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Seeing is Believing

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Like many college football pundits, I have watched Texas Tech put up gaudy offensive numbers over the years and chalked it up as a gimmick offense much like Hawaii under June Jones. I had never been a fan of Mike Leach's gameplan, and believed whole-heartedly that when Tech faced any real challenges in its schedule, a more balanced program would prevail. That theory has proven right time and time again in the recent past, but this year is different and Leach may have finally turned me from a Texas Tech detractor into a Red Raider believer.

Yes, Tech has faced its toughest competition in Lubbock this year, but the team played three dominant halves of football against top-10 programs Texas and Oklahoma State in the last two weeks, and has set itself up for a showdown with Oklahoma in Norman for what should determine the Big 12 South title and could also predict either team's postseason destination -- the BCS Championship in Miami.

Passing the ball on first-, second- and third-downs has always padded the stats of Tech signal-callers and this season is no different, as Heisman hopeful Graham Harrell is putting up simply ridiculous numbers. The senior gunslinger is following in the footsteps of some really productive QBs, but may very well separate himself from them with a national title run and perhaps the Heisman Trophy.

Graham Harrell has thrown for 4,077 yards and 36 TDs this year.
His numbers are staggering, having completed 71.7 percent of his passes on the year (332-of-463), for 4,077 yards and 36 TDs, against a mere five interceptions. More impressive than the monstrous overall totals is the fact that he didn't encounter any letdown against top-tier opponents Texas and Oklahoma State. All he did against the then-top-ranked Longhorns was pass for 474 yards and two TDs and follow that up with 456 yards and six TD passes against the Cowboys last week.

Of course, the one play that will stand out in fans' minds and may tip the Heisman scales in Harrell's favor is the last second 28-yard TD pass to win the game in the waning moments against Texas. While not the "Hail Flutie" play of 1984, I do liken it to Desmond Howard's punt return against Ohio State in 1991. Harrell stopped short of striking the-now famous "Heisman pose," but that play will forever be burned in the public's memory and could very well be the turning point for a program that has often times come up small when facing similar adversity.

Of course, Harrell did not complete that play alone, as All-American Michael Crabtree had something to do with it. However, that connection is not solely what has made the Red Raiders such a threat this year. It has been a complete team-effort on both sides of the football.

Harrell's ability to run the offense to perfection has certainly made everyone around him better, but he has looked good at times thanks to Crabtree's tremendous talent as well. The 6-3 sophomore has put up eye-popping performances since day one and is the top receiver in the country for the second straight season, as he has hauled in 78 balls for 1,010 yards and 18 TDs thus far. As a freshman, Crabtree amassed NCAA-freshman records for receptions (134), receiving yards (1,962) and TD catches (22).

The trickle-down effect is that wideouts Detron Lewis (57 receptions, for 730 yards, one TD) and Eric Morris (56 receptions, for 595 yards, six TDs) have been ultra-effective as well this year.

The ground game must be respected also, with the team averaging over 130 yards per game rushing the football, led by tailbacks Baron Batch (7.2 ypc, five TDs) and Shannon Woods (5.1 ypc, 11 TDs).

With an offense that puts up almost 48 points per game and over 560 yards of total offense, you would think the defense would play a distant second-fiddle. However, Texas Tech has played well on this side of the football, and at times has dominated. The numbers reflect that, with the Red Raiders allowing just 22.2 ppg on 351.4 yards of total offense. The team has also racked up 26 sacks and 24 takeaways in 10 games. So, while the offense is still the driving force in Lubbock, the defense has helped by making big plays and providing a short field on occasion.

Is this the year that Texas Tech makes the jump from good team to great team? While a lot of people believe that transition has already taken place, I reserve the right to pass judgement until the evening of November 22nd, when the Red Raiders invade Norman for a showdown with the Sooners.

While I'm still on the fence, I have to admit that I'm leaning toward Lubbock these days.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Haynes

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