1) Can Texas overcome its own odds?
The game is on the road, at 11 a.m. CT, and is against a high-scoring, spread offense.
If we look at this season alone, none of those factors statistically bode well for the Longhorns.
Texas is currently 0-4 on the road, 0-3 in games its played in the early time slot (which have happened to all be away from DKR), and its defense has gotten torched by high-scoring, spread offenses like Cal, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma.
Sure, Texas beat Baylor last week. And don’t get me wrong, that was a good win for Texas. Maybe Strong taking over the defense is having a real, positive effect on this defense. But since he’s taken over, other than Oklahoma, his Texas defense hasn’t really been tested like it was earlier in the season against other Air Raid offenses like Cal, and like it will be against Texas Tech come Saturday morning.
Texas can certainly win this game, and Vegas is even favoring the ‘Horns by about three points right now. But for Texas to win, it will need to overcome its own trends and struggles its faced up to this point in the season.
2) What type of play will Texas get at corner, and who will it be from?
Given the large amount of offensive plays Tech will want to run, we’ll likely see Texas use a rotation at corner to give guys breathers and keep legs fresh.
With that being the case, Texas will not only need its starters to play well, but its reserves to provide quality minutes when they’re in as well.
The presumed starters will be John Bonney and Kris Boyd, while the reserves will likely be a combination of Holton Hill, Davante Davis, and Sheroid Evans.
Not one Texas corner has played consistently well all season, but the combo of Bonney and Boyd has somewhat held its own the past couple of weeks. And hey, maybe this will be a game that motivates a guy like Holton Hill to elevate his play at least back to a level that reminds Texas fans of why he was expected to be a starter coming into this season.
If Texas is to win this game, it will need good, disciplined play from its corners. Otherwise, we could see this game play out similar to how the Cal game played out for this Texas defense, which wasn’t fun for Texas fans.
3) Slowing down Tech’s run game could actually be a key to a Texas win
Sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it? I mean, we’re talking about Texas Tech — the team with the passing attack that leads the country in passing yards per game and passing attempts per game.
But through eight games this season, Texas Tech is currently 1-3 in games it fails to rush for 100 yards, and 3-1 in games it breaks the 100-yard rushing mark.
The one game Tech failed to win after rushing for over 100 yards was against Oklahoma two weeks ago when the Sooners dropped 66 on the Red Raiders in Lubbock.
Let’s also not forget that Texas gave up nearly 300 yards (293) on the ground to Tech in a 48-45 loss to the Red Raiders in Austin last season.
Playing well against Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Red Raiders passing attack will be important, but Texas can’t afford to let things get out of hand on defense again by giving up big chunks of yards through both the air and on the ground.
4) The Longhorns not only need to win the turnover battle, they need to capitalize off it
The Longhorns’ even turnover margin through eight games has them tied for fourth with West Virginia in the conference while Tech’s -.63 margin has them sitting at ninth, one spot above Kansas.
In games where the Texas Tech has lost the turnover battle, the Red Raiders are 1-4. For the ‘Horns, the whole “turnovers are supposed to be great!” thing has been a completely different, and somewhat bizarre, story.
In the two games Texas has won the turnover battle, the ‘Horns are 0-2. In the two games the Horn’s have broken even, they are 2-0. And in the four games they’ve lost the turnover battle, they’re 2-2.
The issue hasn’t so much been turnovers, instead it’s been what Texas has and hasn’t done directly after turnovers that hasn’t been ideal.
Texas won’t only need stops Saturday, it will need to get points on the board to out pace a Tech offense that’s very capable of putting up a ton of points over four quarters.
5) Will this be the game Shane Buechele breaks 300 yards passing for the first time?
He’s gotten close, passing for 291 yards against Baylor, 296 yards against Iowa State, and 280 yards in his college debut in the win against Notre Dame, but Buechele is yet to pass for at least 300 yards in a game.
This match up could work in Buechele’s favor, though. Tech gives up an average of 304.6 passing yards per game, which ranks them second to last in the Big 12 and 124th in the nation. Their pass rush is weak, averaging just over a sack a game. And we’re all expecting a lot of offense from both teams Saturday.
Buechele may not need to pass for 300 yards for Texas to win if the D’Onta Foreman-train is rolling. But he very well could be poised for a big day against a suspect Texas Tech pass defense.
Of course, a win in Lubbock doesn’t guarantee any wins the rest of the way, but it could be a turning point win for this Longhorns team that’s struggled to find success on the road, in early games, and against prolific passing attacks.
If nothing else, the ‘Horns will at least get some free tortillas courtesy of the Tech’s finest Red Raider fans.