Now that he's completed his first year playing against Big 12 competition after coaching in the Southeastern Conference from 1995-'08 at Ole Miss and Auburn, Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville has noticed a very stark difference between the two power conferences.
For starters, the folks in the Big 12 prefer to fill the airways with one football after another, while the folks in the SEC lean more towards grinding their way to a victory by running the football. It's an adjustment Tuberville had to quickly make as he went through his first go-round in the pass-happy Big 12.
"There’s not many teams in the SEC that live and die off the pass,'' Tuberville said Thursday. "They're all going to be run-oriented first.
"They may have a good receiver. But in (the Big 12) everybody's got a wide receiver that’s a playmaker.''
Although the Red Raiders have non-conference games remaining against Weber State and Houston, they've already finished Big 12 play with a 3-5 record. Two of those victories -- against Baylor and Missouri -- were against teams who are already bowl eligible.
The Red Raiders played against four receivers this year who are ranked among the Top 10 in the nation in passes caught per game. That includes Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma), Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State), Michael Egnew (Missouri) and T.J. Moe (Missouri).
Overall, 11 Big 12 receivers had at least six receptions in games against Tech, including six with catches that covered over 100 reception yardage. That includes Texas' James Kirkendoll (six catches, 122 yards), Baylor's Kendall Wright (11-145, 1 TD), Blackmon (10-207, 1TD), Texas A&M's Jeff Fuller (11-171, 2TD's), A&M's Ryan Swope (7-105), and Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles (8-119, 3 TD's).
The Raiders themselves had their own share of wide receivers who caused trouble for opposing cornerbacks. Lyle Leong had nine catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns against Iowa State, and nine receptions for 123 yards and two TD's against Missouri.
Meanwhile, teammate Alex Torres collected six catches for 133 yards and a touchdown against Colorado, and Detron Lewis had eight receptions for 111 yards against Texas A&M.
The 3-4 defense Tech ulitizes helps get more defenders in pass coverage, which Tuberville has discovered is a necessity in the Big 12.
"What separates the Big 12 from the SEC are the big receivers and the fast receivers (in the Big 12),'' Tuberville said. "And you have to counter that with corners that can handle the pressure.''
In other words, in the SEC most of the pressure applied to defenses came from power-packed and speedy running backs. In the Big 12, it's the wide receivers who are applying the pressure.
"In some leagues you can get by with playing a guy at corner that might not have a lot of speed,'' Tuberville said. "But in the Big 12 they're going to isolate your cornerbacks, and everybody we played had an exceptional wide receiver.
"I guarantee you, all the corners in this league always get a lot of sleep after their games on Saturday night.''
-- Dwain Price