Texas Tech Red Zone Defense Must Bow Up

The Red Raiders host the Longhorns 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium.

Regardless of whether the spread of the game is Texas by five or 15, or Tech by 25, the clash between the Red Raiders and Longhorns will largely be determined by what UT’s offense does in the red zone.

Texas’ offense, triggered by the inexperienced Tyrone Swoopes, has been generally weak the whole season. The passing game is largely nonexistent, and the running game, spearheaded by high school All Americans Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray, has been only average. Consequently, the Horns (3-5, 2-3 in the Big 12) are scoring only 20.8 points per game.

However, Texas seems to move the ball between the 20s, reasonably well; it is their failure to capitalize in the red zone that prevents them from being effective. In red zone touchdown conversion percentage, the Longhorns are rated No. 83 nationally.

It will be absolutely imperative for Tech’s defense to rise up in the red zone and hold the visitors to field goal attempts, because if the Longhorns score more than three touchdowns, it may be curtains for the Red Raiders (3-5, 1-4). Unfortunately, Tech is next-to-last nationally in red zone touchdown conversion defense.

Red zone defense will be critical because it is unlikely that the Red Raiders will score much against the Horns. Tech, traditionally one of the highest-scoring offenses in the nation, is currently mired in the No. 64 spot nationally. Texas is currently No. 50 in scoring defense, despite the fact that they get little help from the offense. If the Horns are able to sustain drives and score touchdowns, you can bet the UT defense will play considerably better.

And unfortunately for the Red Raiders, Texas’ defensive strength—and it is an absolute strength—is pass defense. The Horns are No. 10 in sacks, No. 11 in interceptions, No. 8 in passing yards allowed, and No. 15 in passing defense efficiency. Not that Tech’s passing game has been setting the world on fire anyway, but it looks like a gimpy Davis Webb or a raw Patrick Mahomes will have trouble making much headway against the Horns. And if Tech can’t throw the football, they probably won’t score a lot, which means the premium on Tech’s red zone defense will be extremely high.

One other area of interest will be Texas’ kickoff coverage unit, which is currently dead last nationally allowing over 32 yards per return. Now Tech’s kickoff return unit, like the team in general, has been a disappointment, but there is an opportunity for this group to make a huge difference in the game. Good starting field position is always welcome, and will be even more appreciated if young Mahomes is in the saddle.

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