It's Tech week here on Frogs O' War, which means that I get the perfect excuse to chat with one of the most pleasant people I've encountered on SBNation, Seth C. of the excellent Texas Tech blog Viva the Matadors. He was even kind enough to bring us a message of love after all of the hate in the game info thread!
Seth: As an aside, I know that Patrick really loves us and really, Texas Tech and TCU are perfect for each other, much like their marriage. Like HawkeyedFrog, I'm really excited that TCU is in the Big 12 and excited that we get to have games that mean something. There is real angst there and I think that's great. As a blogger, I know the game, get the opposing fanbase to bite, it's like blogger wrestling. I know he loves us, he has to, he's married to one of us!
HawkeyedFrog: The line between love and hate is a fine one, and I assume Patrick isn't allowed to badmouth Tech at home anymore. That kind of hate backlog can drive a man crazy. Onto the questions! What's the vibe over in Lubbock now that Kliff Kingsbury has two games under his belt? Is the fanbase united behind Leach's favorite son after the divisive Tuberville era?
Seth: I think that everyone has really rallied behind Kingsbury. It's hard not to rally around the guy and as you can probably imagine, it's been very much a unifying aspect of covering the team. Last year, you sorta just go through the motions as you know that it's not working out with Tuberville and ultimately, it was great for Texas Tech (Did you know that Cincinnati had to pay Texas Tech $900,000 for Tuberville's buyout? High five!) I think we're still feeling our way around with Kingsbury as a coach. I think most, if not all of us, firmly believe that he's got a really good handle on the offense, but we just weren't sure how things would play out managing a team and everything that goes with that. So far so good, but it's only been two weeks and I'm sure there will be bumps in the road, but generally speaking, I think Kingsbury has done an outstanding job of juggling all of the responsibilities in being a head coach.
HawkeyedFrog: There once was a group of announcers who created the (false) myth that given an offseason Mike Leach could get the guy working the slurpee station at 7-11 to throw for 300 yards a week, which I thought was very dismissive to the talents of Raider QBs. Then along comes true freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield leading an offense that put up 700 yards last week, and it gave me pause. How much of the offensive output is on Mayfield's shoulders so far, and do you think his star will continue to rise against stiffer defenses?
Seth: As you all are probably well aware, Mayfield isn't just your average walk-on, so that's played up a bit, but it doesn't make it any less true. Mayfield threw for a ton of yards as part of those Lake Travis teams, but the key for Mayfield most likely is that he threw 7 or 8 interceptions for two years in a passing offense, over 650 passing attempts in those two years, and at a high level of play at Lake Travis ( http://247sports.com/Player/Baker-Mayfield-20771?Institution=21248 ). Mayfield wanted to catch on somewhere, I think he even wanted to go to TCU(ed.: Paywall sources on Scout do indicate that he had TCU on top, but an offer never came), but programs are typically taking just one quarterback and those offers started to dry up, Mayfield was left out in the cold a bit. He was still rated as a 3-star quarterback by every service, so he wasn't just "a guy". Prior to the season, I was very much the harbinger of bad news in that typically, true freshmen quarterbacks just don't perform all that well. I had linked to a couple of posts on MGoBlog that took stats from the past decade about how these freshmen QB's simply weren't as good as their older counterparts, understandably so. But the difference I think is that Mayfield comes from a similar offense and he doesn't turn the ball over. I do marvel at Kingsbury's ability to get a freshman walk-on quarterback read, a quarterback that's just been at Texas Tech since the latter part of the summer. I do find that pretty amazing.
HawkeyedFrog: On its fifth(!) defensive coordinator in four years, somehow Tech has impressed on defense so far this year. What kind of defense is Matt Wallerstedt running and what are the unknowns/weaknesses you expect TCU to test on Thursday?
Seth: It's labeled as a 3-4, but it's really intended to be pretty multiple. I think the key for the defense is that they wanted it to be pretty flexible, there's a hybrid defensive end / outside linebacker and there is also a hybrid safety / linebacker. The DE/OLB is a guy that stands up and can rush the passer or can cover the slot (if necessary). I think the key for the defense is "ego" in that it probably just has to suck to have to play for so many defensive coordinators over five years and although statistically, things looked good, but reality, they were pretty torched last year so they need to be consistently good and they needed someone that was going to believe in them. I think that's the case here, but it's been a long time since there was consistency on defense. Specifically, I think the secondary is experienced but untested in that there are three seniors, but just don't have a lot of experience. The linebacking corps is a bit light, but they can run and the same can be said for the line. They really have gone two-deep through two games, so for those long games, hopefully this helps.
HawkeyedFrog: Trevone Boykin looks like an entirely different player with a year under his belt, which makes player growth stand out in my mind. Who is Tech's most improved player from last year?
Seth: Just two games into the season, I think that TE Jace Amaro is someone that just won't be stopped in the Big 12 and if he can produce the way he's produced the past two games then you'll be shocked how good he is. There are few game-changers in the Big 12 (Verrett is one of them in my opinion) and Amaro is one. The guy on defense would be OLB Pete Robertson. Texas Tech has really needed a guy that can rush the passer and he's done that the past two games, with some pretty good success. He's a former quarterback from Longview that's converted to a safety and then a linebacker and now as a primary rush guy. If he can do what he's done the last two weeks, which is disrupt the offense, then I like what Texas Tech can do defensively.
HawkeyedFrog: I hate hearing that, Amaro was beastly against us last year. Take us inside the mind of the Broffense, the high flying hard running air raid variant that KOd Alabama last year and made the usual Aggie arrogance justified for the first time since '98. What makes the offense so effective, and how long until Tech has the players it needs to run at full capacity?
Seth: At it's heart, it is just a spread offense. That's probably simplistic, but I think the primary focus is going vertical more than horizontal, which was the focus last year. I know that Kingsbury doesn't get a lot of credit as a coach, but he's doing something right offensively, and I think it's a credit to how serious he is. I know that we get the photo of Kingsbury in a v-neck and think that he's not all that into coaching, but he teaches the same thing that a lot of people teach, which is repetition and being prepared. The more reps that you have as an offense the better prepared you are to adjust and play and figure out where the defense isn't. Last year, the offense was more horizontal and when a play was called, that's what the receivers ran. Now, I think Kingsbury's version is more vertical and like what Leach did, the receivers base their routes off of the defense. As far as timing to get it all down, I'm not sure. He was only at Houston for two years as the offensive coordinator and he helped Keenum set all sorts of records and at TAMU for a year before helping Manziel win a Heisman. So based on that, maybe a year or so before the players really get what they are supposed to do. More than anything, I think I should stress that I think that Kingsbury gets that you don't run the ball just to run the ball, you call what's working and try to exploit the defense.
HawkeyedFrog: Finally, obligatory prediction time. TCU is actually the Vegas favorite going into Lubbock for likely the first time since 1984, hoping to win in Lubbock for the first time since '91 (a game I still remember fondly). What's your pick for this game and how do you see Tech's season play out?
Seth:I'm still sure what Texas Tech has as a defense and I think TCU will be a good barometer to see where this team is at. I think the offense will be fine, but the defense is the biggest concern, because of the constant turnover. If the defense can survive, i.e. get a few stops, then I'm really optimistic. I think that Texas Tech really lucked into Mayfield walking on at Texas Tech and had it been any other freshman QB started (i.e. I thought Michael Brewer was the guy), I think I had a 6 win team projected. I'm a little more optimistic and would say 8 wins if Mayfield or Brewer get the snaps at quarterback.
For this game, I think it's close, but I'm going to be a home in a close game and I'll take Texas Tech, something like 34-31.
All our thanks to Seth and the crew over at Viva the Matador. My answers to Seth's questions will be up there later in the day, and we'll edit the link in here. Finally, if you've got a bit of humanitarian in you, Seth and his wife are hoping to adopt a child from the Democratic Republic of Congo and are seeking donations. He didn't ask me to link or support it, but I read it and thought it was important enough to share.