The Longhorns travel to tough Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock to take on a Red Raider team that's been one of the biggest surprises in the Big 12 this season. Seth Doege is lighting up defenses as expected, but it's the improved play of the Texas Tech defense that has a lot of people singing the praises of third-year head coach Tommy Tuberville this fall.
How David Ash responds to his poor performance against Kansas will go a long way in determining who wins Saturday.
Both teams enter Saturday's showdown with 6-2 records, and though both have gone 2-2 over their last four games, Texas Tech enters the game looking like the better team.
Will Texas bounce back from a sluggish performance against Kansas to win on the road? Or will Tech come back from a beatdown by Kansas State and take its anger out on Texas?
A year ago, Texas ran a mudhole the size of the Palo Duro Canyon into the Texas Tech defense. But it's a new year, particularly for Tech. The Red Raiders are playing sound, fundamental football on the defensive side and their offense is clicking often enough to make them one of the Big 12's better teams. The bottom line is Tech is playing solid football each and every week. Texas, on the other hand, has looked great at times and miserable at others. The defense has been the only consistent aspect of the team and they've been consistently bad. Unless there's a turnover or a special teams score that changes momentum and favors the Horns, I foresee Jones Field being littered with Tortillas of joy sometime around the late 3rd quarter. Oh ye of little faith, that is me.
Texas Tech 49, Texas 31
Texas Tech has three running backs who average at least five yards per carry. SaDale Foster is the type of guy who will give this defense fits as a guy who can make plays in space, and Kenny Williams and Eric Stephens will be the best backs Texas has seen since the Oklahoma game. If the Red Raiders can run the football, and I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to given how poorly the Texas defense has defended the run this year, then it'll make their offense almost impossible to stop. They've been doing a great job of pushing more things vertically this year, which will make it tough on Texas' already suspect linebackers and safeties to cover things underneath. If Texas can't run the ball, it'll be a long day. The last thing the Longhorns need is for the Red Raiders to be able to tee off on David Ash with an offense that's predictable on first and second down. Bryan Harsin has to mix it up early and often for the Longhorns to have a chance. Given everything that has to go right for Texas to win this game, I can't pick the Longhorns to come out on top.
Texas Tech 42, Texas 28
In two of the last three games Texas has looked like one of the worst teams in the Big 12. Texas Tech's defense isn't to be confused with the Steel Curtain, but it's certainly better than Kansas' group that shut down the Texas offense for 50 minutes last weekend. The Longhorns need to get back to what they do best which is get their best athletes in space. They need to let Johnathan Gray be the primary runner, and they need to not be shy to use any combination of Daje Johnson, D.J. Monroe and Marquise Goodwin off the edge. This game may cement Manny Diaz's future with Texas; he needs to find a way to pressure Seth Doege without scheming his players out of a possible run play. His more basic approach started to work in the second half against Kansas, but can it have continued success against one of the best offenses in the country? I think not.
Texas Tech 38, Texas 24
Let's start with the Texas defense. In games against top 20 statistical offenses this season, Texas is giving up 53.7 points per game (Oklahoma 63, Baylor 50 and West Virginia 48). Texas Tech is college football's No. 11 ranked offense. The Red Raiders are also the nation's No. 12 scoring offense at over 40 points per game, and are doing it without being a good, or great, return team. Texas Tech, while they are much better through the air, is a good enough running team with good enough backs to give Texas issues. With all that said and considering it's a home game in Lubbock, hard to not see how Texas Tech doesn't score 35-points or more. That means all the pressure is back on the Texas offense after getting a week off from that always daunting task against a putrid Kansas offense last Saturday. This could be the week the Texas offense starts to look more like what many thought headed into the season - from a running back standpoint. Going on the premise that it has to happen eventually, let's just say that Malcolm Brown makes his return to the field this Saturday. A Texas running game with Johnathan Gray now comfortable and productive and Malcolm Brown on the field as the best between-the-tackles runner is a potentially salty combination. Throw in Bergeron in his role and Daje as the change of pace, for two or three plays, and Texas has the makings of a very tough backfield to stop over the course of a game. With that said, the Texas quarterbacks' ability to keep the defense honest, and not commit unforced turnovers will likely be huge come tomorrow night. While I think Texas Tech is a decent team, and Texas is about the same...got to go with the home team.
Texas Tech 41, Texas 30
This is yet another game I can honestly say that it could go either way. If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season, there would have been no doubt in my mind that the only answer would be Texas. However, the tables have turned and the Red Raiders have vastly improved on both offense and especially defense. Not only that, but the Horns are going into a hostile environment, as playing in Lubbock is never easy. I feel like quarterback Seth Doege is going to test Texas' secondary repeatedly and the Red Raiders will try to keep them on their toes with a solid ground attack. The question is, how will Texas' defense respond? Based on what we've seen this season, that answer scares me. That's why I'm taking Texas Tech.
Texas Tech 47, Texas 41