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Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Midseason analysis: Texas Tech

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Record: 5-2, 2-1

It was expected to be a rebuilding season for Texas Tech after the loss of Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree, Brandon Williams and several other key players from the Red Raiders’ Big 12 South tri-champions last season. Despite a nasty near-mutiny after disappointing losses to Texas and Houston earlier this season, the ol’ Pirate Mike Leach has got his ship back on track with a three-game winning streak. Taylor Potts started strongly with 13 touchdown passes before he sustained a concussion in the New Mexico game. Backup Steven Sheffield immediately picked up the slack as he fired 12 touchdown passes and provided a running element at the position that was missing with Potts. Sheffield was injured in the Nebraska game and reportedly won’t play Saturday against Texas A&M. And Ruffin McNeill's fiery defense has been surging as the Red Raiders have limited opponents to 97 rushing yards per game in their last three games and notched 12 sacks and 18 tackles for losses during that period. The Red Raiders appear to be a certainty for a bowl and a possibility for second place in the Big 12 South if they can continue their high streak.

Offensive MVP, QB Steven Sheffield: When Sheffield inherited the team after Taylor Potts’ concussion, the Red Raiders were 2-2 and in a tight game with New Mexico. He immediately blew the game open with a run of four straight scoring drives and then pushed the Red Raiders to two more victories. The former invited walk-on completed 76 of 102 passes for 1,014 yards and 12 touchdowns and added two touchdown runs. His quarterback rating of 192.91 would be more than 22 points ahead of national leader Kellen Moore of Boise State. Even with his recent foot injury, Sheffield turned the Red Raiders’ season around when it needed a lift.

Defensive MVP, DE Brandon Sharpe: The key to Tech’s recent staunch pass rush has been Sharpe, who has notched seven of his eight sacks this season in the last two games and earns a slight edge over linebackers Brian Duncan and Marlon Williams and cornerback Jamar Wall. Sharpe produced four sacks to spark the win against Nebraska last week. He’s been a key producer in a retooled defensive front that features five new players among a nine-player rotation. And his recent surge only gives a hint of what more could be coming down the stretch for the Red Raiders if he builds on his two recent big games.