November 21, 2011

Tech must win vs. Baylor

There's no doubt the Red Raiders are entering Saturday's regular season finale against No. 21 Baylor as a crippled team.

That was the case long before wideout Alex Torres, running back DeAndre Washington and left guard Lonnie Edwards with serious knee injuries in the 31-27 loss at Missouri.

Despite the injury problems, Texas Tech must win Saturday's game for a variety of reasons -- most importantly for pride. Part of the Red Raider tradition is its 18-consecutive bowl eligible seasons and 11-straight bowl appearances.

"I talked to the players, seniors were good," head coach Tommy Tuberville said in his Monday media luncheon. "They know this is, and we talked about the bowl situation, about we have to win this to even have an opportunity to go to a bowl. That's not a guarantee. They didn't want to hear it. They didn't want to hear talking about a bowl. This is a big game for them."

Fortunately for Tech, the Big 12 has arguably too many bowls for too few schools.

If No. 5 Oklahoma State can defeat No. 12 Oklahoma, it is assured at the very least a spot in the Fiesta Bowl but possibly the National Championship game. If Oklahoma State loses against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and No. 16 Kansas State will battle it out in the BCS for a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.

After the BCS bowls, the Big 12 has agreements with seven bowls that take a Big 12 game each season and agreements with the Gator Bowl and Sun Bowl where one of those two bowls will take a Big 12 team.

Tech has the second-worst record in the Big 12, but its tradition of bowl games and large fan base should make it an attractive option to bowls if the Red Raiders can get win No. 6.

Additionally, other conferences with agreements with bowl games might not qualify enough teams to fill all their spots.

"Just the talk that I hear, and I don't get into it a lot, but the other conferences are not going to have bowl eligible teams," Tuberville said. "So I don't think that would be a problem. I think that would work out.

"But, again, that is one area that we'd like to have that opportunity for somebody to say we don't have enough. But be eligible. We'll try to get to that point first. But I think there is going to be plenty."

Long term, clinching a bowl game allows for more practices. Tuberville uses these practices to work out players that didn't get as much experience as they will need in future seasons after the starters get a small amount of repetitions to keep them fresh.

If Tech doesn't make a bowl, the players will turn in their equipment, go home for the winter break, sit on the couch, eat too much food and hit the mall for Christmas shopping.

"I think that is the big advantage is you probably get about ten practices with the players that are not going to participate a lot in the bowl game," Tuberville said. "You get extra practice time. You get to be around them more."

Tech must beat Baylor to keep the program on track. In more ways than one.

"We're going to do everything we can to be prepared, excited," quarterback Seth Doege said. "Whatever we need to do to figure out how to win this game, we'll do it. I think the team realizes that, and I think we're excited about it. I think that we'll have a great week of practice."

Baylor presents a lot of challenges, but the primary challenge for Tech will be playing with pain and depleted position groups.

"I can tell you that my status is great," senior running back Aaron Crawford said with a giant brace around the lower half of his leg less than 48 hours since his ankle had rolled over on him at Missouri. "It's not bad, it could have been worse. I'm recovering fast and feeling pretty good. Everything is OK and I'll be ready for Saturday.

"I wouldn't say there's pressure (to play with pain). I know that if I can move, I can play. I'm not going to leave anybody out to dry. I'm going to play to the best of my ability."

Crawford added he's playing for more than himself and the Baylor game.

"We have to get this win," Crawford said. "We've been going to a bowl game for what, 18-straight years? It's very important. Every game is important and we're going to treat it like that. We wish we got the win at Missouri, the ball got tipped the other way and sometimes that's life and how life is. You have to respond and play the next week. It's an important week for us."

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