2008 Gator Bowl - Texas Tech vs. Virginia
Virginia QB Jameel Sewell
Virginia QB Jameel Sewell
Posted Dec 26, 2007

2008 Konica Minolta Gator Bowl Preview - Texas Tech vs. Virginia


Virginia (9-3) vs. Texas Tech (8-4)

Jan. 1st, 1:00 p.m. ET, CBS

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2008 Gator Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More

National Rankings
Texas Tech Virginia
Total Offense
2nd  537 ypg 100th  329.17 ypg
Total Defense
50th  367.08 ypg 17th  323.42 ypg
Scoring Offense
6th  41.75 ppg 86th  24.08 ppg
Scoring Defense
51st  25.75 ppg 13th  18.75 ppg
Run Offense
119th  61.42 ypg 92nd  126.17 ypg
Run Defense
78th  171 ypg 21st  113 ypg
Pass Offense
1st  475.58 ypg 80th  203 ypg
Pass Defense
17th  196.08 ypg 34th  210.42 ypg
Turnover Margin
93rd  -0.50 40th  0.25
Texas Tech
at SMU W 49-9
UTEP W 45-31
at Rice W 59-24
at Okla St L 49-45
NW State W 75-7
Iowa State
W 42-17
Texas A&M
W 35-7
at Missouri L 41-10
Colorado L 31-26
at Baylor
W 38-7
at Texas L 59-43
Oklahoma W 34-27
at Wyoming L 23-3
Duke W 24-13
at N Car W 22-20
Ga Tech W 28-23
Pitt W 44-14
at Mid Tenn W 23-21
W 17-16
at Maryland W 18-17
at NC State L 29-24
W Forest W 17-16
at Miami W 48-0
Virginia Tech L 33-21
Position Ratings
relative to each other
TT 5 highest
1 lowest
5 Quarterbacks 3
2 RBs 4
5 Receivers 2
3.5 O Line 3
3 D Line 4.5
3.5 Linebackers 4
4 Secondary 3.5
4 Spec Teams 4
4 Coaching 3.5

In the glut of New Year's Day games, with the Cotton (Arkansas vs. Missouri) and Capital One (Florida vs. Michigan) bowls, each with more intriguing matchups at the same time as the Gator, it's going to take something special to get a little bit of early attention and make it stand out. Texas Tech might provide it.

A fantastic bowl team under head coach Mike Leach, winning four of the last five with the one blemish a tough 13-10 Cotton Bowl loss to Alabama two years ago, and with last year's scintillating comeback win over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl still being talked about by Red Raider fans. Obviously, it's all about the high-octane offense, ranked second in the nation and first in passing, that could make this a must-see game, but it could also be the bowl's downfall if Tech gets rolling.

Does Virginia have nearly enough offense to keep up if the Leach attack gets up early? The Red Raiders average over 200 yards per game more than the Cavaliers, but if this doesn't become a runaway early on, the potential is there to be one of the day's top nail-biters if history is any indication.

Virginia, who has won three of its last four bowl games with the one loss an overtime choke to Fresno State in the 2004 MPC Computers Bowl, played in seven games decided by five points or fewer, and it has just enough defense, and plenty of time to prepare, to battle. It's not like the Tech offense is unstoppable. Shut down cold by Missouri, and slowed by Colorado, the potential is there for Virginia to bring this to its level and battle for a fill sixty minutes.

Virginia could have easily had a losing season, and been in search for a new head coach, had a few big breaks go the other way, but the team made its own luck with clutch play on both sides of the ball game after game, turned the pressure up defensively whenever a big sack was needed, and yeah, it came up with a little bit of offensive explosion with 44 against Pitt and 48 against Miami. The overall Virginia wins are better than they might appear, while the Texas Tech stats might be a little skewed.

Oh sure, the Red Raider offense can be breathtaking, but it put up a bulk of its numbers against dregs like Northwestern State, SMU, and Rice. Of course, there was the 34-27 win over Oklahoma at the end of the regular season to give the season and the offense some legitimacy, but can it really be consistent? Virginia might have just the right defensive mix to pull this off.

Yes, the game will be worth giving a little bit of attention, but will it have enough to get you to stay interested? The Gator Bowl has been among the worst of the season over the last several years with just three of the last 20 decided by a touchdown or less. Recent history might not exactly be on the side of this being a classic, even after last year's three point West Virginia win over Georgia Tech, but there are plenty of big names and plenty of talent for two teams still looking for a bigger profile.

Players to watch: Hawaii's Colt Brennan became a Heisman finalist partly because he led his team to a 12-0 season, albeit against a lousy schedule, but mostly, he got to New York because of his numbers. Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell was better, against far, far better teams with 5,298 yards and 45 touchdown passes with just 14 interceptions. Tough as nails with a good enough arm and tremendous accuracy, it'll be his job to keep the mistakes to a minimum and get the ball out of his hands in a hurry in the face of a top pass rush. He threw four interceptions against both Missouri and Colorado in losses, but he still put up big yards in both games as he threw for over 400 yards in ten of the 12 games, threw for 338 yards before sitting early in the win over Northwestern State, and threw for 397 yards in the loss to the Tigers. And then there was the 646-yard, five-touchdown performance in the loss to Oklahoma State. He'll get his yards, but can he handle being hit over and over again?

Virginia DE Chris Long is already considered a near-certain top ten pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, and he can up his up his stock into guaranteed top three status with one more big performance. He led the team with 14 sacks on the year, getting a sack in every game but two, ironically the blowout wins over Pitt and Miami, while making 75 tackles and 19 tackles for loss. The son of former NFL superstar, Howie, has great size, and non-stop motor, and is a tremendous finisher.

Offensively, Virginia has unearthed a new rushing star in sophomore Mikell Simpson, who ran for 410 yards and seven touchdowns over the final five games of the year, and has been a sensational receivers with 38 catches on the year including 13 for 152 yards in the win over Maryland. A quick speedster with great hands and a nose for the goal line, the coaching staff will get the ball in his hands at least 30 times in a variety of ways.

Texas Tech's most exciting playmaker is freshman Michael Crabtree, who came up with a record-setting year with 125 grabs for 1,861 yards and 21 scores. While his scoring production slowed down after finding the end zone 17 times in the first six games, he lit up Texas and Oklahoma for 21 catches for 349 yards and three touchdowns. The most talented receiver Mike Leach has brought in to Lubbock, he's devastating in the open field and is great at fighting for the ball around the goal line. There might not be a more exciting play in college football right now than when he gets the ball on the move.

Texas Tech will win if... it gets up early and makes Virginia throw. Cavalier QB Jameel Sewell is a good talent with a knack for making things happen, but he's not a bomber. The Cavaliers don't make big plays with the passing game, rarely gets into a groove throwing the ball, and might be looking over his shoulder at Peter Lalich if the offense isn't keeping up the pace. Virginia has played no one, no one, who can throw a forward pass, and its secondary could be in for a very rude awakening.

Virginia will win if... get to Harrell, get to Harrell, get to Harrell. Missouri sacked Harrell three times and hit him over and over again. Colorado sacked Harrell three times and pressured him into just enough misfires to pull off the win. With Long, Virginia can get into the backfield on a regular basis, but Leach and the coaching staff have had a few weeks to work on getting the ball moving before Harrell gets whacked. That means the Cavalier defensive back seven has to be sure in its tackling and has to prevent yards after the catch. Offensively, the Cavs have to run the ball effectively. The four Texas Tech losses this year came on the four of the biggest running days allowed, with Oklahoma State tearing off 366 yards, Missouri running for 212, Colorado running for 217, and Texas running for 283. Only one win, over UTEP, came when the opponent ran for more than 200 yards.

What will happen: Virginia just won't have the offense to keep up. There will be long stretches when the Red Raider attack sputters and coughs, but it'll also put too much pressure on a relatively untested Cavalier secondary and will be too precise on just enough drives to get out to a decent lead. There will be a few moments when the Cavs will have a chance to change the momentum, and then Harrell will connect on a big pass to keep it.

Line: Texas Tech -4.5 ... CFN Prediction: Texas Tech 27 ... Virginia 20

2008 Gator Bowl History, Each Team's Best Bowl Moments, & More