The 4th ranked Mountaineers continue their inaugural Big XII Conference season by going back on the road to Lubbock, Texas, to take on Tommy Tuberville's Texas Tech team. Try saying that five times fast. While Dana Holgorsen has a bit of familiarity with TTU from his days as an assistant under Mike Leach and Tuberville is no stranger to WVU after leading his 2008 Auburn team to Morgantown for a Thursday night loss, we at the Musket still don't know much about the masked riders from the south. So, we enlisted Texas Tech's SB Nation blog Viva the Matadors to answer a few questions for us:
Country Roads: Last year, Tech raced out to a 4-0 start mostly by feasting on weaker competition before losing their fifth game to Texas A&M. The Red Raiders finished 5-7 and missed a bowl for the first time in recent memory. This year, Tech raced out to a 4-0 start mostly by feasting on weaker competition (but with a nice road win over a now-ranked Iowa State team) before losing their fifth game to Oklahoma. How do you see the Raiders faring from here on out?
Viva the Matadors: Yes, there are some very real parallels to last year. That's worrisome. I still see this as a 7 to 8 win team, which seems strange since they already have 4 wins, but I don't know that I have a good handle on who they are capable of beating. I don't think that there are a lot of Big 12 teams that are pretty good and the game could go either way, whether it be TCU (although now that may not be the case), Baylor, Oklahoma St., maybe Kansas St. to an extent, and Iowa St. It seems improbable for there to be a Big 12 team make it through the season undefeated. But to Texas Tech, they are in the middle of a very tough 5 game stretch, having played Oklahoma last week, WVU this week, @ TCU, @ Kansas St. and then finally at home to Texas. The TCU game may not be as tough as it was initially thought, but Texas Tech has to win two of these five games to have what we hope is a better season than 7 wins.
CR: Before the Oklahoma game, Texas Tech was leading the nation in total defense. Now, they're ranked 21st after giving up 41 points and 380 yards to the Sooners. Was the high ranking a mirage built off facing weak competition, or are the fighting Tommy Tubervilles of Texas Tech a legitimate defensive force to be reckoned with? Who are some key names WVU fans need to watch out for on Tech's defense?
VTM: The defense is better than last year, that's the only thing I'm fairly certain of last year. It's not the worst defense like last year and I'll take improvement. The defense's success is largely based off of a weak non-conference schedule and I don't think this is a situation where they are a force, but just better. The best player has been DT Kerry Hyder. He's a bit under-sized, but he's very active along the defensive line and he gets behind the line of scrimmage. You'll also probably be very familiar with CB's Cornelius Douglas, Eugene Neboh and Tre' Porter. Texas Tech doesn't flip-flop their cornerbacks, so each cornerback either plays on the left side or right side. Douglas played inside receiver last year, but now he is the best cornerback on the team and he'll be on the left side. Neboh is a former walk-on from Odessa Permian (think Friday Night Lights, the book, not the TV show) and is on the right side. He's actually pretty good as well and is a former track guy that converted to football. They've both been pretty good, but largely untested except for Oklahoma last week. Porter is the nickel back and will most likely be playing the slot receiver.
CR: Seth Doege was actually recruited under Dana Holgorsen and Mike Leach before Holgo left for Houston and Leach was run out of town shortly thereafter. Last year, he threw for more than 4000 yards and was off to another strong start this year before being held to 203 yards and 3 interceptions by Mike Stoops' defense. How has the offense progressed in the transition to Tuberville and how well does Doege fit into the new scheme? Can he bounce back from a rough outing to lead the team to a win over a challenged WVU defensive backfield?
VTM: The offense's progression has been a bit strange and I wrote earlier this offseason that the offense hasn't been as explosive as previous years and there has been much discussion about why that's the case. I like the running aspect of the offense and I think that WVU fans would agree that it adds a different dimension to the team and I think it makes the team better. As far as Doege is concerned, he was pretty good for a the non-conference part of the year, but against Iowa St. he was awful in the first half, but much better in the second half. Doege was terrible against Oklahoma, throwing three interceptions. I looked back at Doege's numbers and he is significantly better against non-conference opponents and so it makes me wonder if he is just good enough to be a good quarterback, but struggles when the competition gets better. Personally, I'm at the point that if Doege isn't productive against WVU, I'll be fine with the thought of playing the backup more, but if that happens, I think Tuberville will be prepping the backup for next year's head coach, who won't be Tuberville.
CR: Your blog name recently changed from "Double T Nation" to "Viva the Matadors." We're always curious about blog names, and "Viva the Matadors" is certainly a bit unique. What was behind the name change and what meaning does the new name have for Red Raider fans?
VTM: To make a long story short, the Collegiate Licensing Company, which manages the trademarks for a lot of NCAA teams sent me a cease and desist from selling merchandise using the logo or the phrase "double-t". I've been told that this may be selective enforcement and with me being very critical of the administration when Leach was fired. I understand that. So we went around and around about changing the logo and the name, when when a university says that they own the phrase "double-t" it's pointless to continue on that direction. And I disagree with the notion that they own the phrase double-t, but I don't have the means to fight this situation. So I went back to the mascot that Texas Tech abandoned in 1936 in an attempt to stay as far away from any sort of trademarked moniker.
CR. This is WVU's first trip through the gauntlet of the Big 12, and now it's our team's second Big 12 road game. As long-time Mountaineer fans, we know all about having a reputation for treating opposing fans poorly and we're excited for an opportunity to change that and put our best foot forward going into the future. What can visiting Mountaineer fans expect to encounter in Lubbock? Will the folks be hostile and throw objects (I heard a rumor about flying tortillas) at anyone in old gold and blue? Or can we expect a warm welcome with some cold beer and good eats?
This is a bit dated, but I did a reader based Best of Lubbock. As far as the treatment of fans, I've been to a lot of games, but I've never seen anyone throw anything other than tortillas (this used to be a tradition at kickoff, but doesn't happen much any more) at games. There are always jerks to every fanbase, but I've always found that 99% of all fans for every team are good normal people and we all like football. I've never been accosted by an opposing fanbase (I've been taunted by folks driving by in their cars, but that's pretty standard) and I've been to games at Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., Texas A&M, Texas and Baylor. I generally think that the fans that get accosted are part of that 1%, they just don't realize it. They are most likely more out-spoken than they'd like to admit and normally have stories about how every fanbase has problems. I would encourage WVU fans to walk around campus and make sure and visit the tailgates, there are usually some great tailgates along the West side of Memorial Circle.
CR: The Vegas line opened at WVU -4 and is now at -4.5. The over/under is 77. Where's your money this Saturday?
VTM: I don't understand this line at all. I think I read that 95% of the money is on WVU so it doesn't make any sense why the line isn't getting bigger. Much bigger. Heck, it's still a 3 point spread in some places. So as much as I love Texas Tech, I don't think that Texas Tech can keep pace with West Virginia, so my money is on WVU to cover and I'll take the over.
Thanks to Viva the Matadors for answering our questions. Be sure to stop over there to engage their fans, talk some smack, check out my answers to their questions, and learn more about this Saturday's opponent.