NO MORE "SMOKE AND MIRRORS"
By mark rogers
November 9, 2008
I believe a fluke is something that happens rarely. At the very least, it is something that doesn't happen consistently and could be written off as unimportant, a surprise or trivial.
Doing my household chores without being asked is a fluke. Getting in the fast checkout lane at the grocery store is a fluke. USC losing to 41-point underdog Stamford in LA was a fluke.
The Texas Tech football program has been connected with the term for several years. Last year's win over #4 Oklahoma was a fluke. Beating #9 Texas in 2002 was a fluke. Upsetting #9 California in a bowl in 2004 was fluke. You get the idea.
Everyone outside of Lubbock-land is used to the Tech storyline:
Tech has a great, record-breaking offense. They smear everyone they're supposed to smear and then lose two out of three to Oklahoma, OSU and/or Texas, then play in the Holiday or Cotton bowl which they will undoubtedly win. They will lose those games because their defense can't stop anyone and the offense scores too quick which doesn't allow the defense much of a break.
That's how it was supposed to go down this year as well.
Even though Tech had one of the best QB-WR duos in the country, the nation's biggest offensive line and a defense that led the Big 12 in total defense the last eight games of 2007, the Red Raiders were still supposed to finish third in the division and play a meaningless bowl game.
Well, after beating Kansas on the road and Texas and OSU at home, I'm ready to give up and start believing that Tech just might do something special this year.
The term "smoke and mirrors" is used in college football quite a bit. It basically means a team can mask or hide weaknesses by using gimmicks or quirks...like a magician.
When a team has a poor running game, you put five wide receivers on the field, spread out the defense and play basketball on a field, which disguises the running game.
The same thing works to disguise a sub-par quarterback that lacks accuracy and arm strenth. A bad defense can be made to look not quite so bad if your offense scores 56 points a game. And so on and so forth...
I believe the Texas Tech Red Raiders have officially smashed the mirrors and destroyed the smoke machines that have been haunting the field house in Lubbock for many years.
Outrushing Kansas State and limiting them to less than 300 yards in total offense is a fluke...when isolated.
Outrushing Nebraska and winning a game you should probably lose in Omaha is a fluke...when isolated.
Holding A&M to 20 yards rushing and just 306 total yards at Kyle Field is a fluke (even when the Aggies are terrible)...when isolated.
Forcing five turnovers and holding a potent Kansas offense to just 315 total yards while scoring over 60 points at Kansas is a fluke...when isolated.
Outgaining Texas by 200 yards of total offense, forcing two turnovers, winning the time of possession battle, holding the Longhorns to 80 yards rushing and winning the game on a last-second, unbelievable touchdown pass is nothing more than a fluke...when isolated.
Racking up 629 yards of total offense against OSU, forcing two turnovers, holding the conference's leading rusher to just over 100 yards and only getting called on three penalties is the biggest fluke of all...when isolated.
But you put all those games together, and what you have is an impressive resume that has Tech sitting first in the division and in the driver's seat to play for a national title.
Tech passed the first test: Can they win a huge game when they're supposed to win?
We found out the answer to that question on Saturday night. The answer is...absolutely. That game wasn't even close at any point in the contest.
Tech absolutely manhandled a very talented Oklahoma State team. And they did it by playing great defense and remarkable, efficient and down-right spectacular offense.
Now we get to ask the second question: Can Tech win a huge game when they're supposed to win...on the road?
That remains to be seen, but I know I'm giving the Raiders a much better chance at winning in Oklahoma right now than I would have four, even three, weeks ago.
But even if Tech loses, the point is they finally broke through that invisible barrier that has smashed their face into the dirt at the end of every season they've played in the Big 12.
Those guys have confidence, unbridled confidence, which is why I believe they wiped the floor with OSU. That (and a solid defense) is what was missing.
Tech is no longer a fluke. They are a legitimate contender who will be around for a while. Their receivers are young, their core players are young, they have a QB stepping into the spotlight next year that has much better physicial skills than Graham Harrell and they're confident.
If Tech beats Oklahoma (and if they play like they have the last two weeks they most certainly will) then they will play either Kansas or Missouri in the Big 12 Championship (if they can somehow beat Baylor). A win in that game (and look what they did to Kansas) would put Tech in the BCS Title game.
Here's the kicker: If Oklahoma wins this week (which is a very strong possibility), then Tech will join OU and UT as 1-loss teams in the South Division. And since Texas and Oklahoma would probably jump Tech in the BCS standings, Texas and Oklahoma would get the spots in the BCS game or Fiesta Bowl, and Tech will once again be designated to the Holiday or Cotton Bowl.
The smoke and mirrors are gone. Tech is no longer a fluke.
We'll find out if the season will end as magically as it's gone the last two weeks when they have to leave the confines of football-crazed Lubbock and head to one of the most hostile places in all of college football to play a team that has quietly strung together some impressive wins since losing to Texas.
But I'll tell you one thing...I will NOT pick against Texas Tech. After watching what they did to OSU on national television, I'm ready to believe anything is possible. There's no other way to say it...Texas Tech is a really good football team. We'll have to wait and see if they can pull one more rabbit out of the hat before we can call them a "great" football team.
Texas' luck ran out against Tech. OU's ran out against Texas. Will this be the week the Red Raiders lay an egg?
Only 13 more days to find out. And that's no fluke.
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