If there are two teams whose season’s haven’t exactly gone according to plan, it’s been the Texas Longhorns, and the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Thankfully for those who enjoy watching a seasonal evolution of programs in the rebuilding phases, this Big 12 match-up is sure to deliver on Saturday.
Let’s skip the niceties and call it what it is: both teams were demoralized last weekend. The Longhorns lost at Kansas State, who pitched a shutout; and TCU put up basketball numbers against the Red Raiders.
Texas has led the rivalry by an astonishing 48 wins, to just 15 by the Red Raiders. But the iconic win happened in 2008 at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Tex., on a game winning reception by wide receiver Michael Crabree with just eight seconds left in regulation. This win moved Texas Tech up to 9-0, and No. 2 in the AP polls, whereas the Texas Longhorns fell to 8-1.
In the first BCS Poll rankings in Week 8, Texas was the No. 1 team, but finished the season 11-1 and No. 3 in the BCS, with Texas Tech, also at 11-1, finishing at No. 7 — its highest tandem ranking, ever.
When discussing key match-ups in other games, certain individual players and their statistics stand out. With Texas and Texas Tech, it’s going to take every player giving it 110 percent to make up for equal misalignments.
Since Texas head coach Charlie Strong took over in Austin, nine players have been dismissed in what was called a “culture change.” Some were starters, others were scout team members, but as we all know, the further down the schedule a team gets, the more prone it is to injuries and starters being sidelined, so depth is crucial. Several days ago it was announced that Texas’ WR/KR specialist Roderick Bernard tore his ACL at Kansas State, and will be out for 6-9 months. Strong had two options available to replace him, but both are still largely untested.
Even despite the miscues in the locker room and the shortage of viable assets, Strong remains optimistic about his vision for Texas football.
“I told our team this: We are a better football team than a 3-5 record. The record doesn’t show it, but we’re a better team,” Strong said.
On offense, the Longhorns have gone 246 snaps without a score. That translates to being shutout on 44 percent of offensive snaps. Alternatively, Texas Tech is the second worst team in the FBS just behind the University of Texas – El Paso in red zone defense, allowing a score on 75 trips inside the 20. That, coupled with the Red Raiders leading the FBS in penalties and penalty yards, mean Texas is going to have to find its rhythm early on offense and take advantage of Tech’s lack of discipline. Texas Tech has committed 77 penalties for a total of 714-yards, and have allowed 15 sacks totaling 87-yards.
At this point, Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury hasn’t specified whether quarterback Davis Webb or freshmen Patrick Mahomes will start. But despite its shortcomings, the Longhorns’ defense is still the 34th-ranked defense in the country.
“He’s got to be able to protect himself and move around and escape the rush,” Kingsbury said. “And if he’s not able to do that, then we’ll go with Patrick.”
On paper, the Red Raiders look better in total yardage, third down conversions, passing, and rushing, but they’ve also lost nine of the last 10 in-conference games. According to some oddsmakers, going into Saturday the Longhorns will likely be favored to win, but with Mack Brown departed and both teams on the mend, this is truly the first time since 2009 where this game could go either way.
*Section Photo credit to Ronald Martinez, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Tori Eichberger, Associated Press