1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-6, 3-6)
Bad Guys: South Florida Bulls (9-2, 6-2)
When: Saturday, December 23rd at 11:00 a.m.
Where: Legion Field; Birmingham, Alabama
TV/Stream: ESPN (Watch ESPN)
Radio/Stream: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
2. Uniform Tracker
3. The Big Storyline
Well, we got here and I’m not sure what to do with my hands. The big push at the beginning of the year was for Texas Tech to get to a bowl game, by hook or crook, and now, Texas Tech will play South Florida tomorrow in the Birmingham Bowl. I’m sorta worn out at this point, I tend to always get a bit burned by the end of the year because of the hectic nature of running a blog, a life and just about everything else that’s associated with getting out fresh and quality content each and every day.
The one big storyline, at least for me, has to be how Kingsbury pulled off what seemed like the improbable, winning that 6th game to get bowl eligible, something that lots of folks thought that Kingsbury needed to do to keep his job. I thought that 7 or 8 wins was a necessity, but I’m fine with being wrong. I’ve written numerous times that I really like Kingsbury, I am a huge fan of his and can’t tell you how much I like having him as the head coach.
Perhaps a close second would be re-upping David Gibbs to a two year deal, which perhaps implies that Texas Tech is maybe married to this arrangement with Kingsbury and Gibbs for the next two years. The retention of Gibbs was important to the continuation of this process.
I’m sorta saving these two ideas for a greater discussion in the offseason, but a week or so ago I was listening to Ken Hitchcock, the head coach for the Dallas Stars on DFW’s The Ticket with Bob and Dan and I was really struck about two things that he said (In all actuality, I was struck by a handful of things he said and it was one of the best interviews I’ve ever listened to, not even joking and you can listen to the entire thing here.).
1. The first thing that Hitchcock discussed was that the biggest difference between players now and “then” is that you’ve got to give the players a reason for doing what they do. Players today are more invested and just telling a player to do something without explaining why it’s important to do it is the biggest difference between the players that are playing now and that played when Kingsbury was a coach. I can’t verify any of this because I’m not in the rooms, but I just thought that this really simple difference between players was incredibly accurate. Players just want to have some skin in the game and that makes a ton of sense to me. Give them purpose and reason and you’ll conquer the world.
2. This second point was the real kicker and hit me like a ton of bricks. Buy-in is a huge part of coaching, having the players buy-in is incredibly important. Here’s the kicker: Buy-in becomes real when the players start to sound like the coaches and buy-in can only happen when there is consistency with coaching. This is a pretty logical thought and by itself, you’re probably saying, yeah, sure, I’d agree. Here’s the deal, you can’t really have buy-in without consistency and you can’t have buy-in unless you’re willing to explain item #1 above. I would guess that most coaches don’t see the need to do item #1 above because most coaches are wired in that they don’t need to explain themselves, you’re going to do this because I said so. Maybe, after 5 years, you finally have buy-in with the players because they’ve figured out the rhyme and reason for what Kingsbury and Gibbs do, either on the field or as disciplinarians and running the program overall. Without the team buying-in you’re not going to have much of a team at all. Again, I’m saving “buy-in” later for the offseason, but I thought that this was pretty profound.
4. Keys for Texas Tech
- The biggest key will stopping Flowers and the running back duo of D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice. They are all powerful runners they are all very quick and fast enough to run out a defense. They are all about the big plays and that alone makes them fun to watch. Flowers is the best runner on the team and that’s scary. Stop him and you’ve got a better chance at stopping the Bulls.
- I wonder if the cornerbacks will be able to cheat a bit and essentially stay on their receivers one-on-one without safety help. The biggest threat was McCants (this is my opinion) and he is such a different player than what Texas Tech has seen. He’s almost a mini-tight end in terms of body-type and he’ll just bowl over players.
- The biggest advantage for Texas Tech is probably Vasher and Cantrell, but that could be quickly defused if the passing game is at all diminished because of the rain. It is almost certain to rain, so it will be interesting to see how the coaches plan for that. I hope they do and maybe it means an extra helping of Desmond Nisby running the danged ball.
- Without the linebackers doing what they’ve done all year, then it could be a bit ugly. Dakota Allen and Jordyn Brooks have cleaned up in the middle and the edges. I’ll miss watching Big Mych Thomas do his thing next year. He has just been fantastic. I’ll be interested to see who pairs along with Broderick Washington.
5. What to Watch
This won’t be your normal “what to watch” but enjoy these two things.
Texas Tech Football Visits Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.
Outside the Huddle with T.J. Vasher. We get to hear from the young receiver.
- A-J Media’s Don Williams: Texas Tech, South Florida looking at likelihood of rain on game day
- A-J Media’s Don Williams: Tech football notebook: Roster turnover makes bowl experience new to most Red Raiders
It was only two years ago that Texas Tech last played in a bowl game. Yet, the Red Raiders’ roster turnover the past 24 months has been such that only 30 of the current 106 players were on the team when Tech lost to LSU at the 2015 Texas Bowl.
- CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli: Pick Six: Bowl season kicks into full gear with a busy slate of games to choose from
Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida (Over 66.5) — Dec. 23: Listen, I might be crazy enough to take an under in the Bahamas Bowl, but I’m not foolish enough to take one in this game. Instead, I’m going to go with the obvious answer in a game that’s likely going to come down to whichever team has the ball last.
South Florida leads the AAC in points allowed this year, giving up only 22.5 points per game. That number is very misleading, though. Against teams with winning records, the Bulls defense has allowed 38.5 points per game while Texas Tech is allowing 31.8 points per game. There are going to be touchdowns, and a lot of them. South Florida 41, Texas Tech 38
- Dr. Saturday’s Nick Bromberg: Birmingham Bowl: USF goes for consecutive 10-win seasons
- Heartland College Sports’ Pete Mundo: Birmingham Bowl Preview and Prediction: Texas Tech vs. South Florida
7. The Line and Prediction
OddsShark has South Florida as a 3 point favorite heading into the game. As mentioned yesterday in the stats preview, South Florida has huge statistical advantages, but those advantages may have been negated by USF’s strength of schedule. There’s part of me that thinks that Texas Tech really won’t be able to handle USF’s speed, but I also don’t think that USF can really handle Texas Tech’s passing game. So, the 3 points is probably appropriate. The only other thing that really bothers me is the pending rain and that’s likely to hamper Texas Tech’s possible passing advantage and enhance USF’s rushing game. I’ll take Texas Tech by 3, something like 33-30, because my opinion doesn’t really count.