Thursday September 17th, 2009

Mack Brown may not have the Texas Tech offense figured out completely, but he understands the general idea. To Brown, Red Raiders quarterback Taylor Potts is a slightly taller Graham Harrell, who himself was a slightly taller Cody Hodges, who himself was a slightly shorter Sonny Cumbie.

"He's the same guy. Just change the numbers," Brown said. "They all have confidence. [Texas Tech coach] Mike [Leach] does a really smart thing. Most of those guys have been in the system for a really long time, so it doesn't drop off. He's done a good job of convincing quarterbacks to come and wait their time and be patient and play when they're ready to play. That's why I think you really see no drop-off in their offense."

And that's why Texas should be just as worried about Texas Tech this year as it was last. Saturday's game isn't generating the national buzz it did in 2008, and the circumstances have certainly changed. Texas plays at home this time. The Longhorns aren't coming off a brutal stretch that included games against Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State. Michael Crabtree is taking a year off from football. It's September and not November.

But one thing hasn't changed: Texas Tech. The Red Raiders' offense will roll up yards and score points. In the past five years, every Texas Tech offense has averaged more than 448.8 yards per game. Its lowest scoring average was 32.5 when Harrell took over as the starter in 2006, but the other four teams averaged at least 36.2 points.

Texas Tech's defense also hasn't changed much in the past five years. Except for one anomaly (18.8 points a game in 2005), the Red Raiders have given up between 25.1 and 26.2 points a game.

So on Saturday, the Longhorns will face a team nearly identical to the one that kept them out of the Big 12 title game and the national title game last season. They'll also face a team nearly identical to the one they beat the five previous seasons.

That's why Texas players can't worry about revenge, lest they allow a Texas Tech receiver to streak by them. Texas defensive end Sergio Kindle has the correct idea. While he's excited to be facing a Big 12 opponent so early in the season, he will treat the Red Raiders no differently than he would have had Baylor, Missouri or Colorado shown up on the schedule. "When they moved it up to the third week it was a little different, but it's always good to have a conference game because those are the games you really look forward to," Kindle said. "I'm not saying you look past the other games, but these are the ones that can get you in or not in the Big 12 Championship. It happened to be Tech."

This game is happening now because of the most powerful force in the universe -- television. ESPN/ABC executives were staring down the barrel at a set of Week 3 stinkers, so they promised prime-time exposure and the higher payout (in this case, $375,000 for Texas Tech) that comes with a national network broadcast.

Leach admitted this week that tinkering with the schedule for the sake of dollars and exposure can backfire, but the Red Raiders' nationally televised win against the Longhorns was a boon last year. Besides, Leach cracked, having the Red River Rivalry and a trip to Stillwater on the back side of this game might also give the Red Raiders an advantage. "I imagine that Texas has their focus on all the ranked opponents that they are going to play down the road," Leach said. "So I imagine we are going to be another game for them."

It's never just another game when one team dashed another's national championship hopes with an all-time great play the year before, but Texas players have done their best to forget the Crabtree spin move that shut them out of the national race. "It's pretty much on every commercial, but give them credit," Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy said. "That was an amazing play. That play will be replayed forever. That's one of the best plays ever I think. They deserved to win that night. They played great, but we need to come out this week and not focus on that, not focus on what happened."

Instead, the Longhorns need to focus on an opponent that, no matter the names on the roster, seems to bring an identical team every year. "They do the same thing every week, and they're averaging 46.5 points a game and they're throwing for more yards than anybody in the country," Brown said. "It's just the same stuff. Mike does a great job throwing the ball. They do it every year."

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