No. 19 Texas at Texas Tech
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock
Records: Texas (6-3, 4-2 Big 12); Texas Tech (5-4, 3-3 Big 12)
Last meeting: Texas Tech won 27-23 on Nov. 24, 2017, in Austin
What’s on the line?
For Texas, this is pretty much a must-win game. The Longhorns don’t want to lose their third straight game to fall to 6-4. It would also end any remaining hopes of making the Big 12 title game, as Texas needs to win out and then get some help for that. It also wasn’t too long Texas was sitting at 6-1 and ranked inside the top 10 in the country. But a loss to Texas Tech on Saturday and the Longhorns could quite possibly be looking at a 7-5 finish (No. 22 Iowa State and Kansas remain), which is hardly an improvement from last season.
Texas Tech is coming off a difficult home loss in prime time last week against No. 6 Oklahoma. The Red Raiders get another marquee matchup in prime time for the second straight week. They, too, desperately need a win to keep their season headed in the right trajectory. Texas Tech is also trying to avoid a third consecutive loss. A defeat to Texas and the Red Raiders would fall to .500, after starting the season off promising at 3-1.
When Texas has the ball
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger is coming off a huge game against West Virginia last week in which he accounted for four touchdowns and over 400 yards of offense. The sophomore has quickly turned himself into one of the best quarterbacks in a conference already rich with them. What’s more, Ehlinger has now gone eight straight games without an interception and seven straight without a turnover. He’ll look to continue to get the ball to junior Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who had another big receiving day (9 rec, 143 yds, 1 TD) last week against West Virginia.
Texas Tech’s defense has mostly been a liability this season. The Red Raiders rank dead-last in the Big 12 in both total defense and pass defense, while they are ninth in scoring defense. Texas Tech is, however, tied for first in the conference in opponent third-down conversions. What’s concerning Saturday is the team may be without its leading tackler, linebacker Dakota Allen, who has a hurt knee and broken hand. The Red Raiders’ secondary also has a big task containing one of the most dynamic receiving cores around with Humphrey, Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay. The key will be getting pressure on Ehlinger and getting Texas off the field on third down.
When Texas Tech has the ball
The bad news for the Red Raiders is that freshman quarterback Alan Bowman might not play Saturday, after suffering a recurrence of a partially collapsed lung last Saturday against Oklahoma. Bowman has already proved to be an elite passer, leading the Big 12 in passing yards per game. Texas Tech will have to turn to sophomore Jett Duffey, a better runner but not as good of a passer. Duffey will need to make plays with his legs, something Oklahoma State quarterback Taylor Cornelius was able to do against Texas two weeks ago. Duffey will still need to look for the explosive Antoine Wesley, who leads the Big 12 in yards and receptions, on the outside. And with the way Texas has defended the run lately, this also may be a game where Texas Tech needs to run the ball early and often.
Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said Wednesday the Longhorns’ biggest issue on defense right now is stopping the run. The defense has been gashed by big plays and given up a lot of points and yards the past two weeks. Texas has slipped to fourth in rush defense and sixth in opponent third-down conversions in the Big 12 rankings. The Longhorns, who are also banged up defensively, will have to finally win the line of scrimmage if they want to contain the Red Raiders. The running game isn’t necessarily Texas Tech’s bread and butter, but if the Longhorns can’t make this team one-dimensional, they could be in for another long game. Texas’ secondary, of course, will be tested with the Red Raiders’ prolific passing game. The little good news for Texas is it still ranks first in the league in red zone defense.
Texas is only a two-point favorite over Texas Tech on Saturday night, which, for a spread in a college football game, might as well be a coin flip. The Red Raiders will likely be without Alan Bowman, but Jett Duffey has still shown he’s capable. Texas’ defense, meanwhile, has multiple key injuries and has struggled mightily lately. It also can’t be overstated the impact of playing at night in Lubbock. The Red Raiders very nearly toppled Oklahoma in such setting last Saturday. This week, Texas Tech will get the job done and win a nailbiter over the reeling Longhorns, 10 years after the Michael Crabtree game in Lubbock.
Score: Texas Tech 38, Texas 35
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