An intriguing matchup between the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and Texas Longhorns awaits patrons of Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday as the two teams kick off the 2019 season. While UT is trying to build on a 10-win season and Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia in 2018, Tech wants to get back to the top of Conference USA.
Texas head coach Tom Herman has to guard against the look-ahead factor as his team prepares to take on the LSU Tigers next week. Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz, on the other hand, can expect his players’ full attention with the squad traveling to Austin.
Here’s what to watch when the two teams square off Saturday night.
Louisiana Tech at Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: Longhorn Network
Spread: Texas -20.5
When Louisiana Tech has the ball
For a defense trying to replace a number of key contributors from last season, Texas gets a solid measuring stick game in week one.
The Bulldogs bring back six starters from a big-play attack capable of moving the ball through chunk plays. The passing combo of quarterback J’Mar Smith and receiver Adrian Hardy will test Texas’ green cornerbacks and likely draw the attention of UT’s stout safeties, creating opportunities for the rest of Tech’s receiving corps to do some damage of their own.
Stringing together sustained drives will be a challenge for the Bulldogs, however. This offensive line is not equipped to whip the Longhorns up front. In other words, don’t expect to see Tech pounding the rock.
When Texas has the ball
The Longhorns had an imposing receiving duo last year in Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey. With Humphrey off to the NFL, they’re now looking for a new wideout to pair with Johnson. Consider this a test run for players like Devin Duvernay who are trying to secure that No. 2 role.
Meanwhile, the injury bug hit the UT backfield hard during preseason practices. Sophomore Keaontay Ingram and freshman Jordan Whittington will be available, but it remains to be seen what each can handle in terms of workload. Herman might want to save those carries for next week’s tilt with LSU.
Speaking of which, count on Texas to play it tight with the Tigers on deck.
Texas has shown a tendency to play down to the level of its competition in these games. For example, the Longhorns slogged their way to a seven-point win over Tulsa last year. Teams that aspire to win their conference typically don’t have those kinds of problems.
Even though Herman doesn’t want to show too many cards in the opener, a sharp performance against Tech would bode well for UT’s upcoming game versus LSU and the season as a whole. A lackluster showing would raise familiar questions about focus and the team’s capacity to take home the Big 12 crown.
How about something in between? A late score by Tech to bring the final margin inside the point spread may take a little shine off the win, but the Longhorns should still cruise in a game in which the visitors never really mount a legitimate threat.
Prediction: Texas 35, Louisiana Tech 20
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.