Big Preview: Texas Tech Hosts Texas

Texas Tech hosts in-state rival Texas 11 a.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock (Tex.). Both teams are coming off huge wins and the Red Raiders are looking to defeat the Longhorns for a second consecutive season for the first time since 1997-98.

Who: Texas Tech (4-4, 2-3) vs. Texas (4-4, 2-3)

Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas

When: Saturday, November 5, 11:00 a.m. (CT) 

Media: Fox Sports 1 (TV), Texas Tech Radio Network (radio)

2015 Records: Texas Tech (7-6, 4-5), Texas (5-7, 4-5)

Coaches: Texas Tech (Kliff Kingsbury 23-23), Texas (Charlie Strong 52-34)

Series History: Texas leads 49-16

Last Meeting: Texas Tech 48, Texas 45, November 26, 2015

When Texas Has the Ball

D’Onta Foreman, the nation’s second leading rusher, gets most of the press about Texas’ offense, and to a certain extent that is justified. He basically IS the Longhorn ground game, averaging 158 rushing yards per game, and 6.4 yards per tote. 

Such a focus, however, belies the fact that Texas also has a respectable passing attack. The Longhorns are No. 39 nationally in passing offense and No. 19 in passing efficiency. 

Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele is basically living up to his high school press clippings. He’s the nation’s No. 36 leading passer, and is a very impressive No. 16 in passing efficiency. Buechele does make the odd freshman mistake, but hasn’t paid too high a price for his errors as his six interceptions attest.

Buechele succeeds despite having nary a star receiver of which to throw. The Horns don’t have a receiver among the nation’s top 100. Armanti Foreman, the team’s receiving yardage leader with 349, trails No. 100 Tre’Quan Smith of Central Florida by 148 yards. Texas does, however, boast nine wideouts with double-digit receiving yardage, and second leading receiver Devin Duverney averages an amazing 25 yards per grab.

Making the Texas offense go is a big, talented and very young offensive line featuring future All-American types in center Zach Shackelford and left tackle Connor Williams.

This is obviously a lot of beef for the Texas Tech defense to chew, but coming off a season’s best performance against TCU last week, the task doesn’t look quite as daunting. 

Red Raider linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Malik Jenkins—No. 1 and 2 on the team respectively in tackles—are having solid seasons, as is cornerback/nickel back Justis Nelson who leads the team in passes broken up and passes defended, with nine of each. 

Furthermore, walk-on safety Kisean Allen is beginning to blossom at strong safety, and starting defensive tackles Breiden Fehoko and Ondre Pipkins are coming on strong in the home stretch. 

All of these players will need to have very good games if the Red Raiders are to slow down Texas’ balanced attack.

When Texas Tech Has the Ball

Texas Tech is still among the nation’s top two in passing offense, scoring offense, and total offense, but this unit has experienced more and more hiccups as the season has progressed. And despite attempts to downplay health issues with quarterback Pat Mahomes—he suffered a shoulder injury in the Kansas game and another apparent shoulder injury on the final play of the game against TCU last week—there is reason for wondering if Mahomes is closer to 80 than 100 percent. 

Regardless of where Mahomes is health-wise, even at less than full go he is more than capable of shredding the vast majority of defenses, including Texas’. 

Texas Tech’s ground game will not be a source of concern for Texas’ defense, although true freshman Da’Leon Ward has added a bit more pop to this unit in the last couple of games. He definitely figures as Tech’s primary back for the remainder of this season.

Tech boasts a wealth of dangerous and clutch receivers, with sophomore Jonathan Giles leading the way. He averages 116 receiving yards per game and 17 yards per grab. He also leads the team in touchdown receptions with 11. The Red Raiders got a boost with Dylan Cantrell’s return from injury last week against TCU. His hands are as good as you’ll find in the college game, and he’s also a force as a blocker.

As much grief as Texas Tech’s defense gets, Texas’ defense is equally deserving. Indeed, things got so bad that head coach Charlie Strong took over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Vance Bedford. So far, the defense hasn’t improved much. Presently it ranks No. 105 nationally in scoring defense, 97 in rush defense, 94 in pass defense, 125 in pass efficiency defense, and 112 in total defense. If the Red Raider offense doesn’t light this group up, something is wrong.

The lone strength of the defense is at linebacker where Anthony Wheeler leads the team in tackles, Malik Jefferson is solid if disappointing (he was the consensus preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year), and Breckyn Hager has been productive, particularly in pass rushing where he boasts a team-leading five sacks.

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