1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-4, 1-3)
Bad Guys: TCU Horned Frogs (4-3, 2-2)
When: Saturday, October 29th at 2:30 pm
Where: Amon G. Carter Stadium; Ft. Worth, Texas
TV/Stream: ESPN2 (Watch ESPN)
Radio/Stream: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
2. Uniform Tracker
|Stephen F. Austin||W, 69-17|
|Arizona State||L, 68-55|
|Louisiana Tech||W, 59-45|
|Kansas State||L, 44-38|
|West Virginia||L, 48-17|
3. The Big Storyline
Travis and I normally start the weekly conversation on Tuesday and he emailed me on Monday and said that he was taking a week off from the Dream No Little Dreams book that he’s writing on Staking The Plains. Even being able to write that last sentence makes me incredibly proud, but we all reach that point in the year where we sorta need a break. So, I unilaterally decided that it might be best for Travis and I to take a break from the weekly conversation so that we can maybe regroup a bit.
But no matter who you are, at some point, we all need to take a break because it can be overwhelming. Sometimes during the week, I struggle with the idea of getting things done, the idea of finishing everything that goes into a week is sometimes daunting.
And it doesn’t stop. In fact, it can sometimes get worse because basketball starts in the month of November, so things get ramped up even more (and with my job being a ton of estate planning, this year will be particularly busy with my actual job, plus I have a trial in December). And this isn’t one of those things where I’m feeling sorry for myself, this is the reality that I’ve created for myself and I’m perfectly happy with the crazy and hectic part of my life.
And to think that this is one of those things where as busy as I am, it doesn’t even come close to what it takes to mentally prepare and actually prepare for a football game each week. From watching film immediately after the game to then preparing your own game plan. It’s tiring and it’s even more tiring when you lose. When you lose, no matter the situation, you tend to become beaten a bit as a result of the grind that comes with the week-by-week preparation.
Preparing for TCU maybe different than in year’s past because the offense isn’t quite what it was. It’s what happens when you lose tremendous playmakers, but the Horned Frogs haven’t been at full speed. Kenny Hill has been okay, but not spectacular. The receivers for TCU have missed KaVontae Turpin and they haven’t handed the ball off as much as they previously have and the offensive coordinators maybe should have jumped at opportunities that they had last year.
And I still can’t figure out the defense, statistically, they’re okay, but this isn’t what I would have expected from a fully healthy (relatively speaking) TCU defense. Still though, this is one of those games where TCU is thinking that they’ve got to win this game. At home, against a team where they’ve had their number. At some point, I thought that Texas Tech would never forget those fateful 82 points. I still hope that resonates with the coaches that are here that were here then.
Two interesting things happened yesterday that I thought were worth discussing: Barking Carnival’s Dagga Roosta post, “Trading Paces: Can Switching to HUNH Hurt More Than Help?” and SI’s Andy Staples post, “‘I get on their assess if they give up a yard’: The secret to West Virginia’s defensive success in high-scoring Big 12”.
Let’s tackle the first link first where the title to the post should be telling enough, which is whether or not hurry-up-no-huddle offenses hurt teams, especially defenses. It’s something we’ve often considered, but didn’t have a ton of data. Well, this post has a ton of terrific data for the record, I agree with the author of the post, which is that I don’t know that the HUNH directly leads to bad defenses, but there’s certainly a correlation between the HUNH and bad defenses:
Let me say, first and foremost, that this is not proof that high pace is “bad” and slow pace is “good”.
In my opinion, what this data mostly shows is that, within typical ranges, both pace and changes in pace don’t matter.
But at the extremes, a high speed offense, whether measured in terms of overall pace or the rate of change of pace from one year to the next, can make defensive performance hard to manage. Some coaches balance it reliably well. But many more are defensively inconsistent. And a handful don’t even appear to be trying (howdy Kliff!).
Basically, teams that are running HUNH have terrific offenses, but the defenses are so terrible that the overall top 25 teams that have the highest rate are .500 overall, while 25 slowest teams are winning at a rate of .750. Again, I’m not saying that there’s a cause and effect here, but rather than there’s obviously some connection. Kingsbury has often said that there’s no correlation between running a fast offense and defenses, that he’s slowed things down by running a lot (Louisiana Tech) but the bad defense result has been the same. Well, this is pretty shocking and should be eye-opening because there’s obviously something there. And I’m not at all suggesting that the equation is HUNH = bad defenses, but there is certainly a correlation between the two. I think bad defenses are the result of scheme, players, coaching and probably a handful of other items including if the offense runs HUNH.
The second article from Staples is also interesting because it deals with our favorite Red Bull-drinking head coach, Dana Holgorsen and his success with West Virginia this year and this was the interesting part for me:
The less obvious reason the Mountaineers have improved so much on defense is the offense. It isn’t just that quarterback Skyler Howard & Co. have improved since last season—they have—it’s that head coach Dana Holgorsen has evolved his Air Raid scheme to incorporate more traditional aspects such as huddling, fullbacks and tight ends when necessary.
Meanwhile, instead of dictating the pace of practice the way many of his up-tempo colleagues do, Holgorsen collaborates with Gibson. He finds out what the defense needs to see and gives them the look that will better prepare the Mountaineers to stop an opponent.
Holgorsen and Gibson also have a “shared custody” agreement with quarterback Will Grier, who is sitting out this season after transferring from Florida. Grier gives the defense such a good look as the scout team quarterback that Gibson wants him all the time, but Holgorsen needs him watching the Mountaineers’ offense because Grier is expected to succeed Howard in 2017. Holgorsen and Gibson have figured out how to share.
That’s pretty telling and we have no idea what Kliff and Gibbs do or don’t do this, but you have to wonder about the past two weeks where the players have talked about the practices being more like training camp.
4. One Key Stat
Amazingly, TCU is 8th in the country in punt returns and much of that is because KaVontae Turpin played in the first three game where he helped TCU to 92 yards in punt returns against South Dakota State, 33 against Arkansas and 2 against Iowa State, while there was one other game where TCU returned 3 punts for 74 yards. The moral to the story, you better kick away from Turpin. And if you are are at all curious, Texas Tech is up to 40th in the nation in punt returns after finishing last year at 92nd overall.
5. What to Watch on Offense
Here’s TCU is a pretty standard 10 personnel look and I believe that TCU is two wide on each side.
The key for this play is the protection that Hill gets, that’s 6 West Virginia players rushing the passer and Hill has. Nice pocket and there is one player that’s broken through where the running back was supposed to block, but since they only have to go three yards, there should be at least one player that’s breaking out of their route. The problem for TCU on this play is that Hill stares down his receiver at the top of the screen the entire play. From snap to throw pretty much and as a result, the pass is easily intercepted as the WVU defender jumps the route and makes a nice play. But it was all Hill who never looked past his first option to at the very least survey the field.
This next play sets up where TCU is set up in 20 personnel and the line is starting to zone block towards the top of the screen.
And the TCU running back is headed that way, but the TCU offensive line doesn’t open up any sort of hole, so Hicks takes off and reverses field and he’s fast enough that he can out-run the defensive back bearing down and gains big yards. The key here is to stay your gap.
6. What to Watch on Defense
TCU sets up in their standard defense, but with only one linebacker from what I can tell, right in the middle of the play and six defensive backs.
This is a terrible screen shot, but wanted to point out two things here, which is that one WVU receiver clears out and the receiver right at the 5 yard line catches the ball leaves the TCU defender with the ability to make a tackle, but something happens that is strange in that the TCU defender really just misses the tackle. It’s not clean and not a good look.
TCU with a much more traditional look to start the play. West Virginia is running a guy in motion and the defender is running with the receiver for just a bit, but not the entire way.
Then, a really simple thing happens as that guy in motion just runs out in the flat and just flat out scores as he’s really untouched. The TCU defense just isn’t fast enough to make this sort of play and I’m just really not used to that.
Via OddsShark the current line is anywhere between 9 and 9.5 with the line opening up at 8.5. Vegas knows that Texas Tech doesn’t play well on the road and despite TCU’s own struggles, Texas Tech has struggled to score on the road and has generally played inconsistently, mainly because the defense hasn’t put up much of a fight. I’ll would have taken TCU with the line at 7, but I’ll take those points, perhaps despite my better judgment.