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From the Nosebleeds – The Texas Tech Red Mutants are Freakishly Good

Ryan Jacobs

What a fucking dismal weekend of sporting predictions and results it was. At least it was for me: my beloved Nittany Lions lost a heartbreaker to Iowa, ending their National Championship aspirations; the Eagles lost in usual fashion to the Giants to keep them tied for dead last in the highly competitive NFC East; and my prediction of an Oklahoma State upset became a joke. I could spend this whole time talking about why Penn State lost, but I’m not. I’m too hurt by the poor performance of a team that wasn’t as hungry as it should have been.

No, I think I’ll talk about Texas Tech, instead.

On Saturday night, I had another chance to watch the swarming horde that is the Texas Tech Red Raiders. It was like I was watching the movie Aliens all over again, yet this time the aliens resembled a set of human figures decked out in Black football apparel (instead of giant, black, insect looking creatures). I was almost waiting for a company of futuristic marines led by Sigourney Weaver to storm the field and slaughter the Tech horde in a barrage of gun fire, laser beams, and flamethrowers (Editor’s note: Could you imagine the ratings for that?) I determined that this Texas Tech football team is not human. (Editor’s note: But they are still people, so let’s be sensitive, okay?)

In fact, the players are genetically engineered freaks; mutants created in a lab. Many college football analysts call Mike Leech the “mad scientist” for his extensive input and manipulation of the college spread offense (and also because of his quirky character). But most people don’t realize how literally that name should be taken.

You see, Mike Leech got together with the scientists from the biochemistry and genetics departments at Texas Tech and discovered a way to successfully splice Michael Crabtree’s genes with the DNA of a cheetah. After this discovery, they spawned a whole team of offensive playmakers and then set them loose on the Big 12 conference under the command of Graham Harrell, senior brigadier football general of the Texas Tech mutant squad. (Editor’s note: Wolverine is sooo going to be a first round draft pick). Like his soldiers, Harrell is also a mutant DNA Makeup: one-half Joe Montana, one-half peregrine falcon, as evidenced by his uncanny vision. (Editor’s note: Kind of like how Chris Bosh is one-half person, one-half raptor. And not even because he plays for the Raptors – look at him, man! He looks like a friggin’ raptor!)

This may all sound funny (Editor’s note: Meh) but Tech’s offense certainly is not. Seriously, they are out of fucking control. If you didn’t watch Saturday’s game, I urge you to at least watch the highlights. Texas Tech played very good defense, especially against an Oklahoma State team that ranked 7th in total offense (and 6th in scoring), allowing only 20 points. But it was the offense that stole the show in this game. Graham Harrell was UNSTOPPABLE. He had 5 different receivers with at least 5 catches; 4 of those 5 had at least 77 yards receiving and 3 of those 5 split Harrell’s 6 passing TDs. Everybody was wide open.

Mike Leech spread out the Oklahoma State defense so much that they couldn’t even “bend”; all they did was “break”. (Editor’s note: So much dirty joke potential in there, I went cross-eyed). If receivers were covered downfield, Harrell simply flicked the ball to his safety valve: usually a running back in the flat. So many Tech players were making so many plays across the field that the Cowboys simply could not account for a running back coming out of the backfield.

Harrell always had an exit strategy. Even if he didn’t have a dump off/hot route, he made plays outside the pocket and bought time so that he could telepathically order his mutant receivers (utilizing their mutant abilities) to come back on their routes so that he could throw to them. It didn’t matter what mutant caught the ball, though, because they all ended up juking and/or running away from at least one Cowboy defender after the catch.

Every player who touched the ball for Tech did their best  Reggie Bush impression, especially the player who currently garners the number 5: the man himself, Michael Crabtree. Somebody please give this kid a pass to the NFL right now, I want the Eagles to pick him up. Strength, speed, size, vision, hands, moves…Crabtree has it all. (Editor’s note: Legs that go all day, perky breasts…wait, sorry, I was getting my sexual fantasies mixed up with Jacobs’ sexual fantasies…sorry about that). He was plucking Red Raider bullets out of the air like they were his prey, attacking the Oklahoma State defense with a hunger for success.

Harrell led his team to 8 straight touchdown drives, seven of those consisting of 8 plays or more, averaging over 10 plays per drive in that span. Amazing. He finished 40-50 for 456 yards and 6 TDs. Insane.

NFL Crystal Ball Prediction: Harrell, like Colt Brennan before him, has put up freakish numbers running the spread. Yet NFL scouts will still criticize this amazing QB talent due to the steep learning curve for NFL quarterbacks. (Editor’s note: And for the fact that no NFL team runs the style of offense that he uses, which very well could be masking deficiencies in his mechanics and don’t give NFL coordinators an idea of how he would make his reads in the pros). But those scouts will soon realize that Harrell is a mutant, and we all know the NFL has made a home for many freak/mutant players such as Randy Moss, Deion Sanders, Antonio Cromartie, etc. (Editor’s note: I guess we can start calling Roger Goodell “Professor G?”)

I think I was most impressed with how well Tech was able to grind out drives, mixing in a solid ground game with their video-game passing offense. Speaking of video games, I heard the Texas Tech band playing music from Nintendo’s Mario, the NES version, during the game. I thought that was great. The whole university understands the unreal numbers that their team puts up and supports the whole videogame, slang reference thing going on wholeheartedly. (Editor’s note: That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we in the business call “investigative reporting.” Can’t get that anywhere but here, people).

So I guess I’m buying into the whole Texas Tech thing; or, at the very least, recognizing their talent. They have an endless stable of playmakers and I can’t figure out who would be able to slow them down enough to keep pace with the points they can score. Florida perhaps? Florida’s offense is explosive in its own right and their defense might be able to do just enough to get by. USC? Their defense might be the best in the country, though I don’t know if even they could stop the Texas Tech Mutant Raiders.

I would assume the best defense against Tech would be a really balanced offense that could grind out drives of their own, keeping Harrell and the mutants off the field. But Tech’s defense looks like they can step up and play against some of the best offenses in the country (Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas). That being said, they do have to play against the cyborg-led Sooners next week, featuring an offense that I feel can hang with Tech. If they can survive that game, however, it should be smooth sailing for the Red Raiders. Which is what I said about Penn State after they beat Ohio State, and look what happened there. Damnit. Keeping a high degree of intensity for an entire season is hard to accomplish for any team. Let’s see if Tech has what it takes to keep fighting, because as much as I like them, I’m still not completely convinced.

Texas Tech has one of the best teams in the country; they deserve to be respected. And if they don’t hit any speed bumps in the next couple of weeks, they may cruise right on into a BCS National Championship birth.

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From the Nosebleeds: The Big 12 ain’t got jack on Penn State

Ryan Jacobs

I was very impressed with Penn State’s performance in Madison this past Saturday night; it was the kind of victory that is solidifying PSU as one of the best all-around teams in the country.  Daryll Clark has been the most impressive player during this team’s rise to 2008 football glory.  Against Wisconsin, Clark proved himself as a passer more than he has all season.  Quite simply, Clark is playing lights-out football.

However, Daryll Clark is being outshined by the holier-than-thou Big 12 quarterback club.  I watched the Red River Shootout and was extremely impressed with both Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford…honestly, who wouldn’t be?  Bradford has thrown for 23 TD’s already this season and McCoy has completed 79.4% of his throws.  These huge stats continue through the rest of the conference with quarterbacks like Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, and Todd Reesing.  How did this conference give birth to so many aerial assaults?

There are many possible answers to that question, but I think maybe poor defense has something to do with it.  Don’t get me wrong – when you have a gifted offense like many Big 12 teams do, you’re going to score some points. But you would figure that inter-conference rivalries would slow high-scoring teams.  Oklahoma State did a good job of forcing turnovers on Saturday night, intercepting Chase Daniel three times, the first time he’s been picked since the season debut against Illinois (showcasing his, well, God-like abilities during that time). But Daniel still threw for 390 yards in a close game.

Oklahoma, who Kirk Herbstreit says is one of the “nastiest defenses in the country”, got gashed for 161 yards on the ground and 277 yards through the air in their close loss to Texas.  Vice versa, Sam Bradford lit up the “best defense he has seen by far this year” for 387 yards and 5 TDs (though he did throw two picks).  These teams have great playmakers, but defense does not seem to be this conference’s strength.

In fact, Kansas, ranked 27th in the nation in scoring defense, has statistically the best defense in the conference, followed next by Oklahoma at 37.  Penn State, on the other hand, is 6th in scoring defense and 8th in total offense allowed.  I realize that Penn State racked up those stats against some pretty poor offenses, but the same goes with Kansas, Oklahoma, and the majority of the other Big 12 teams, with their early season, cream-puff schedules.  The point is simple: if you’re playing poor teams and you have a good defense, you should be able to win these games without surrendering many points or yards.  These Big 12 teams obviously don’t have those kinds of defenses.

And another thing – I keep hearing that the Big 12 is the best offensive conference in DI-A.  While this appears to be valid, many supporters of this theory have (obviously) never checked out the eye-popping stats put up by players in the non-BCS, Conference USA.  Just check last year’s numbers for guys like Tulsa’s Paul Smith (QB, 5065 passing yards, 60 Total TDs) or Central Florida’s Kevin Smith (RB, 2567 rushing yards, 30 Total TDs), or Tulane’s Matt Forte (RB, 2127 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs), or Eastern Carolina’s Chris Johnson (RB, 1423 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs).  All three of those running backs are now in the NFL and are already, or will soon make a difference for their respective teams.  This is, overwhelmingly, the best offensive conference in D-IA college football and possibly the worst defensively.

I am still impressed with the big-play Big 12 offenses, but I think Penn State deserves some serious national respect. (Editor’s note: Um, gotta say, I feel as though a national ranking of three is respect).  Penn State’s offense is extremely efficient and very balanced, which in turn leads to smaller numbers for Daryll Clark.  This may lead to a conclusion that Clark isn’t good enough for consideration in the kissing-the-Big-12-quarterback’s-ass club. (Editor’s note: From what I’ve heard, people leave these club meetings with a bad taste in their mouth). On Saturday night, however, he proved to me that he has the ability to throw with the best of them.  He is smart, makes good decisions, and can make every throw across the entire field, regardless if he is standing upright or running for his life.  His ability to make plays in the passing game, especially after things have broken down, is amazing.  His comparison to Michael Robinson is unfair, because Clark is a true passer who just happens to be able to run (and with some strength).  Dare I say he reminds me of a young Donovan McNabb at Syracuse?

Clark is enjoying extreme success in a spread offense that has weapons everywhere (7th in Scoring Offense with 45.3 pts./game), and a team that really doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses (9th in Total Offense, 8th in Total Defense, excellent special teams).  Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated (probably SI’s best known college football writer) stated, quite frankly, that he hasn’t seen an offense as dynamic and dangerous as Penn State’s since that of the 2004 Utah Utes, led by coach Urban Meyer, who broke into the BCS that year with an undefeated season.  Anybody else think Urban Meyer knows how to run a really good spread?  Now what about Penn State?

Penn State’s offense is ranked statistically with the best in the nation, but I still don’t think that many analysts realize the stats they’ve compiled.  In the first quarter of this Saturday’s Red River Shootout, a stat flashed onto the screen: Oklahoma has outscored their opponents 103-3 in the first quarter this season.  Kirk Herbstreit promptly stated, “I don’t know if we’ve seen a stat like that in college football”.  Oklahoma improved upon that stat, making it 110-6 by the end of the first quarter in that game, a very impressive stat with a 104 point difference.

Now look at Penn State.  Coming into Madison, Penn State had outscored its opponents 110-20 in the second quarter, then improved that stat to 131-27 by halftime; a very impressive stat with the same 104 point difference as Oklahoma in the first quarter. So in a word, Kirk Herbstreit is wrong.  I won’t give him that much flack, as Herbstreit seems to be a Penn State supporter himself.  In the end though, he played quarterback at Ohio State, which forever leaves a part of him in the realms of douche-bagginess. (Editor’s note: Dot that eye, bitch!).

Coming into this Saturday, I thought Oklahoma had the best all around team in the country.  But after seeing them lose and seeing Penn State’s complete dominance, I think the Nittany Lions need to be considered as the nation’s most solid team from top to bottom.  I still have much respect for Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, USC, Florida and the likes (and I realize that Penn State has a ways to go), but PSU is a force to be reckoned with.

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