Two teams from the Lone Star State will help kick off Big 12 play as No. 8 Texas and Texas Tech meet for the 70th time in Lubbock, Texas. The matchup between these two is almost always exciting, and there’s reason to expect nothing less this time around. After playing one conference game apiece, the Red Raiders and Longhorns both were able to get one in the win column before a bye week, and look for them to be raring to go Saturday afternoon.
Texas came into this season with an eye to returning to the Big 12 Championship in December, and that campaign appears to still be on track. The eighth-ranked Longhorns did what they were supposed to against UTEP in their non-conference opener, notching a convincing 59-3 win, but they have yet to be tested. Expectations are always high in Austin, and head coach Tom Herman is hoping for big things this season. A convincing win would keep Texas’ championship hopes alive, while a loss would present a serious obstacle to those plans.
For the Red Raiders, this game represents an opportunity for head coach Matt Wells to win back some good will from the fan base. After going 2-7 in Big 12 play in his first season, a win over in-state foe Texas would do a lot to cool Wells’ seat in his second year. An inauspicious start to the 2020 season, which began with a 35-33 victory squeaked out over FCS Houston Baptist, has everyone restless on the South Plains. A win – or even a close loss – against a Top 10 Longhorns team would help Texas Tech build some momentum to start the 2020 season.
- When: Sat, Sept 26, 2:30 PM CT
- Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX
- Forecast: mid-80s, Sunny
- TV: FOX
- Betting Line: UT -17.5 O/U 69.5
No. 8 Texas Longhorns (1-0)
The Longhorns are coming off an outstanding offensive performance against UTEP, where Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger through for over 400 yards to open the season. Ehlinger is the center of the offense, and the four year starter powers that side of the ball by being able to both run the ball and throw it. Ehilnger is considered by many to be the best signal caller in the conference, but Texas is looking for weapons to develop around him.
Multiple wide receivers caught passes in the Longhorn’s season opener, with wideout Joshua Moore and graduate transfer Tarik Black each having a big day. Together they combined to post 200 yards, as new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich displayed a more varied and wide open passing attack than has been seen at Texas under Herman. The running game, which averaged a statistically impressive 6.3 yards per carry, was nonetheless less effective, with the Longhorns’ offensive line struggling to consistently open up holes for Texas’ multiple running backs.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Longhorns are looking to see improvement after hiring new coordinator Chris Ash, and the results against UTEP last week were promising. Texas looks to be better this season in their secondary, where the Longhorns had an interception last week. Texas’ linebacking corps is a bit of a work in progress, with multiple players in the rotation last week, but they have yet to be tested against a high caliber offense.
Texas Keys To The Game
Pass To Setup The Run – Texas will need to run the ball in this game to be successful, but they might want to throw on traditional run downs to keep the Texas Tech defense honest, and to keep them from loading up the box. Putting Ehlinger in a position to take off on scrambles should also yield results against a Red Raiders secondary that should be loathe to give up big plays downfield.
Blitz Selectively – Ash is not known as a defensive coordinator who is overly aggressive, but against a Red Raiders squad that has a quarterback who is more of a pure pocket passer, they might benefit from dialing up the pressure on occasion. The Longhorns have struggled to get a pass rush with their front four, and so they will need to bring some extra rushers in order to prevent their defensive backs from being on islands too long with Texas Tech’s talented crop of pass catchers.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (1-0)
Texas Tech came into this season hoping for a full season from quarterback Alan Bowman, who has flashed in the past, but been hampered injury with the Red Raiders. Bowman, a redshirt sophomore, threw for 430 yards last week, and will be looking to get the ball to a wealth of good receivers. Those wideouts include T.J. Vasher, who has pro potential but has struggled with consistency, and Erik Ezukanma, who led the team with 15.8 yards per reception last season. The Red Raiders were the top passing team in the Big 12 last season, and ought to be potent again in 2020.
Their ground game should be strong as well. The offensive line includes right guard Jack Anderson, who is viewed as one of the best guards in the country. He was part of an effort last week that allowed sophomore SaRodorick Thompson to compile 118 yards rushing. He’ll get the majority of carries for the Red Raiders, who like to line up with a tight end and run the ball to keep the offense balanced under offensive coordinator David Yost.
Last week’s scare against Houston Baptist made Texas Tech fans cringe at the possibility of another year with struggles on the defensive side of the ball. The secondary seemed unable to cover any of the Huskies’ wideouts, and the Red Raiders gave up 572 yards through the air to their FCS foe. If they can improve on the back end, the Red Raiders have some talent up front. Nose tackle Jaylon Hutchings is explosive, and defensive end Eli Howard, who had five sacks last season, is a name to watch.
Also keep an eye on linebacker Collin Schooler, a transfer out of Arizona, who makes his first start in this game. Schooler and Riko Jeffers, who had 76 tackles last season, will be on hand to help track down opposing rushers in Texas Tech’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme. Texas Tech only gave up 28 yards rushing last week, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain that level of play against an FBS opponent.
Texas Tech Keys To The Game
Be Patient – This offense’s best bet may be to nickel-and-dime the ball down the field, which the Red Raiders should embrace this week against Texas. If underneath, short throws are there for Bowman, he should take them and try to keep the ball moving. Keeping the Texas offense off the field should be a priority for Texas Tech, and big plays will open up as the game moves along if the Red Raiders have early success.
Simplify On Defense – Last week, the Red Raiders looked confused and constantly out of position on defense, and hopefully Wells and his staff have spent the past two weeks making things easier for the players to grasp. That might help to contain some of the big pass plays, and playing with a light box against the run might be fruitful for Texas Tech as well. Inviting Texas to run will protect the secondary and make the Longhorns inch the ball down the field.
The line on this game has Texas as a heavy favorite, and a 17-point spread is not something the Longhorns usually get in Lubbock. Many expect this game to be a shootout with a lot of points and yards, which is no surprising given that both teams ranking in the bottom of the conference in pass defense last season. Texas would do well in this game to take a page out of Houston Baptist’s book, and invite the Red Raiders to run the ball. Thompson is a good back, but Alan Bowman and the Texas Tech wide receivers are the real threat to the Longhorns in this game.
If Texas Tech were able to get some early turnovers, and convert those into points, the Longhorns would be in trouble. I do expect the Red Raiders to cover the 17.5-point spread, as I think the team we saw against HBU will not be the same team fans see on Saturday. With a senior quarterback and veteran leadership on both sides of the ball, I look for the Longhorns to get the victory in this one by a couple of possessions.