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Gopher Football Bowl Game Prep: Speculation on both sides

While Texas Tech fans believe that Gophers pass defense can't be that good because the B1G doesn't throw the ball, what kind of defenses did Tech face to gain their No. 2 passing offense ranking?

Don't expect to see a lot of this on Friday night.
Don't expect to see a lot of this on Friday night.

On Christmas Eve morning we ran some Q & A with Seth C, a rival blogger from the Texas Tech blog Viva The Matadors, which will heretofore be referred to as VTM. VTM has a nice Game Preview Stream where they take a look at the match-up between our Gophers and their Red Raiders.

I spent a bit of time perusing the pieces and their comment sections today.

A couple of themes that I picked up on while perusing the pieces...

First, not being a TT fan, and knowing almost nothing about them since Mike Leach was forced out of Lubbock, it's a bit shocking to realize how not only OK the fan base is with Tubberville being gone, but they are actually happy for it, and excited, in fact I'd use the word giddy, to move on.

Second, um dudes, these folks are VERY confident about playing our Gophers and there were several comments in this vein. Here are a couple of my favorites...

This bowl game will be a blowout
Tech will score early and often. I hope every player on the roster gets some playing time.

The worst thing
that could have happened to Minnesota was Tubs leaving. Our guys are gonna come out excited and fired up unlike we've seen in a long time.

Minnesota is pretty bad at the football

Felt before...
tuBS left that we would blow them out, considering the fact Minnesota really sucks, especially offensively. But I was none-too-excited about it...just felt it woulda been hollow. Now, with our handicap gone (tuBS' staff was like the human equivalent of the "keep games close" modifier on NCAA football ‘13...only WAY more effective), there's just no doubt it will our day. So EXCITED to be totally happy with our program again!

Cumbie (OC Sonny Cumbie)
will look like the best offensive coordinator in college football after this game.

The weight
Has been lifted. It was a 3 year tumor. I would be floored if we don't kick ass and take names like raiders do...

The level of confidence is not surprising. It's a widely accepted fact outside of Gopher circles that the Gophers aren't a very good football team. Heck, even inside Gopher circles there seems to be some significant fear that we just can't hang with the Red Raiders.

Part of the overconfidence for Red Raiders fans stems from the fact that, because the B1G is primarily a rushing league, the Gophers No. 11 ranking in pass defense doesn't hold much water.

While it's true that the B1G is more of a running league, that probably speaks more to our 2-6 record in the conference than the strength of our pass D and doesn't necessarily mean our pass defense numbers are suspect. The four best passing offenses faced during the 2012 campaign were on-average held nearly 30% below their season average for passing production when they played the Gophers.

Opponent Season Passing yards/game Passing yards vs Gophers % of avg production
UNLV 219 116 53.0%
W Michigan 290 209 72.1%
Syracuse 302 228 75.5%
Purdue 240 198 82.5%

The Gophers won each of these games which were against teams that relied much more on the pass for offensive production than the rush throughout their season.

Here is a bold (perhaps flawed) statement: When the Gophers get the opportunity to play teams that are "pass-happy," they win.

Now, let's be completely clear. The Texas Tech passing offense is LOADS more productive than any passing0 offense the Gophers have faced so far this season. Tech averages over 361 yards/game.

But what if the Gophers, with a month to prepare and to get healthy, were able to hold TTU to similar production as they held the best passing offense they faced this season, Syracuse?

If the Gophers could hold TTU 24.5% below their average production for the season? If they could do this, that would mean the Gophers would hold the Red Raiders to 273 yards passing. If the Gophers can hold the Red Raiders to 273 yards passing, I like our chances of winning this game.

But that's all speculation, and that's what these fan blogs are here to do, right?

Viva The Matadors has come short of calling the Gopher pass defense numbers a sham. By the same token, I'm not going to call TTU's passing numbers a sham either... but said numbers are worth considering.

While the argument that the B1G isn't a passing league, therefore the Gophers pass defense numbers aren't relevant, is potentially valid, a similar argument can be made against TTU's highly ranked passing offense.

Tech has the 2nd ranked passing offense in the country with 361 yards/game. Scary stuff. But the BigXII isn't exactly murderer's row when it comes to teams that play pass defense.

How bad were the pass defenses that Texas Tech played in 2012?

The Red Raiders didn't play a Top 25 ranked passing defense all season and played just two teams that had passing defenses ranked in the Top 40 in the entire country: Oklahoma (#26) and Texas (#39).

The Red Raiders lost both games.

Outside of those two opponents the Red Raiders played just one other team (TCU at #53) that was ranked in the Top 85 passing defenses in the entire country. All 8 of the other FBS teams the Red Raiders played had passing defenses ranked #89 or worse. FIVE of them ranked north of #110.

The more perplexing piece of the confidence puzzle is that TTU fans have even MORE confidence with their head coach gone that they will blow out the Gophers.

The argument goes something like this:

Tommy Tubberville was too conservative. He was intent on maintaining a reasonably balanced pass/rush ratio for the Red Raiders and wouldn't allow the offense to open up and pass as much as the coaching staff (and the fans, for that matter) would have liked. Lame duck head coach Chris Thomsen and offensive play-caller Sonny Cumbie won't have anybody holding them back from throwing the ball as much as they want and therefore it's going to be even more lopsided than it would have otherwise been.

These are all interesting arguments and fun to speculate about. The B1G and the BigXII are very different conferences.

But as Gopher fans, no matter how "in-house" the coaching transition is, we know there is some upheaval. I can't help but think that the distraction of a coaching change happening in the background is going to affect the Red Raiders in some way. By the same token, I can't help but believe that continuity with the entire program, and a month to heal and prepare, aren't going to help a coaching staff that has been together forever and knows what it's doing.