Tuesday, December 26|
Expect Tech, East Carolina offenses to reign
By Mel Kiper
Wednesday, Dec. 27 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
East Carolina (7-4) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
This one could be very interesting, especially considering which offense is hitting on all cylinders. I would expect points to come fast and furious, with Texas Tech and its young signal-caller, Kliff Kingsbury, spreading the field and distributing the ball to a talented host of receiving options.
While the Red Raiders' offense was a little hit and miss this season, one thing was fairly obvious: They moved the ball with relative ease and scored tons of points against average to very suspect opposition. They totaled 38 points against Utah State, 28 versus Baylor, 45 against Kansas, and 58 against Oklahoma State. In games against Texas A&M, Nebraska, Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma, however, the Red Raiders averaged 14 points per game.
East Carolina also showed the ability to light up the scoreboard, but inconsistency was a problem. Led by physically gifted signal-caller David Garrard, the Pirates scored 29 or more points in seven games, highlighted by a 62-point outburst against Houston.
Defensively, both teams had ups and downs, with the Pirates struggling down the stretch in pass-coverage situations. With that in mind, I would expect Kingsbury to enjoy a great deal of success. The key for East Carolina will be whether or not Garrard has the hot hand and can balance things off with a very solid running game paced by talented junior Leonard Henry.
Summary: In a game that appears to be very evenly matched on paper, Texas Tech has an advantage with the game taking place at the Astrodome. East Carolina played just one game on artificial turf all year, losing 42-24 on the road against West Virginia. That's why Garrard needs to be at his best from start to finish, while Henry has to produce on the ground to limit possessions for the Red Raiders' aerial circus, which averaged nearly 300 yards per game.
Also expect a trick play or two. Both head coaches, East Carolina's Steve Logan and Texas Tech's Mike Leach, are offensive specialists who aren't afraid to pull the unexpected, especially in a bowl atmosphere. Logan preaches to his team about winning games late in the fourth quarter or on the final drive, while Leach created the explosive Oklahoma Sooner offense in 1999, before he left their as offensive coordinator to take over the reigns at Texas Tech.