At this point, I think it's hard to imagine how a loss could be an embarrassment that they haven't already suffered this year. Losing on a horribly botched play that should have let you tie the game? Check. Pretending you were going to stay close, only to get demolished in the second half? Check. Losing to an FCS school? Check. Getting blown out so bad that the second string plays the entire second half? Check. What's left at this point?
To help steel us against the horrors that are sure to continue, I reached out to Ryan Smith over at Viva the Matadors, the SB Nation site that covers the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He was kind enough to enable my fantasizing, provide a classic refreshment to numb the pain, and answer a few questions for us prior to the sure-to-come beatdown on Saturday.
RCT: My impression of Texas Tech is that it's a "system school". By that I mean that most of the success, especially on offense, comes from the scheme being used rather than the talent of the individual players. Do you think that is a fair assessment? Which players are crucial to this offense and the way it is run?
VTM: It's definitely a system school. It was the first system school I would argue. Guys like Kingsbury who wasn't heavily recruited or Wes Welker who wasn't recruited led the rise of Tech in the 2000s. We call it "plug and play". Doesn't matter who you have as long as you play with a chip on your shoulder and execute the system. When Leach left, Tuberville tried to change the culture to a defensive team and running team... it didn't work. We are still trying to put the pieces back together on defense, but Kingsbury has the offensive culture back on track.
As far as personal you need... a SMART quarterback. Doesn't have to be a gifted athlete, just someone who can read defenses and get the ball to a spot. The same with receivers. Welker, Amendola, Eric Morris were some of the most high profile receivers at Tech outside of Michael Crabtree. Wasn't anything special about them except a high motor and precise routes. Those are the ingredients for success in our offense.
RCT: While Tech has a high-flying offense, it's defense can't really seem to stop anyone. The lowest point total for an opponent this year is 20 points, and Sam Houston State put up 45. Where can Texas Tech hope for improvement this year? And which players are the key to the defense?
VTM: Yeah the defense is really a sore spot. People think we had a bad D under Leach, but it was dominant compared to what we have now. We really are learning on the fly with a lot of young players. The two points we wanted to improve were forcing turnovers and reducing penalties. So far, we've done that. Once our young guys grow up and with the defense heavy recruiting class coming in, we could see a return to a tougher defense. As of now though, our live and die guys are DE Gary Moore, DE Pete Robertson and DE Branden Jackson. They are the energy of the defense. Where they go, the defense follows.
RCT: Your site recently ran an article saying that the Red Raiders are the third-best team in the conference, whereas our power rankings have them down at 5th, behind Oklahoma State and Oklahoma (ESPN has them at 4th). What, other than homerism, puts them up that high compared to other rankings? Or if you don't agree with them being ranked that high, where should they be and why do you put them behind anyone but TCU and Baylor?
VTM: I'm going to say it's closer to ESPN rankings in my opinion. The thing about Power Rankings, is its week to week. I would say 4th, behind OSU just because they are undefeated. Oklahoma State hasn't really impressed though. They've needed a lot of help which is why their undefeated record isn't getting more attention. As far as OU goes, I think we'll learn a lot about them this week playing an improving K-State team. See if it Texas exposed them or if it was an off game.
RCT: Let's imagine for a minute that somehow Kansas miraculously pulls out the victory. Paint me the picture of how that happened. What match ups get exploited? Does Ke'aun Kinner run completely wild?
VTM: Most Tech fans would say Mahomes gets hurt and has to leave the game. But like I said, it's more plug and play than most of them realize. I would say first, Kansas catches Tech looking ahead to OU. Kansas forces 3 turnovers, keeps Tech to attempting FGs and wins time of possession. Winning TOP would mean some sort of success in the running game. Breaking and 81 yard TD run won't do it though. Need to keep the Tech offense out of sync and on the sidelines.
RCT: Finally, what's your prediction for this game? I think everyone is expecting a Red Raider win, but who provides the biggest highlight? Which Texas Tech scrub comes out of this game looking like a Heisman candidate?
VTM: I always do my pre-season predictions here. So I'll stick with a 45-17 Tech win. Probably a little low on the scoring for both, but no matter what, if its a shootout I have to go with Tech. It won't quite be a game like last week against Baylor, but a win is a win. As far as heisman canidate, I'll go with Tony Brown. He's a true freshman who is getting more touches lately with some injuries in the WR corps.
RCT: BONUS - We get the feeling that Kansas Football fans are in for a rough season. To do our part to help, we are taking up collections. What alcoholic beverage would you contribute to the storehouse to help our fans drown their sorrows after a loss?
VTM: TCU already stole all the Keystone Light so that's not going to work... haha. If you want to just take it all in and get through go with a Sam Adams Octoberfest. But... if you want to feel optimistic, I'd go old school and say Tom Collin's for everyone. I know people aren't big fans of Gin these days, but this citrusy cocktail is so spring-like and sweet that it'll bring thoughts of March Madness and the eternal optimism of Spring Practice.
Don't fret Kansas fans, we've both been on the same path since the late 2000s. We've just been able to tread water better. It wasn't that long ago that KU won a BCS bowl, something Tech has never done and you didn't have overpowering athletes either. This year might be tough, but keep sipping that Tom Collins and maybe another Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier connection pops up.
Thanks to Ryan for taking some time to try and raise our spirits. Be sure to check out the questions I answered for him as well.