In the bowl installment of the rival blogger Q & A we learn that no tears were shed over Tubberville leaving TTU, that the Red Raiders might be even MORE pass happy in the Car Care Bowl than they were during the season, and that the Gophers are about to face a defense with some holes.
JDMill: First things first, obviously the big news for you guys since the season ended is the completely odd departure of head coach Tommy Tuberville. I've seen some rumblings about Tuberville that he maybe wasn't all that invested in TTU in the first place and may have been looking for a road out all along. What were fans of the Red Raiders thoughts on Tuberville before he left, and how do y'all (working on my Texas twang) feel about him leaving?
Seth C: Yes, it has been a whirlwind and maybe the best thing that could have happened. Generally speaking, I think a lot of fans were incredibly apathetic about Tuberville's job. In two straight seasons, his team completely tanked in the second half of the season and it was just depressing to watch. There was nothing inspiring about what he was doing. But when Tuberville resigned, that post turned into a celebration post. Good times. Fun GIF's. This really was a situation where it wasn't that we realized until the initial shock had worn off that Tuberville leaving was the best thing that could have happened to Texas Tech.
JD: Cincinnati... Tubberville didn't exactly bolt for a national power. Does that feel like a slap in the face?
SC: No, not at all. I suppose on a national perspective, it appears that Tuberville left us high and dry, but Tuberville is a professional coach. He only had two more years left on his contract. Texas Tech's AD had not extended Tuberville's contract and there is no doubt that the reason that Tuberville left is because he gets five more years of security that he didn't have at Texas Tech. As I am sure you know, most coaches typically have four or five year rolling contracts and it was incredibly tough to sell to recruits Tuberville coaching at Texas Tech long-term when he only had two years remaining. Tuberville left for the money and that's fine with me.
JD: Tech got off to a really strong start to the season, going 6-1 in your first 7 games and beating two (at the time) ranked opponents (WVU & TCU), before stumbling a bit to end the season 1-4 in your final 5 games. What was the difference between the first and second halves of the season?
SC: Tougher opponents, injuries, and poor leadership. Texas Tech beat Kansas, in overtime, for the only win in the second half. This is the second straight year where the team fell apart in the second half of the year. The early season wins against TCU and West Virginia were great, but it's a grind and for the second straight year. Texas Tech also had some costly injuries to some key offensive players and a couple of defensive starters in the secondary. That was problematic and Texas Tech just doesn't have the depth to replace multiple players. Coaching, or lack thereof, may have been the bigger problem. If the fans were apathetic, then I can't imagine how the players felt. I think by the end of the season, they were going through the motions.
JD: TTU's passing offense is scary. 2nd in the nation in passing yards/game. QB Seth Doege throws for over 300/game and had two games where he threw for over 475 yards. Two WR's over 900 yards and 75 catches on the season. Is the stat-stuffing all about the talent or all about the system?
SC: I think it is a little bit of both. I think that Eric Ward is a fantastic receiver and he'll play on Sundays, I think. He's only a junior, so he'll be back next year. Doege is a very typical "spread" quarterback in that he doesn't have the strongest arm, but he is a smart quarterback that understands where the ball needs to go for the most part. It's probably a bit of both in terms of talent or system. Spread offenses are nothing new and I think that Tuberville did a pretty good job of trying to continue that type of continuity with the offense. It wasn't the same when Leach was here, but it was still pretty good. Most Texas Tech fans were ultimately disappointed with the offense because it wasn't good enough. Or explosive enough. Pretty high standard.
JD: The most interesting story line of this game really comes down to that prolific TTU passing offense, vs. Minnesota's 11th ranked passing defense. What do you expect the Red Raiders to be able to do that will give a good pass rush and ball crashing defense like the Gophers fits?
SC: I'm not sure. The Big Ten just isn't the passing conference that the Big 12 is. The Big 12 has five teams that average more than 300 yards passing a game, while the Big Ten has one. It's a chicken or the egg argument on some level, is this a situation where the Big Ten just has better defenses, therefore the teams are not as good offensively. I am sure that Texas Tech will continue to pass the ball and might even be better. There were significant rumors floating when Tuberville was coaching that he had a pretty strong hand in when Texas Tech would run or pass and wanted to make sure to keep a rush/pass ratio. A lot of fans think that Tuberville's hand really restricted the offense. Now, that offense will have the opportunity to do what they want to do without Tuberville and former Texas Tech quarterback Sonny Cumbie will be calling plays.
JD: From a running perspective, TTU really seems to spread it around. Kenny Williams gets the bulk of the carries (11/game), but SaDale Foster and Eric Stephens also average 7 carries/game each. Having said that, the Red Raiders are the 88th ranked rushing offense in the country at under 140 yards/game. Is the relative lack of rushing production due to the prominence of the passing game, or is this just a poor running team?
SC: It was really something to see how quickly the rushing offense fell off the map as the season progressed. Early in the season, against non-conference opponents, Texas Tech was averaging 230 yards rushing. But as soon as conference play started, the rushing offense really went into a shell. Maybe it was the need to maintain that ratio, but Texas Tech just couldn't run the ball on a consistent basis during conference play. So to answer your question, I think that Texas Tech should be a middle of the road running team and I think Texas Tech has some talented running backs, but they, along with the offensive line, have just never found their rhythm. Right now, this is just a poor running team that can't get it done on a consistent basis. This is the one part of the offense I hope Kingsbury is able to fix.
JD: Tell us about the TTU defense. The numbers say the Red Raiders are pretty good against the pass, ranking 23rd in the country and giving up less than 200 yards/game, but another number says your giving up almost 32 points/game.
SC: The defense started out on a terrific foot, but if you look at the numbers defensively conference vs. non-conference and that tells the story. Rush defense in non-conference was 75.33 YPG and in conference was 203.78 YPG. Pass defense in non-conference was 85.0 YPG and in conference was 232.4 YPG. Scoring defense in non-conference was 10.0 PPG and in conference was 39.1 PPG. As you can see, it is a night and day situation and Minnesota is getting the team that didn't do very well in conference play. This is a better defense than last year (Texas Tech was epically bad last year), but it's still a bad defense. Lots of missed assignments, not staying in gaps, etc.
JD: Give us some names on defense that the Gophers should be preparing for and for whom Gopher fans should keep an eye out.
SC: The best defensive player is DT Kerry Hyder. He's not huge, but has a terrific motor along the line and will work the offensive line all game long. S Cody Davis has been very good. He's limited athletically, but he's been a very good player the past four years. I personally think that CB Cornelius Douglas is a very good cornerback, but he was injured for a good chunk of the year and if he plays, it will help.
JD: Alright, the obligatory prediction time. Give me a winner, a score, and some detail about how you think it will go down.
SC: I think the current spread of 13 or so points is too much, but I do think that the Texas Tech offense will prove to be a bit much for Minnesota. I think this will be a fun game and I do think that the Minnesota running game is going to have significant success against the Texas Tech defense and that's going to keep it pretty close. I'll take Texas Tech 37, Minnesota 31.