Let’s not mince words: Texas Tech has a terrible defense, and it likely can’t stop LSU’s Leonard Fournette in the Texas Bowl. ESPN’s Brandon Chatmon outlined how Tech might be able to slow October’s Heisman favorite: Abandon the blurring, fast-paced offense and substitute it for a more deliberate attack.
That’s exactly what the Red Raiders did against Arkansas in the infant stage of the year, giving the Big 12 its first win of the season against the SEC. Comparatively, the Red Raiders pull off the fourth most plays per game (85 plays) compared to Arkansas’ 70 plays per game. LSU is even more a polar opposite considering of its 67 plays per game, 64 percent are on the ground.
And the transitive property tells us that Tech should win considering it beat Arkansas while the Razorbacks handily beat LSU a few weeks ago.
Les Miles’ team thrives on keeping the ball in its hands and letting the clock run down. The Tigers have controlled well over half of the time compared to Tech getting the ball out of its hands almost as soon as it comes in possession.
As compiled by College Football Matrix in October, Tech nearly matched its explosive scoring output from last season within eight weeks. The Red Raiders had 22 scores outside of the red zone within just two months of play compared to 24 such scores last season thanks to the development of Patrick Mahomes under center.
There’s no way around it on the other end of the field, though. The Red Raiders allow 271 rushing yards per game and allowed nearly six yards per attempt. Opponents took advantage of the disarrayed defense, handing the ball off on 56 percent of plays this season. But just because teams run rampant against the Red Raiders doesn’t put them at a disadvantage nor does it mean Tech must take the route it did against Arkansas.
In the season finale with Texas, it was a game Kliff Kingsbury won by matching Texas’ play distribution. The Longhorns ran for more than eight yards per carry and over 400 yards on the ground overall, but Texas Tech’s DeAndre Washington helped his team nearly match Texas’ production on the ground as the Red Raiders had 51 plays on the ground compared to Texas’ 48 runs.
It wasn’t a matter of trying to limit the team’s usual offensive production. Texas Tech scored 48 points in the win while allowing 45 points to Texas. This was hardly an attempt to limit an offense had struggled to stay alive in the game but rather it turned into a relay race that Tech has found it can outpace just about any team in the nation.
Even if Fournette runs for 400 yards, it won’t be any different than Texas combining for that total. Texas Tech’s overall offense can outpace the one-dimensional Tigers.
Just like the regular season finale and even the game in Arkansas, expect Kingsbury to continue drawing up trick plays to confuse a Tigers defense that has only seen power-run SEC teams. As the last game of the season and seven-point underdogs, it won’t be a surprise to see Mahomes and company leave it all on the field in one last tiring effort to get to the finish line first.
It’s not about stopping (or slowing) Fournette. This game is about whose offense can score the most ways. Advantage Tech.