BY MICHAEL LEESE
As I travel around the country, I am often asked how good is this team or that team. This past weekend several people were asking me if Texas Tech was for real? This past weekend’s victory over Iowa State, has me convinced the Red Raiders are one of the better teams in the BIG XII.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has energized the team and fan base with his passion and enthusiasm for the game! The first-year coach is the youngest head coach in the FBS and a former quarterback at the school. The Red Raiders have jumped out to a surprising 6-0 start, including a 3-0 mark in the BIG XII, while becoming bowl eligible.
When fall practices began back in August, speculation was that Sophomore quarterback Michael Brewer would be the top signal caller. Brewer was the only returning quarterback on the roster with game experience. However Brewer was slow to recover from an injury, opening the door for true Freshmen Davis Webb and Baker Mayfield, a walk-on. The job was won by Mayfield, who became the first walk-on quarterback to start on opening day for Texas Tech. The walk-on led the Red Raiders to a 5-0 start, including a 20-10 win over a very good TCU team. He was hurt in week five and gave way to Webb, another true freshman, who directed last weeks victory over Iowa State 42-35.
The passing game has been the bread and butter for the Red Raiders for years. The Red Raiders currently rank third in the country, averaging 409 yards per game. Jace Amaro has emerged as one of the better tight ends in the country. The 6’5″ Junior has 47 catches for 606 yards. Eric Ward has chipped in with 34 catches for 404 yards and three touchdowns. It should also be pointed out that the Red Raiders have played solid defense, allowing only 17.3 PPG.
The schedule will be much more difficult in the second half of the season. Kingsbury’s bunch will play three tough road games, while they draw Oklahoma State and Kansas State at home. They finish the season against teams sporting a 23-11 record up to this point. Gazing into my crystal ball, I think the Raiders will finish 8-4, and receive a bid to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe.
PAC 12 NOTES……….The PAC 12 North could be the best division in the country, as the six teams have a 26-12 overall record. You may not realize that Oregon State has quietly moved to 5-1 with a 52-24 win at Washington State. The Beavers have been riding the play of quarterback Sean Mannion and receiver Brandin Cooks, and lead the nation in passing yards at 433 per game. My advice is to watch out for USC moving forward! The Trojans have great athletes, a chip on their shoulders, and want to keep interim coach Ed Orgeron on the short list to become head coach.
SEC GETS EIGHT RANKED IN TOP 25……..Auburn,off to a 5-1 start, moved into the national rankings over the weekend, giving the SEC eight teams ranked in the Top-25. I don’t expect the Tigers to hang around long as they play Texas A&M this weekend. Kudos to the Missouri Tigers this past weekend, as the they went down to Georgia and took care of business. During the game, quarterback James Franklin was injured, and will miss several weeks. Freshmen Maty Mauk will try to keep the Tigers roaring. Finally, Johnny Manziel had me shaking my head at just how good he can be. He again showed toughness, leadership and athleticism while leading the Aggies to a stunning comeback win at Ole Miss.
FROM THE ATLANTIC……..I have now seen the Hokies play twice in-person and can tell you their defense is one of the best in the country! The defensive line is outstanding, simply overwhelming offenses at the point-of-attack. The Hokies have won five in a row after losing to top-ranked Alabama. It’s also important to note that the Hokies are getting healthier in the backfield with the return and development of a couple of tailbacks. Logan Thomas has also improved over the past few weeks, making this Hokie club, one to watch. One other ACC team to watch moving forward is Duke. The Blue Devils have won two in a row and now sit at 4-2. Anthony Boone should return from an injury this week giving the offense a big boost!
FROM THE BIG TEN…….I could not believe how cool it looked to be watching the white-out at the Michigan vs. Penn State game Saturday night. The Nittany Lions upset the Wolverines in four overtimes, after tying the game with 27 seconds left to force overtime. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house through four overtimes, and I am sure the crowd played a role in helping the Nittany Lions to victory.
RANTS & RAVES
RENAME THE CONFERENCES………..Thats right, Why not call these conferences what they are! The PAC-12 did it when they went to twelve teams. The Big 10 is NO longer the BIG 10, and the Big 12 is NO longer the BIG 12. Someone out there has to have a few good ideas about name changes! I know I do!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK……LSU head coach Les Miles referring to a reporter making a hammer and a nail analogy after his team beat Florida.
“You know what? It’s not a hammer and a nail relationship. It’s an opportunity for an opponent to be equal, and to raise their level of play in such a fashion that they win. And that’s how this thing works, that in fact you respect the opponent and he’s not the hammer and he’s not the frickin’ nail, okay? He’s the opponent. You understand? I’m just letting you know, I resent that. I resent the fact that suddenly, we were nailed. You got it? I mean honest to Pete’s. We’re a pretty good team last year. I thought we played like a son-of-a***** in that statement. I felt differently than the nail, so you know.”
But if you have to be either the hammer or the nail, it’s better to be the hammer!