L. Scott Mann/Icon SMI
Mentioning in Wednesday's Mailbag that I was making my first-ever trip to Lubbock for this weekend's Texas-Texas Tech game elicited a flood of e-mails I never could have imagined.
Seemingly anyone with any current or former affiliation to the school/town wanted to give me restaurant recommendations (there is almost zero chance I will be passing up Cagle steakhouse at this point), game-day recommendations (the fried cheese at Sparky's) and an overview of the community (which seems to revolve heavily around football, barbeque and hometown legend Buddy Holly). Someone from the chamber of commerce offered me a tour. I feel so loved.
The overwhelming sentiment, however, was that I would be out of my mind to voluntarily drive five-plus hours from Dallas to Lubbock. The comments included: "Driving to Lubbock sounds about as fun as jabbing a needle in my eye," "Hope you like dirt" and "pack lots of bottled water."
Suffice to say, I heeded their advice. I booked a Southwest puddle-jumper from Dallas to Amarillo, from which the drive is a more reasonable two hours. If all goes to plan, I should leave my apartment in New York at 9:30 a.m. Friday and arrive in Lubbock ... 12 hours later.
If this seems like an awful lot of trouble to attend a football game ... you're absolutely right. But it's not every day -- or every millennium -- that Texas Tech hosts a game with national-championship implications. Texas Tech's official Web site is billing it as "the biggest game in school history" and has pictures of "Raiderville," where students have been camped out since Monday night just to get the best seats.
This is only the third time in school history the Red Raiders have started 8-0. They've never finished a season in the top 10 and haven't finished in the top 15 since 1973. "Tech's [No. 6] ranking, combined with Texas being No. 1, is the best aggregate pairing all-time for a Tech game in Lubbock," according to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal.
I would argue that it may also be the biggest game of the 2008 season. Right, you're saying to yourself. Didn't we hear that when USC played Ohio State, Oklahoma played Texas, Penn State played Ohio State ... All true, but hear me out: This will be the last game between two undefeated teams for the rest of the regular season and the latest in any season since the 2006 Ohio State-Michigan clash. If Texas wins, it can practically write its ticket to the BCS Championship Game. If Tech wins, the Raiders will suddenly be right in the mix with Alabama and Penn State.
And oh yeah, the top two vote-getters in this week's HeismanPundit.com poll of voters are Texas QB Colt McCoy and Tech QB Graham Harrell.
I've covered plenty of games like this before, but most often they're played in a familiar locale -- Columbus, Baton Rouge, Tallahassee. It's so rare at this point that I get to check out a venue for the first time (last year: Autzen Stadium; this year: Jones AT&T Stadium). Let the trek begin.