From The Sports Network
By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor
Despite a change on the sidelines for Texas Tech, the Red Raiders will still show up in San Antonio this weekend to battle the Michigan State Spartans in the Alamo Bowl.
The Red Raiders have played in a bowl game 32 times before this season, but finding success in those matchups has been tough, as the team is just 10-22-1. While five of those wins have come under the tutelage of coach Mike Leach, he will not be part of the equation this weekend, as Texas Tech has fired Leach following allegations of abuse of a player that has come to light this week. Leach will be immediately replaced by defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeal for this bowl game.
Despite the current storylines heading into this contest, the Red Raiders once again had a strong season on the field. Texas Tech began its season with a mediocre 2-2 start, but the team really took off after its heartbreaking, 29-28 loss to Houston, as the Red Raiders collected wins in six of their last eight matchups. Two of those wins were impressive decisions over Nebraska (31-10) and Oklahoma (41-13).
The Spartans began their season with a 44-3 win over Montana State, but followed that with three straight losses by a total 13 points. Michigan State responded however, collecting three consecutive victories, including a thrilling, 36-30 overtime decision against Michigan. The Spartans stumbled down the stretch during the regular season however, losing three of their last five games, including a 42-14 setback to Penn State at home.
This is the 20th bowl appearance for Michigan State and the team's third in a row. However, the Spartans are just 7-12 all-time in the postseason and have lost their last three bowl games, including a 24-12 setback to Georgia in last year's Capital One Bowl.
This will be the first-ever meeting between Michigan State and Texas Tech on the gridiron.
The Spartans' success this season with the football is largely due to the passing attack, which torched the opposition for 271.2 ypg. Overall Michigan State produced 407.1 total ypg and that led to an equally impressive 29.6 ppg. Offensively the Spartans scored 40 touchdowns, and 26 of those scores came via the pass. When the year began Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol both spent time as the quarterback, but as the season progressed Cousins earned more playing time and rightfully so, as the quarterback completed 61.5 percent of his throws. Cousins finished the regular season with 2,460 yards and 18 touchdowns against just seven interceptions. Blair White proved to be very valuable in the passing attack, as the wide out led the team with 64 receptions, 876 yards and eight scores. B.J. Cunningham also played a vital role for Michigan State, as he hauled in 48 passes for 641 yards and four touchdowns. While the team relied heavily on the passing attack, the Spartans still put forth a solid effort on the ground, averaging 135.9 ypg on 4.2 yards per attempt. However, the team did not have a main option out of the backfield during the regular- season, as Larry Caper led the way for Michigan State with 443 yards and six scores.
While the offense relied on its play through the air, the defense for Michigan State had nightmares when having to face the pass, as the team was abused for 251.6 ypg through the air, and out of the 37 touchdowns allowed by this unit, 29 came via the pass. Overall the Spartans allowed 364.3 total ypg and that led to 25.1 ppg. It was not all bad for Michigan State, which did a solid job defending the run, as the Spartans held the opposition to just 112.8 ypg on 3.4 yards per tote. Even though the team was vulnerable against the pass, the Spartans continually put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, racking up 34 sacks on the season. Unfortunately the team could not make many game-changing plays, as Michigan State collected just 12 turnovers on the year. What did help throughout the season was the play and leadership of linebacker Greg Jones, who collected 141 tackles, 13.5 TFLs and nine sacks, all of which were team highs.
The Red Raiders were successful offensively largely because of their prolific passing attack, which finished second in the nation with 380.7 ypg. On the season the team produced a whopping 461.8 total ypg, and that lead to an equally impressive 36.7 ppg. Taylor Potts had a strong campaign for Texas Tech, as the signal caller threw for 3,068 yards and 20 scores against 12 interceptions. However, Steven Sheffield also saw time under center and completed 73.6 percent of his throws for 1,131 yards and 13 scores. There are plenty of reliable options for Potts or Sheffield to connect with, beginning with Alex Torres, who hauled in 65 receptions for 791 yards and also caught six touchdowns. Detron Lewis collected 55 passes on the year for 730 yards and five touchdowns, while Lyle Leong caught a team-high eight touchdowns. With all the success of the passing attack, the ground game for Texas Tech falls by the waist side, which is evident by the team's 81.1 ypg on the ground. Although the team does possess a dangerous tailback in Baron Batch, who rushed for 784 yards and 12 touchdowns on 5.4 yards per carry.
The offense for Texas Tech gets most of the press, but this defensive unit for the Red Raiders should not be taken lightly. Texas Tech held its opponents to just 21.8 ppg on the season, and did a terrific job against the run, holding teams to just 125.0 ypg on a mere 3.3 yards per attempt. The team did have some minor problems against the pass, allowing 223.8 ypg, but out of the 26 touchdowns allowed by this unit, only 10 came through the air. What helped the Red Raiders throughout the season was their big play ability, as the team forced 22 turnovers, and recorded an impressive 40 sacks, which is tied for third best in the nation. A large portion of those sacks came from Brandon Sharpe, who is second in the nation and also set the school's single season mark with 15.0 sacks. He was not the only star on this defensive unit, as Brian Duncan led the team with 80 tackles, while Daniel Howard added eight sacks for Texas Tech.