Texas has seen its wide receiver group drilled by injuries and attrition, the latest of which we reported earlier this week when a source told LonghornDigest.com that Jaxon Shipley would not be able to go for Saturday's contest. That's the bad news. The good news is that Texas Tech's defensive back group is also hurting. The Red Raiders are out at least one cornerback for Saturday's game, potentially two depending on the status of Eugene Neboh, who is listed as questionable. And strong safety Terrance Bullitt is listed as doubtful, meaning the safety group is also a bit banged up. So what happens when a stoppable force meets a movable object? If Texas wants to try and make big plays in the play action game, the Longhorns will need to have somebody from the above group step up and make a play or two.
Two different players here, and two different reasons for concern. Phillips is the Longhorns' jack-of-all-trades player, who can play cornerback or safety as needed. But he's returning from an injury that saw him miss last week's game. Tech is a heck of a game to be getting back up to speed for. And defensive coordinator Manny Diaz acknowledged that Thompson would play more in passing situations. Thompson stepped in for Phillips and might be needed more than usual because of the number of wide receivers the Red Raiders like to run with. Count Josh Turner in this category as well. Though Turner is a true cornerback, unlike the other two, his services might also be needed.
This is a complex matchup, but one where we could truly start to see the value of a healthy Cobbs. Simply put: Cobbs plays at a speed most linebackers dream of getting to. And he's going to be valuable in this game in terms of a player who can go in as a combination safety/linebacker and help out both in coverage and in the blitz game. And while he'll be going against James from time-to-time, the matchup is really listed as such because, like Cobbs, James is a complicated player to prepare for. He's built like a tight end, weighing 230 pounds, but he'll line up in the slot a ton. Tech will probably try to get the ball out of quarterback Seth Doege's hands quickly, and James has shown a talent in recent weeks for finding gaps in zone defenses. So while they won't necessarily match-up a ton, they both have a chance to serve as X-factors for their respective units.
The biggest surprise to come out of last week was Poehlmann's impact on the running game. He took over at a position that not only struggled to seal, but also struggled at blocking players heads-up. Poehlmann was physically dominant and fixed both of those issues, and Texas responded by running Power O over and over again until the Jayhawk defense couldn't take it anymore. The potential exists for a similar game, particularly if Poehlmann can again have that kind of effort. And he should be able to help out the tackles by blocking down on Smith and Mackey, two players who can be difficult to fend off because of their length.
There's a lot to like about the Red Raiders' linebacking group. They are young, athletic and have shown a penchant for making plays at times. But they can be worn down, particularly when their undersized defensive tackles are getting pushed back in the running game. That's what will likely happen Saturday. With that, expect to see Bergeron get more carries earlier in the game, with the Longhorns using he and Brown's size to pound away at the undersized Tech defense. Texas Tech is allowing 225.8 rushing yards per game, and if Brown and Bergeron can win their battle with those linebackers, the chance exists for the Longhorns to make a play for 300, or even 400 yards on the ground.
X-Factor: Making Doege uncomfortable
Simply put, Texas Tech passes to set up the run, and the offense revolves around Doege making the right reads and decisions. On the flip side, Texas struggled to get Landry Jones off-rhythm and were more successful with Brandon Weeden. Can Texas show Doege enough looks, and get enough pressure to slow him down? Texas should be able to move the ball with the running game, so the key here will be simply whether Doege can keep pace.
Yeah, yeah. The last game was against Kansas. But the Longhorns showed enough in that contest to think that they'll be able to run the ball on all of their remaining opponents. And that, barring mistakes, they should be able to play with anybody remaining on schedule. Texas Tech typically plays Texas well, and there shouldn't be any letdown after last week's gaffe at Iowa State. But the Longhorns are starting to come into their own, and they have the game's biggest mismatch: their running game against one of the Big 12's top rushing defenses. That should be enough to help Texas reach bowl eligibility.
TEXAS — 35
Texas Tech — 21