This feels like the swing game, the bridge game, the game that determines if this team is going to finish the season strong or possibly move on at the end of the season without Strong.
In many ways, this is the ultimate test of how far the Texas defense and overall team psyche has come since the season began to unravel in a big-play giveaway at Cal seven weeks ago.
Texas is facing the same offense it faced at Cal - only Tech features a more dynamic QB in Patrick Mahomes, who can and will run.
The start time - 11 am - wouldn't seem to favor Texas considering UT is 0-3 in 11 am games this season (Ok State, OU and K-State).
But anything is better for Texas than a night kick in Lubbock, when the most confrontational fan base in the Big 12 has had all day to get its drink on and get even more in-your-face.
The weather may also help Texas.
There's a chance for rain (25 percent ) off and on throughout the game. Texas relies much more on ground-and-pound than Tech, which doesn't have anyone averaging more than 35 yards per game on the ground (although true freshman RB De'Leon Ward showed some promise in a 27-24 double OT win at TCU last week).
The only team in FBS with more sacks than Texas (31) is Alabama (32). So bring 6 and 7 rushers early and see how electric QB Patrick Mahomes handles it - especially once Tech crosses the 50 and the field starts to shorten.
The defense needs to rise to the passion level of Breckyn Hager, whose comments about injuring Mahomes will ensure he hears all kinds of "f--- you Breckyn" chants from Tech's bath salts crazy student section behind the Texas bench.
On offense, Sterlin Gilbert and Shane Buechele need to get into rhythm early - like they did last week (the first-drive TD vs BU was the first time since the Cal game Sept. 17 that Texas scored a TD on its opening drive).
And then avoid the third-down conversion drought of last week (0-5 from late 2Q to early 4Q) that allowed BU to outscore the Horns 20-3 during that span.
If those things happen and Texas continues to play even or ahead in the turnover battle, I like Texas ...
TEXAS 41 ... TECH 38
It's no secret that Texas Tech's offense is one of the most electric units in college football, but can we all just sit down for a second and talk about the Red Raiders defense?
Yes the offense more than does its job, but my goodness Tech's defense is as atrocious as it was last season, when then true freshman running back Chris Warren rushed for 276 yards against the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech ranks No. 126 out of 128 in total defense this season, giving up over 518 yards per game to opposing offenses. While the Red Raiders have struggled more against a pass-heavy attack, I expect the Longhorns to once again rely on D'Onta Foreman's legs to help carry the team.
There's very good reason to believe this game will be a shootout with very poor defensive numbers from both sides. But if I am picking the defense that will outplay the other, I feel inclined to give the edge to the Longhorns.
The biggest thing for Texas in this game is getting off to an early start - something the Longhorns' have struggled to do on the road this season. If Texas can play a complete game offensively, then I think the Longhorns will leave Lubbock with win No. 5.
TEXAS 45 ... TEXAS TECH 42
ALLEN PERKINS - HD CONTRIBUTOR
Texas Tech averages 47.4 points per game - No. 2 in FBS.
The Red Raiders' average third down distance is 7.5 yards (one of the worst in FBS), yet they convert third downs at 57.8% (1st).TT throws for 500 yards a game (1st).
Tech has lost games this year due to poor defense (No. 126 total defense), penalties (75 yards per game) and turnover margin (-5).
Texas Tech likes to play zone defense, but it is young on defense and along the offensive line.
Against OU, Mahomes set the all-time single game FBS record with 819 total yards (734 yards passing and 85 yards rushing). OU never changed its defense.
Mahomes got beat up against TCU. He had an injured thumb, didn’t move well and injured his shoulder. With Mahomes struggling, Tech only scored 17 points in Fort Worth, However, it appears the QB will be fine for Saturday's game.
In counting the number of TCU players rushing Mahomes, the Horned Frogs sent three players 65 percent of the time; four guys 20 percent; and five or six players 15 percent. TCU took away the inside pass from Tech and played great coverage in general.
Texas Tech has a lot of weapons at wide receiver. Jonathan Giles (55 receptions, 927 yards, 11 TDs) is the speedster. Cameron Batson (45 receptions, 9.8 yards on punt returns) can make people miss. Keke Coutee (28 receptions) and Dylan Cantrell (30 receptions) are solid as well. (In comparison, Armanti Foreman leads Texas with 27 receptions.)
On defense, linebacker Malik Jenkins is a playmaker for the Red Raiders, and has 14 tackles in each of the last three games (37 solo, 15 AST). LB Jordyn Brooks leads the team in solo tackles (38 Solo, 15 AST). DB Jah’Shawn Johnson has an INT and four pass breakups.
TT's punter (Barden) has fumbled multiple snaps and has a poor average (39.5).
Texas needs to spy Mahomes and maintain its gap integrity (Mahomes will scramble and run QB keepers). If UT can’t get there with four, then blitz. Mahomes tries to hit a home run every play, so opportunities for sacks and turn overs will be there.
Tech allows 214 YPG (104th) on the ground. Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week D’Onta Foreman will go for 200 again. TT allows 305 YPG against the pass, getting beat deep often.
Texas is 2nd in the country in sacks PG (3.88) and 10th in the country in TFL PG (8).
The Longhorns cannot have a scoring/third down drought like they did against Baylor, when UT scored only three points out of five drives (outscored 20-3 between 2nd and 4th Q). Examples of “low” scoring halves for UT: BU-12, KSU-7, ISU-3, OU-13, OKST-6, Cal-10.
Texas played press coverage with no free release 23% of the time against Baylor. Kris Boyd and P.J. Locke were the most aggressive in the secondary against Baylor. John Bonney and Dylan Haines did well also. These four players and the d-line will be the key.
I was happy to see new wrinkles from Sterlin Gilbert last week. Hopefully that trend continues (minus the 18 wheeler and Tyrone Swoopes at RB).
UT needs to force turnovers and hold TT to FGs.
There’s a 60 percent chance of rain on Saturday, so the weather could favor the Texas ground game.
TEXAS 42 ... TEXAS 38