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Houston vs. Texas Tech Prediction: Cougars Head to Lubbock for Lone Star State Showdown with Red Raiders

High-scoring affair is likely in a rematch of last year's opener.

Fireworks in Lubbock are expected on Saturday as Vegas projects the matchup between the No. 25 Houston Cougars and Texas Tech Red Raiders as one of the highest totals of the weekend. The two teams played a year ago in the season opener with Texas Tech winning by 17 points, but the personnel and staffs have changed dramatically since that meeting.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 2

The Cougars (1-0) are off to a strong start after a thrilling come-from-behind victory over UTSA, the defending Conference USA champions, and needed three overtimes to do so. Senior quarterback Clayton Tune started slowly but finished the contest with 206 passing yards and four total touchdowns, including the game-winning two-point conversion, as his pass sailed over UTSA defenders. Defensively it was a struggle, giving up 441 total yards of offense to the Roadrunners, 400 of those to quarterback Frank Harris.

It won’t get any easier for the Cougars' defense now facing a Texas Tech offense that rolled up 63 points en route to a comfortable 63-10 victory over FCS Murray State in Week 1. The Zach Kittley-directed offense was as advertised, with the Red Raiders racking up 605 yards and six touchdown passes. Unfortunately, Tech’s performance was overshadowed by the injury to starting quarterback Tyler Shough, who is expected to miss a few weeks after re-injuring the shoulder that cost him his season a year ago.

No. 25 Houston at Texas Tech

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 10 at 4 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Texas Tech -3
Tickets: As low as $15 on*

When Houston Has the Ball

Despite the slow start, there were minimal concerns coming out of last Saturday with the Houston passing game. Tune completed 69 percent of his passes with four combined touchdowns and zero interceptions. The connection between Tune and All-AAC receiver Nathaniel "Tank" Dell remains strong, catching five passes for 50 yards and two scores. Tune also involved some of the new pieces, including star freshman Matthew Golden, and connected with USC transfer Joseph Manjack IV for a beautiful one-handed touchdown.

With just two starters returning along the offensive line, the running game could be worrisome down the road, as they're already down star running back Alton McCaskill, who was lost for the season due to injury. Saturday did nothing to alleviate said concerns with Houston averaging just 3.18 yards per carry. Tune led the ground attack with 51 yards.

Defensively, the Red Raiders were stout versus the run against Murray State but need to shore up some things on the back end since chunk plays were a problem, allowing multiple passes of 50 yards or more.

When Texas Tech Has the Ball

With Shough now reportedly out 2-3 weeks, according to head coach Joey McGuire, the Red Raiders will turn to backup Donovan Smith who has done nothing but impress in his brief appearances as the starting quarterback. Taking over the starting job in Week 11 last season, Smith closed the year by throwing six touchdowns and just one interception in his last four games, including a home upset win over Iowa State and leading Texas Tech to a blowout bowl victory over Mississippi State. In relief on Saturday, the 6-foot-5 sophomore made easy work of the Murray State defense with more touchdown passes (4) than incompletions (2).

Aiding Smith will be a talented receiving corps that showed out last Saturday, with sophomores Loic Fouonji and Jerand Bradley both topping 100 receiving yards with two touchdowns apiece. Junior Myles Price, expected to take the Jerreth Sterns role in the Kittley offensive scheme, had a quiet day with just three receptions for minimal yards. This group likely is licking its chops after watching film this week of the Houston defense allowing multiple 100-yard performances from UTSA receivers.

While the Houston secondary struggled to defend UTSA pass catchers, allowing six plays of 15 yards or more, the Cougars did pressure the quarterback consistently with four sacks. Defensive end D'Anthony Jones was a presence with nine quarterback pressures and an 88.0 grade from Pro Football Focus.

Final Analysis

Houston sits at No. 25 in AP Top 25, but this matchup is of major importance for a team in the hopes of making a New Year’s Six bowl. That's still well off in the distance, but the Cougars should be favored in each matchup following this weekend until early November. For the Red Raiders, they’ll come into Saturday's contest confident after winning last year’s meeting, and despite being down their starting quarterback. Tech wins a close one in front of the home crowd, with Donovan Smith being the difference-maker with both his arm and mobility.

Prediction: Texas Tech 38, Houston 35

Podcast: Complete Week 2 Preview, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.

*Price as of publication.