for this game

Texas Tech hosts Eastern Washington in opener

Aug 30, 2008 - 10:13 AM LUBBOCK, Texas (Ticker) -- Armed with its highest preseason ranking ever in the coaches' poll, No. 14 Texas Tech kicks off its season with Saturday's contest against Eastern Washington of the Football Championship Subdivision.

The Red Raiders have been one of the college football's highest-scoring teams under Mike Leach, the third longest-tenured coach in the Big 12 Conference behind Texas' Mack Brown and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.

Graham Harrell enters his senior season as the nation's active career passing leader with 10,682 yards and is less than 2,000 yards away from Kliff Kingsbury's school record of 12,429 yards.

Michael Crabtree won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver as a freshman last year, when he led the Football Bowl Subdivision in receptions (134), receiving yards (1,960) and touchdowns (22) . He set NCAA freshman records in all three categories.

Optimism is running high in Lubbock, as the Red Raiders have sold out all of their season tickets for the first time in the program's 84-year history.

But if Texas Tech is going to take the next step and seriously challenge in the rugged Big 12 Conference, it must improve a defense that traditionally has been weak. The Red Raiders were 45th in total defense last year, giving up an average of 365 yards per game.

Texas Tech, which went 9-4 last season, tied for third in the Big 12 South with Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, allowing more than 40 points in three of its four losses.

The Red Raiders did show progress under defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeil in the second half of last season, however, shaving 60 yards off their total yards allowed. They yielded an average of 405 yards in their first four contests.

Texas Tech should head into conference play undefeated, as its next three games are against Nevada, Southern Methodist and Massachusetts, a second opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision.

Texas Tech is facing Eastern Washington, which finished second in the Big Sky Conference last year, for the first time.