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November 21, 2008
If you listened carefully, in-between all the stories about pirates, meeting Donald Trump, his love of the TV show "Silk Stalkings" and the AC/DC song "Hell's Bells," Texas Tech coach Mike Leach told just about anyone who would listen that this season's version of the Red Raiders were different.
They had chemistry. Lots of it.
"If you see one on campus, you see 20 of them," Leach said. "They just really get excited about playing with each other."
Leach can appreciate good chemistry. Two years ago, his team had lost it all, and Leach needed an ice cream social and four-square tournament to get it back. That was after a 30-6 loss at Colorado in which his team all but quit. They rallied and even drew tears from their coach after a 31-point comeback victory over Minnesota in the Insight Bowl that season.
Leach learned a valuable lesson. More than pinpoint passing and receivers with fly-paper fingers, he needed to better value team-building. Leach started paying more and more attention to guys such as Dick Tomey, whose team-building exploits allowed him to win big at Hawaii, Arizona and even go 9-4 in his second season at San Jose State.
Privately over the past year and a half, Texas Tech coaches pointed to 2008 as a potentially special season and constantly reminded the players they would have to play for each other to accomplish anything. It has worked thus far. Texas Tech defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill, a passionate, blue-collar sort, has helped.
"We understand that the Big 12 Conference is a tough conference, and you're going to play some of the elite teams in the country every year," Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell said. "We don't think about, 'We've never done this, we've never done that in the same season.' Since any of us (Tech players) has been alive, we'd never been 10-0, but we've done that."
If Texas Tech can become just the third team to beat OU in Norman in Bob Stoops' 10 years as coach, the Red Raiders will clinch the Big 12 South title and earn a date with Missouri in the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 6 in Kansas City. Obviously, a win in that game would mean a berth in the national title game.
"We've got to finish," Harrell said. "This is a tough conference, with the toughest teams in the country here."
Who gets the edge?
Texas Tech run offense vs. Oklahoma run defense
Texas Tech pass offense vs. Oklahoma pass defense
Oklahoma rush offense vs. Texas Tech rush defense
Oklahoma pass offense vs. Texas Tech pass defense
Texas Tech special teams vs. Oklahoma special teams
Texas Tech coaches vs. Oklahoma coaches
X-factor: Oklahoma's home crowd. Remember, OU is 59-2 at home under Stoops.
Texas Tech will win if: Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree and Co. continue to play pitch-and-catch without disruption.
Oklahoma will win if: The Sooners get back to who they were to start the season ? running the football, mashing people with that offensive line and putting up points.
Olin Buchanan: Texas Tech 49, Oklahoma 42
Chip Brown is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.