Ennis will be an upgrade over an aging Trevor Ariza. Eric Gordon and Carmelo Anthony will be BY FAR the best 1-2 punch off the bench in the league. Someone I haven’t even mentioned, Isiah Hartensein is going to be a nice surprise at backup Center. PJ Tucker will do what he does. And most importantly, Chris Paul and James Harden are the two most hungry superstars in the league. They will be even better in their second year together. The narrative probably won’t allow for harden to win his second consecutive MVP, but rest assured he’ll be just as good if not better this season. Buckle up, this is going to be another fun NBA season in Houston, but this time it will end with the rightful team hoisting the Larry O’Brian Trophy!

Prediction:

Rockets get the top seed once again, going 63-19. Sweep Nuggets in the first round, take out the Jazz once again in round 2, and defeat the Warriors in 6 games to get to the Finals. In a rematch of the 1981 and 1986 Finals, Rockets Vs Celtics for the Title. Rockets in 5. Boston fans will just be getting over losing to the Astros in the ALCS when they’ll once again be sent home crying by the new Title Town. Lets Freaking GO!

Thursday Night Texas Matchup- Tech Vs TCU

Lets quickly preview tonights huge Big12 matchup between the Red Raiders and Horned Frogs.

Both team are coming off of a bye. Both teams are likely missing their starting QB. Both teams are 3-2… This is a massive game for both teams. Kind of a cross roads of sorts that will likely tell us the direction that both teams will be heading the rest of the season. TCU struggled against Iowa State after Shawn Robinson went down, but they were able to pull off the win. Tech, on the other hand, came storming back against WVU after Alan Bowman went down but were unable to finish off the comeback attempt.

Tech’s defense will have to start off much better than they have so fa this season when playing good competition. TCU’s defense is always salty, but if Tech can execute to their ability, they should be able to move the ball pretty well. While I like Tech’s chances to play well tonight, the advantage goes to TCU here.

Offensively, even if Shawn Robinson was healthy I would give Tech the advantage. With a week and a half to get Jett Duffey ready, I expect Kliff’s guys to be sharp tonight, starting with the new QB. I’m expecting a big game from Duffey.

Prediction:

These teams always play each other tough (with the exception of the infamous 80 pointer TCU put up a few years ago). I expect the same tonight. Nobody draws up defenses to stop the Air Raid like Gary Patterson, and I truly believe that Kingsbury is the most creative offensive mind on college football. But for tonight, I think Tech’s defense outplays TCU’s offense, gets a couple key turnovers and pull away late in this game.

Texas Tech- 35

TCU- 24

GunsUp

-Josh-