Top 25 teams and games — No. 16 Texas Tech


Published: Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 11:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 11:02 p.m.

Team No. 16 Texas Tech

The buzz: Coach Mike Leach has turned Texas Tech into one of college football's most prolific offenses. Don't expect that to stop in 2008. The Red Raiders return senior quarterback Graham Harrell, who has thrown for more than 10,000 yards the last two seasons and led the nation in passing a year ago. In Leach's eight seasons at Texas Tech, the Red Raiders have led the nation in offense five times. They might do it again this year.

Difference-maker: Senior quarterback Graham Harrell. A year ago, Harrell completed 71.8 percent of his passes, threw for 5,705 yards and 48 touchdowns, and was the MVP of Texas Tech's 31-28 win over Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

The upside: Harrell will have plenty of targets to throw to again this season. His top target will be sophomore receiver Michael Crabtree, who caught 134 balls for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns and won the Biletnikoff Award as a freshman. The Red Raiders also return all five starters along the offensive line.

The downside: The Red Raiders defense will enter the season as a question mark. Leach replaced defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich with Ruffin McNeill after Texas Tech's 49-45 loss at Oklahoma State last year. Under McNeill, Tech led the Big 12 in defense over the final eight games.

Schedule factor: Texas Tech faces an easy non-conference slate that includes season-opening games against Eastern Washington, at Nevada and versus SMU and Massachusetts. Back-to-back Big 12 games at Kansas (Oct. 25) and versus Texas (Nov. 1) could define the season.

Game No. 16 Illinois vs. Missouri

Where: Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis.

When: Aug. 30.

Why it's sexy: This matchup of Big 12 vs. Big 10 in a big, airy NFL arena to open the season is enticing enough. Throw Ron Zook into the mix and you've got yourself a football game worth watching.

Preseason buzz: This game will be a rematch of last year's thrilling, 30-24, Missouri win in St. Louis. It will also give Illinois a chance to prove that last year's Rose Bowl season wasn't a fluke. Juice Williams and Chase Daniel also could make for an exciting quarterback duel in the dome.

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