TOP 25 COUNTDOWN
No. 12 Texas Tech
9-4, beat Virginia, 31-28, in Gator Bowl
10 offense, 8 defense
at Oklahoma, Nov. 22
Player to Watch
Michael Crabtree, Soph., Wide Receiver
Crabtree might claim consecutive Biletnikoff awards, given to the nation's most outstanding wide receiver. As a freshman, the 6-foot-3 speedster from Dallas scorched secondaries for 134 receptions for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Why They're Worth Watching
Since Mike Leach took over as coach in 2000, Texas Tech's prolific offense has been a regular Big 12 story line. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, so has their inability to reach the conference title game. In 2007, quarterback Graham Harrell led the nation with 5,705 yards passing yards, following an eye-popping passing precedent set by former Red Raiders gunslingers Kliff Kingsbury, Sonny Cumbie and B.J. Symons. This year, experience may complement system. With 10 returning offensive starters, those around the program have hopes that Texas Tech, with so much returning talent, will break through to win the Big 12 South for the first time in program history. To do so, Leach, a former Oklahoma offensive coordinator, will have to overcome a personal hex: He is 3-13 against Big 12 South giants Texas and Oklahoma, but he did spoil the Sooners' national-title aspirations last year, 34-27, in Lubbock.
Why They're Vulnerable
As good as Leach's offenses have been during his tenure, sub-par defensive play has cost Texas Tech against the conference's elite. Last year, the Red Raiders ranked as the nation's worst in rushing defense, allowing an average of 171 yards per game. When they had success against the run, victories followed; Texas Tech was undefeated in six games when it held opponents to less than 200 yards. Junior defensive end Brandon Williams, an all-conference second-team selection in 2007, led the team with 12.5 tackles for loss and six sacks and will be expected to provide a strong physical presence when the Red Raiders face the fangs of their conference schedule, a Nov. 1 home meeting against Texas and a Nov. 22 road test at Oklahoma. Victories in those games could deliver Leach his elusive Big 12 championship game berth.
-- Andrew Astleford
No. 11 Texas.
No. 25 Arizona State, No. 24 Alabama, No. 23 Cal, No. 22 Penn State, No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 19 Tennessee, No. 18 Oregon, No. 17 Illinois,
No. 16 Kansas, No. 15 BYU, No. 14 Virginia Tech, No. 13 South Florida.