Who: Texas Tech (2-1) vs. Texas (2-1)
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas
When: Saturday, September 24, 2:30 p.m. (CT)
Media: ESPN (television), Texas Tech Sports Network (radio)
Recurring Starters: Texas Tech (11), Texas (13)
Records 2021: Texas Tech (7-6, 3-6), Texas (5-7, 3-6)
Series history: Texas leads 54-17
Last meeting: Texas 70, Texas Tech 35, September 25, 2001
Trainer: Texas Tech (Joey McGuire2-1), Texas (Steve Sarkisian53-43)
When Texas has the ball: The nature of Texas’ offensive game plan could depend on who is behind the center. Quinn Ewers, the franchise quarterback suspect, was injured in the first half of Texas’ loss to Alabama and has not played since. However, his recovery has been faster than expected and it seems Ewers will be available to play against Texas Tech. If he’s doing well enough to start, Texas will lean on the pass more than they would Hudson card‘Ewers’ replacement, gets the call. Ewers’ passer rating is £166 while Card’s is a much more modest 130. It’s possible that Sarkisian will go for Card and only revert to Ewers if Texas is in danger of losing the game to offensive inefficiency. The Red Raiders will of course adjust to both quarterbacks.
Regardless of whether Ewers or Card pulls the trigger, however, he will be on form or have what is possibly college football’s most dangerous receiver Xavier Worthy running routes. Worthy has tremendous speed, quickness and ball ability not unlike a certain Jaelen Reagor or a Rae Carruth. Texas Tech’s cornerbacks, however, and in particular Malik Dunlaphave improved over the course of this season and may be able to catch Worthy.
However, the biggest concern for Texas Tech’s defense will be Texas’ ground play. Bijan Robinson is a future first-round draft pick and Roshon Johnson will also play in the NFL. The Red Raiders will not see a better line-up of defenders this season. Maybe it won’t be a college football team.
However, Texas Tech’s run defense was salty. The front line of Jaylon Hutchings, Tony Bradford, Tyree Wilson and Philip Blidi, backed by a solid linebacker corps, should be up to the task. The bet here is that if Ewers doesn’t play and gets ballistic, the Red Raiders will keep the Longhorn offense at bay.
When Texas Tech has the ball: Of far greater concern is Texas Tech’s offense. The passing game was a borderline disaster due to interceptions, and the ground game was crippled by an anemic offensive line.
Unlike Texas, health isn’t an issue for Texas Tech’s quarterbacks. But just as two Longhorn signal callers could certainly see action in this game, so can a pair of Red Raider quarterbacks.
Donovan Smith will almost certainly start the game for Texas Tech. However, he has thrown three interceptions, including a pick six, in each of the last two games. If Smith throws a third straight interception turkey, the Red Raiders don’t stand a chance this game. And probably coaches Joey McGuire won’t let it come to that. If picks are a problem for Smith again, redshirt freshman Behren Morton will come into play. Unfortunately, Morton has thrown a pair of picks himself in just 17 tries in limited time this season, so there’s no guarantee of improvement once he comes into play. Even so, McGuire may have no choice but to give him extended reps.
Compounding the quarterback’s troubles is the fact that Texas Tech’s running game is doing nothing to relieve the pressure. Tahj Brooks and SaRodorick Thompson are quality defenders, but they’ve seen precious little daylight this season, and that doesn’t seem to change much against a Texan defense that’s been very good against the run.
Texas Tech has a good group of receivers, although a go-to wideout hasn’t formed yet. Loïc Fouonji, Jerand Bradley, Myles price, Nehemiah Martinez and Mason Tharp all have considerable talent, but none have been consistently good. Inaccurate passing and missed reads by Donovan Smith undoubtedly contributed to this inconsistency.
Regardless, throwing the ball is what Texas Tech does and they will try to do that against Texas. If the Red Raiders are successful, the pass will set the run and Texas Tech could earn enough points to win. But there are many ifs. A lot has to go right for the Red Raiders if they want to win this game.