The annual series between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Texas Longhorns has historically been a one-sided affair. The Longhorns have taken 16 of the last 20 meetings between the two programs on the gridiron.
With UT working through some growing pains under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, the Red Raiders have reason to believe they can snatch a victory over their in-state rivals this weekend. Hot-seat occupant Matt Wells has his team off to a 3-0 start, positioning Tech for its first bowl appearance since 2017. Beating Houston, FCS member Stephen F. Austin, and FIU, however, won't move the needle the way a W would on Saturday in Austin.
Here's what to watch on Saturday as the Red Raiders go for their first win over Texas in four tries.
Texas Tech at Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 25 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas -8
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
The addition of quarterback Tyler Shough is paying off so far for Tech. The Oregon transfer ranks 17th nationally in passer rating and 12th in yards per attempt (9.9) through three games. He has thrown just two interceptions against six touchdowns so far.
Receiver Erik Ezukanma has aided Shough's transition to Lubbock by catching 16 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown in non-conference play. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders have survived limited contributions from injured running back SaRodorick Thompson to start the season thanks to Tahj Brooks. The sophomore runner is knocking out more than eight yards per carry on his 35 attempts this year.
The Texas defense poses a stiffer challenge than anything Tech has seen so far, though. The Longhorns gave up 40 two weeks ago at Arkansas, but they pitched a shutout last week against Rice and allowed just 18 to Louisiana in their opener.
When Texas Has the Ball
Sarkisian hit his first major roadblock as head coach at Texas against Arkansas as his offense stalled out. The Longhorns generated just four yards per play for the game, a 40-21 romp for the Razorbacks. Quarterback Hudson Card's struggles in the game led to a change in favor of Casey Thompson in the fourth quarter. Thompson has held the position since then.
You could make a case that the top responsibility for whoever is in at QB is getting the ball into the hands of Bijan Robinson, arguably the best running back in the nation. The sophomore is producing nearly six yards on every rush, and his four catches for 73 yards and a score in UT's opener against Louisiana showed his skills as a receiver.
The Red Raiders are stopping the run well this season, allowing just 1.7 yards per rush in their first three games. They haven't seen anything close to what Robinson can do, though.
Did Texas get its offense back on track last week with Thompson at the wheel? That's the operative question leading into this game. The scoreboard says yes: The Longhorns throttled Rice 58-0.
The eye test isn't so definitive. The Horns rushed for 427 yards against the hapless Rice defense. Thompson's passing performance was a mixed bag of 15 completions on 18 attempts for 164 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. If Tech doesn't have a plan to make Thompson win this game with his arm, consider it negligence on the part of the coaching staff.
For their part, the Red Raiders have to hope Shough can avoid the brutal mistakes that nearly cost them the game against FCS foe Stephen F. Austin in their second game. A pick-six and a fumble that put the Lumberjacks in position to score kept the outcome in doubt late into the fourth quarter of a 28-22 win for Tech.
Texas defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski can probably bait Shough into a damaging miscue or two. If Sarkisian can draw up some creative ways to get the ball to Robinson, Texas should pick up a hard-fought win at home.
Prediction: Texas 31, Texas Tech 28
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— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.