During the preseason, I thought Texas might split the two road games at Nebraska and Tech. Maybe Aaron Ross, Ryan Bailey, et al, granted a reprieve last Saturday. Tech's run defense is marginal. I don't expect the Horns to break long runs (do you?), but I do expect the O-line to control the clock and generally stay ahead of the chains to give the defense a breather. Still, it may take a defensive score or a big time special teams play to put this one away. Texas 35, Texas Tech 24.
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor -- The game against Texas Tech is always difficult to pick when the Horns go to Lubbock. The long trip, the circus offense, the insane fans. All of these combine to make a difficult environment to win a football game. The Horns will win this game, but theyre going to have a heck of a time doing it.
The return of healthy bodies to the secondary will do wonders for Texas, as rotation will be absolutely key. As difficult as it will be to stop, this is the kind of offense that lots of defensive players actually like to face. D-linemen get to pin their ears back and attack the quarterback and defensive backs get a chance to make some big plays. Turnovers have been a huge issue for Tech (the Raiders turned the ball over five times in the loss to Colorado). Fifth-year seniors have played QB for the Red Raiders each of the last four seasons and its created some impressive results. The Tech offense will become more deadly as their much younger-than-usual QB, Graham Harrell, gets more and more of an understanding of the system, but for now the Horns need to take advantage of the situation and generate as many turnovers as possible (something theyve been pretty good at lately).
The Raiders have been stout against the pass this season (helps when you see it every day in practice) and will force Texas to run the ball. This is assuming the Texas offense behaves as Colt McCoy has consistently told us it will. McCoys favorite phrase is "we do what the defense tells us." Well, this game the Texas Tech defense is going to be telling the Horns to run the football. With the development of walk-on fullback Luke Tiemann, Texas could begin to use the I-formation more often and getting yards on the ground will make a huge difference. Theres no doubt the Horns will out-rush Tech in the game, but they need to do it by a lot. An effective run game will also keep the Texas D off the field and keep the unit, which will be running all over the field, fresh.
Like most of the games this season, the Longhorns will give up enough points to make Texas fans uncomfortable, but still come away with the victory. Texas 38, Texas Tech 24.
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor -- When I was in high school in West Texas, anyone who was a pretty good football player but not good enough to earn a college scholarship would say they were going to "walk on up at Tech." And their friends and family would smile and say "good luck" and chances were good that wed never hear from them again, at least from a football standout.
Well, times are different now in Lubbock. They have a mad scientist football coach (Mike Leach), and a basketball coach who is just mad (Bobby Knight). They are almost too big-time to take much more than a sniff at walk-ons these days.
Even still, the Red Raiders arent so big time that they can beat Texas this week. Well, they CAN, but they wont. I know Tech has that whole "four-year increment thing" they won in 1994, 1998 and 2002, and that this is now 2006. That kind of spooky Halloweeny-type hype is much ado about nothing. Shove another tortilla in your mouth, Grim Reaper.
Mack Brown and Greg Davis must simply dust-off the recent blueprint on how to beat Texas Tech, and use it again on Saturday night. What does the blueprint say?
A. Run the ball on first, second, third and fourth down.
B. Knock the quarterback in the mouth.
C. Knock the wide receivers in the mouth.
D. Watch the clock as if youre having childbirth contractions. Watch the clock run, and when you feel the pain of the Red Raiders going for it on fourth down and five from their own 28 yard-line all the time, and you think youre not going to survive this madness, just find a focal point and breathe in and out, and soon the pain will be gone and you will have given birth to another win.
E. Run the ball on first, second, third and fourth down.
Did I mention Texas should run the ball?
Do these things and youll be fine. Texas 38, Texas Tech 21.
Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher -- There's plenty to fret about when Texas travels to Lubbock this weekend, and the crazy, cow-bell clanging, ear-splitting din that will be Jones Stadium is just the start. What worries me the most about this one is that statistically, the Horns' defense just doesn't match up well with the Red Raiders. Texas is a somewhat shocking 84th in the nation against the pass right now, giving up almost 222 yards a game, while Tech, with all of its apparent struggles this season, is still third nationally in passing, racking 341.1 yards per contest. Graham Harrell has thrown for 25 TDs against only seven INTs, so while he has had some growing pains this season, he also has had plenty of success. Throw into the mix Texas' well-chronicled injury situation on defense and you have the makings of a scary Halloween's Eve thriller that could be real tricky.
The other thing that concerns me is that the last three years, when Texas has beaten the Raiders, they have put up at least 200 yards on the ground in each contest, which has helped to keep Tech's offense safely on the bench. When Texas blew the Raiders out in Lubbock 51-21 two years ago, the recipe worked to perfection: Texas rushed for 351 yards, with Cedric Benson gaining 168 while Vince Young put up 158. During this ground assault, the Horns held the ball for 39:12 compared to only 20:48 for the Raiders. Last season, Texas Tech controlled the clock, but Texas scored with quick strikes and cashed in on a couple of short fields that resulted from special teams plays. But the Horns still put 205 net yards rushing.
This season, in the last three ballgames, the Horns have put up fair numbers on the ground, rushing for 124 against OU, 163 against Baylor, and 128 against Nebraska, but to me they appear to have lost their identity as a team that can run right at people. So if Texas struggles rushing the ball Saturday night and gets into an aerial duel with the Raiders, it could be anybody's game. Last time Texas lost in Lubbock, in 2002, that's pretty much what happened, as Texas only managed 92 yards on 31 carries, and couldn't match Tech's passing attack in a gut-wrenching 42-38 loss.
So I think Texas is going to need to get its ground game going Saturday night, and get a huge night from its front four on defense, pressuring Harrell into some INTs leading to points. I think they'll get just enough of both to win another wild one on the plains. But it's not gonna be easy. Texas 38, Tech 28.
Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher -- Every fourth year, Texas loses in Lubbock. That's been the theme of much of the pre-game coverage I've seen this week. I guess we should just chalk this one up as a Longhorn 'L', because how in the world can the Horns overcome that kind of predictive logic?
While I've certainly written before on the nature of streaks and how they can affect a game (particularly Oklahoma), I don't buy into this 'every fourth year' business, whether it is in Lincoln or in Lubbock. As Mack Brown pointed out last week before the Nebraska game, of the current Horns only Selvin Young played vs. the Huskers back in 2002, and the same applies this weekend vs. the Red Raiders.
Absolutely we should take into consideration the fact that this game is in Lubbock under the lights, but along with that this game should also be judged on the match-ups in '06, not the ones that led to losses in '02 or '98 or '94.
I have concerns: among them, the loss of Derek Lokey might be the most painful of any among the Texas front seven facing off against Tech. Disrupting the timing of the Raider offense by pressuring Graham Harrell may be the No. 1 key to defensive success against Tech, so losing Lokey's middle pressure (he is third on the team in quarterback hurries) could hinder the Horns' efforts in that area. Also worrisome, in case you haven't noticed, is the secondary's struggles consistently defending the pass.
But a couple of things give me hope for the Texas defense: one, Aaron Lewis already seemed to be assuming a role similar to Lokey before Lokey's injury, and Roy Miller is no slouch in that area as well, so the situation is not dire in the middle. And middle pressure should feed the pass rushing beasts on the outside (Tim Crowder, Brian Robison and Brian Orakpo, who are first, second and fourth, respectively, on the team in hurries, and first, third and second in sacks), which will lead to Tech turnovers. And two, I thought we saw improvement from Deon Beasley last week in Lincoln. That, coupled with a reportedly healthier starting four and a pressuring front four, should make facing Graham Harrell and Co. a little less harrowing.
I expect Tech to have some success moving the ball as it did last year in Austin, but I see this extremely physical Texas defense knocking around Harrell and his receivers as they did last year so that, either by interception or fumble, the Longhorn defenders create multiple opportunities for the UT offense.
If this game resembles another from the series, I'm hoping it resembles the game two years ago in Lubbock, when the Texas coaches adjusted the offense to take full advantage of Vince Young's abilities. I have my fingers crossed that the same thing will happen this time, only the change will adjust the Longhorn running game to take advantage of a potentially great power running offensive line and two backs whose big play ability has been harnessed up to this point in the season. It's the thing keeping this good UT offense from being great. Texas 42, Texas Tech 24.
Pat Culpepper, Special to Inside Texas -- Texas 28, Texas Tech 21.
Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 41, Texas Tech 21.
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