UT’s heartbreaking loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers last week took control of the Longhorns’ fate in the conference race out of their own hands. Meanwhile, Tech’s bid to upset the Oklahoma Sooners fell short as injuries felled quarterback Alan Bowman and defensive leader Dakota Allen.
The Red Raiders’ injury situation will test their not only their resilience, but their roster depth as well. Meanwhile, the ‘Horns are dealing with plenty of health concerns of their own as they try to get back on track.
Texas at Texas Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas -2
Three Things to Watch
1. Containing Texas' running game
While Texas Tech defensive coordinator David Gibbs has done admirable work fortifying the Red Raiders' defense, their last game proved they’re still vulnerable against the run. The Sooners mashed Tech for 323 yards on 44 carries, averaging 7.3 yards per attempt.
Texas’ ground game doesn’t match up to the OU steamroller, but it still poses a stiff test for Tech, especially with defensive anchor Dakota Allen’s status in doubt. The ‘Horns will look to pound the Red Raiders with methodical drives led by running backs Keontay Ingram and Tre Watson and their battering ram of a quarterback, Sam Ehlinger. UT averages about four yards per carry, which ranks 92nd nationally, but the physicality of its running game tends to grind on opponents.
2. Is Jett Duffey ready for takeoff?
Against Oklahoma, Texas Tech quarterback Alan Bowman suffered a recurrence of the collapsed lung that knocked him out of action earlier this season. That almost certainly means the Red Raiders won’t have his services this weekend – and perhaps much longer than that.
Duffey enabled his team to hang around in the second half versus the Sooners, completing nine of his 17 pass attempts for 139 yards and two touchdowns. He added 47 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground to help keep Tech in striking distance.
Let’s see what kind of game plan Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury draws up for Duffey with a week to prepare.
3. Texas’ ailing defense
Recent weeks have tested the Longhorns’ defensive depth. Starters such as defensive end Breckyn Hager and defensive backs Davante Davis and Brandon Jones have gone down with injuries, forcing backups on the field.
Longhorns defensive coordinator Todd Orlando may need to get creative with his schemes on Saturday if he has to cover up for a significant number of starters who are missing in action. UT has young talent on that side of the ball, but the drop-off has been significant when second-stringers are in the game. And that's not a good sign considering Texas Tech enters this game ninth in the country in both total (522.1 ypg) and scoring (42.7 ppg) offense.
Alan Bowman’s absence hurts Texas Tech’s chances of winning this game – there’s no way around it. Despite throwing two touchdowns passes versus OU, backup quarterback Jett Duffey lacks the precision as a thrower that makes the Red Raiders' offense click.
However, the Texas defense is reeling after surrendering 38 and 42 points in the last two games to Oklahoma State and West Virginia, respectively. Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury is an offensive guru, and he has a whole week to figure out how to match Duffey’s strengths with the opportunities the Longhorns will present.
UT should prepare for the possibility of a third consecutive shootout. Fortunately for head coach Tom Herman, his team’s offense has hit its stride behind Sam Ehlinger’s steady play at QB. This game will give the 'Horns an opportunity to channel some of that confidence and get back in the win column.
Prediction: Texas 34, Texas Tech 28
— 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.