2009 Cotton Preview - Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech
Tech's Michael Crabtree & Ole Miss' Michael Oher
Tech's Michael Crabtree & Ole Miss' Michael Oher
Posted Dec 20, 2008

Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech - The 2009 Cotton Bowl Preview & Prediction

2009 AT&T Cotton Bowl 

Texas Tech (11-1) vs. Ole Miss (8-4)

Jan. 2, 2:00 p.m. ET, Fox

Payout: $3 million   Location: Cotton Bowl, Dallas TX

- 2009 Cotton Player Profiles, Histories, & More

National Rankings
Ole Miss Texas Tech
Total Offense
38th  398.67 ypg 4th  536.17 ypg
Total Defense
14th  293.75 ypg 72nd  371.58 ypg
Scoring Offense
32nd  30.83 ppg 4th  44.58 ppg
Scoring Defense
14th  17.75 ppg 66th  26.25 ppg
Run Offense
31st  183.42 ypg 96th  118.92 ypg
Run Defense
6th  83.92 ypg 45th  133.50 ypg
Pass Offense
58th  398.67 ypg 1st  417.25 ypg
Pass Defense
60th  209.83 ypg 91st  238.08 ypg
Turnover Margin
67th  -0.08 24th  0.58
Ole Miss
E Carolina L 27-22
Furman W 24-7
Ga Tech W 20-17
at UNC W 20-17
at Neb. W 35-30
West Kent W 27-13
at Bos Coll L 28-23
at Florida St L 30-20
Maryland W 23-13
at Miami L 16-14
Duke W 14-3
Virginia W 17-14
ACC Champ
Boston Coll W 30-12
Texas Tech
E  Wash W 49-24
at Nevada W 35-19
SMU W 43-7
UMass W 56-14
at Kan St W 58-28
Neb. W 37-31 OT
at Tex A&M W 43-25
at Kansas W 63-21
Texas W 39-33
Oklahoma St W 56-20
at Oklahoma L 65-21
Baylor W 35-28
Position Ratings
relative to each other
M 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 5
4 RBs 3
3 Receivers 5
4.5 O Line 4
5 D Line 3.5
3 Linebackers 3.5
3.5 Secondary 3
4.5 Spec Teams 2.5
4 Coaching 4

Payout: $3 million   Location: Cotton Bowl, Dallas TX

It what has become the consolation bowl for the Big 12 team left out in the cold, it’s a nice reward for the SEC. Will the two representatives play accordingly?

Texas Tech was never in the discussion for the BCS and the national title despite finishing in a three-way tie with Texas and Oklahoma for the Big 12 South title. The 65-21 loss to the Sooners ended that debate, but all is hardly lost for a program that came up with its biggest season ever. Head coach Mike Leach is staying put, there’s a decent group of prospects ready to step in next year for QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree. This isn’t as much of a last hurrah for the Red Raiders as it is a chance to show off that it deserved to be in the BCS, even though it couldn’t be because of the silly rule that limits the number of teams from one conference that can get into a big money game.
While the Red Raiders might have wished for something bigger and better, this is a dream game for an Ole Miss program that was left for dead ever since Eli Manning and the boys beat Oklahoma State in the 2004 Cotton Bowl. In a strange quirk, the SEC’s four-game run of wins ended last year with Arkansas decided not to show up against Missouri, who got jobbed even more than this year’s Texas Tech, hurt by the loss of head coach Houston Nutt.

Nutt and the Rebels took advantage of a down year for the SEC and a great group of veterans put in place by the old coaching staff to go 8-4 and finish as the SEC’s fourth best team. The four wins all came by seven points or fewer, and there was the 31-30 win over Florida that established the program as a player again and set the tone for the Nutt era. The Rebels got better and better as the season went on, winning the last five games of the regular season winning the final four games by a combined score of 152 to 20.

It’s Texas Tech’s top offense vs. the Ole Miss defense that finished 14th in the nation in both total and scoring D. It’s one of the Big 12’s shining stars against an SEC also-ran, meaning a win for the SEC would be a huge, huge feather in the league’s cap in a year when it was supposedly fell to the No. 2 spot in the conference rankings, while Big 12 fans always make a big deal out of their wins against the SEC. But will it be a good game?
No one has played more exciting bowl games than Texas Tech over the last three seasons. The Red Raiders lost 13-10 in the 2005 Cotton Bowl when Alabama’s defense came up huge, they mounted the greatest comeback in bowl history to beat Minnesota in the 2006 Insight Bowl, and after appearing to be left for dead against Virginia in last year’s Gator Bowl, they came back to win 31-28 in the final moments. If Texas Tech needs another late comeback to beat Ole Miss, chalk it up as a win, albeit it a moral one, for the SEC.
This isn’t the best of matchups considering the Ole Miss pass defense is sketchy and Texas Tech, well, likes to throw the ball a whole bunch, but the Rebels have surprised all season long and they aren’t going to be fazed by playing a high-octane offense. If you can beat Florida in Gainesville, push Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and blow out LSU in Death Valley, you can hold up against a Texas Tech attack that sputtered a bit at times to close out the year.

As good as the Red Raiders might be, finishing fourth in the nation in total offense, fourth in scoring offense, and first in passing, it took a big second half to get by Baylor, they were shut down by Oklahoma when the game mattered, and were pushed to overtime at home by Nebraska. When the offense is rolling, it’s unstoppable, but when it starts to sputter a bit it can go cold for long stretches. Ole Miss has to make it chilly, and it has just enough athleticism, and just enough confidence, to do it.

Moved to January 2nd, the Cotton Bowl will avoid the New Year’s Day glut of games and will have the spotlight all to itself. Arguably the most prestigious of the non-BCS games, this has the potential to rise up and be even bigger once it’s played in the new Jerry Jones’ palace next year. For now, this should be an interesting watch and a good contrast in styles.
Players to watch: While everyone knows all about Graham Harrell, this is a chance for Jevan Snead to get a bit of the national spotlight. Snead was a big-time recruit for Texas, but Colt McCoy took the job by the horns and the writing was on the wall. For an Ole Miss program that went from Eli Manning to barely being able to throw the forward pass, Snead has been a godsend. After a bit of a shaky start with 11 interceptions in the first eight games, including a four-pick game leading to the loss to Vanderbilt, he threw just one interception and 11 touchdown passes over the final four games. While he’s a runner, he wasn’t used much out of the backfield netting just 62 yards with three touchdowns. It’ll be his job to keep the chains moving and to try to keep up with the Texas Tech attack.
While Michael Crabtree is only a sophomore, this is his third year out of high school making the two-time Biletnikoff winner eligible for the NFL draft if he chooses to take off. While he didn’t put up the sick and twisted numbers of his breakthrough 2007 campaign, when he made 134 catches for 1,932 yards and 22 scores, he still put up 93 grabs for 1,135 yards and 18 scores. In other words, his “down” year was a dream career for many receivers. However, he was held in relative check over the final two games, partly due to injury, catching 15 passes for 125 yards and no touchdowns against Oklahoma and Baylor, and while it might seem absurd to be disappointed in making so many grabs, he wasn’t quite the same. He caught nine passes for 101 yards and a touchdown last year’s Gator Bowl, and now he wants to close out his amazing two year run with a bigger bang.
Crabtree’s college career will forever be linked with Harrell, who’s playing the final game of his phenomenal career. While Crabtree might be the first wide receiver taken in the 2009 NFL Draft, the jury is out on Harrell. Is he a system guy, and how much tweaking will he need? There’s no question he can run a fast-break, high-tempo offense, and there’s no questioning his accuracy completing 70% of his 1,952 passes for 15,429 yards and 130 touchdowns and just 32 interceptions. He also added 12 rushing scores. While playing in the Cotton Bowl might be a bit of a disappointment for a Texas Tech team thinking BCS, don’t expect Harrell to come out flat. After being left out of the fun among the Heisman finalists, this is his final shot to show the world that he deserved to be considered every bit the quarterback that Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy were this season.

The key to slowing down Harrell and Crabtree will be getting into the backfield, and no one does it as well as Ole Miss. Former head coach Ed Orgeron left the cupboard stocked with tremendous defensive line talent led by All-SEC star Peria Jerry, who finished second on the team in sacks. An unstoppable force on the inside, his emergence into a superstar opened things up for the rest of the line including Greg Hardy. The former basketball player came up with ten sacks last year and made 8.5 this year despite missing four games hurt. Jerry and Hardy helped Ole Miss lead the nation in tackles for loss (combining for 26.5) and finish fifth in sacks.
Texas Tech will win if... Harrell can get rid of the ball in a hurry. The Ole Miss defensive front is too good to run on consistently, and it’s going to pin its ears back to get into the backfield from all four spots. Harrell is used to being pressured, everyone tries to do the same thing, but he only faced two defensive lines remotely as good as this one. Texas lost all-star DE Brian Orakpo and didn’t generate too much in the way of pressure from then on, and Oklahoma dominated early before taking its foot off the gas in the second half. Harrell will get his yards, but the Tech offense is at its best when Harrell is able to find his third and fourth option on a regular basis, or if he’s able to set his feet, step up, and fire to his No. 1 option. He’s not going to have that kind of time, so he’ll have to speed up his pre-snap reads and his receivers will have to make more plays than normal on the move.
Ole Miss will win if
... forces turnovers. That’s far, far easier said than done against a Texas Tech offense that rarely shoots itself in the foot. It’s not a coincidence that the five-game winning streak kicked in when the secondary started making picks. The Rebels intercepted four passes over the first seven games and took it away ten times in the final five. Oddly enough, the defense didn’t force a fumble over the finishing kick after coming up with seven in the first seven games. On the flip side, in the loss to Wake Forest: 5 turnovers. In the loss to Vanderbilt: 2 fumbles. Ole Miss turned it over three times against Alabama and three times against South Carolina. Got all that? It’s this simple. Ole Miss turned it over 13 times in the four losses and nine times in the eight wins. Win the turnover margin; have a shot at pulling off the upset.
What will happen: This is a strange, interesting matchup, not unlike the 2006 game when Alabama, led by Mike Shula, came up with a stunning defensive performance to keep the Red Raider offense in check. But this Texas Tech team is far better, and while Ole Miss is strong enough defensively from keeping this from being a runaway blowout, there isn’t enough offense in the bag to keep up once Harrell starts rolling. The Heisman snub was enough to give the Red Raider just enough edge to get the win.

Line: Texas Tech -5.5 ... CFN Prediction: Texas Tech 38 … Ole Miss 30