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Texas heads to Texas Tech tasked with slowing the nation’s most potent passing attack

This one may feel a lot like a 7-on-7 meeting.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Texas Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off the buzz of a last-minute 35-34 victory over No. 8 Baylor, the Texas Longhorns are back on the road for what could become a sobering Saturday morning meeting against Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-4) in Lubbock. Given the circumstances, Texas’ ninth game of the season may be its tallest task to date.

At 11:00 a.m., a Texas’ secondary that ranks 94th in the nation will be matched up with college football’s most potent air raid offense, headlined by yet another elite quarterback-wide-receiver duo in Patrick Mahomes II and Jonathan Giles, and will do so away from Austin where Texas is 0-4 this season. Collectively, Texas Tech’s offense leads the nation in passing offense per game (500.6), first downs (254) and first downs through the air (169), as well as total yards per game (603).

This may be a familiar pose in Lubbock Saturday morning:

Along with the daunting task of slowing down college football’s most potent passing attack will be containing a dual-threat quarterback in Mahomes, who ranks second on the team in rushing yards with 276 and leads the Red Raiders in rushing scores with 10. Considering the ‘Horns have sacrificed 216 yards and three touchdowns to dual-threat passers in the last two weeks against Kansas State’s Jesse Ertz and Baylor’s Seth Russell, the chore of defending a plethora of crossing routes Texas is likely to see isn’t aided by the essential task of keeping Mahomes from running free.

Where Mahomes may be the greatest threat to utilize his legs comes on third down, where Texas ranks 88th after allowing conversions on 42 percent of opponent’s attempts. That will be music to the ears of a Red Raiders’ offense covering at the nation’s highest clip (57.8%) after moving the chains on 74-of-128 tries.

But on the flip side of Texas Tech’s potent offense is its porous defense, which gives reason to believe we’re in for a shootout in Lubbock.

Twice this season, a Mahomes-led Red Raider offense has put up at least 55 points and lost, as seen in the 68-55 loss to Arizona State and the more recent 66-59 defeat against Oklahoma. Courtesy of a pass defense that ranks 124th (304.6) and a rush defense ranking 104th (213.8), the Red Raiders total defense is as close to the bottom of the barrel as possible, ranking 126th out of 128 teams by allowing 518.4 yards per game. Much like Texas, the Red Raiders struggle to get off the field on third down and have allowed opponents to convert 209 opportunities thus far, while ranking 87th in third down efficiency at 42 percent.

In a meeting of two explosive offenses and less than stellar defenses, the outcome could possibly be decided by a single turnover or late-game stand. Texas Tech is fresh off of what was arguably its best defensive performance of the season against TCU, while the Longhorns have combined for 16 sacks and 31 tackles for loss in the last three games, along with forcing 10 turnovers since Charlie Strong took over the defensive play-calling duties four games ago.

Saturday may be headlined by two offenses that combine for 83.4 points and 1,089.4 yards per game, but which defense makes its presence felt more often likely leads its team to a 5-4 mark as the other drops to 4-5 on the season.

Series History

  • Saturday will mark the 66th meeting between Texas and Texas Tech.
  • Texas leads the all-time series 49-16.
  • The Longhorns hold a 19-10 edge in meetings in Lubbock.
  • Texas is 1-1 against Texas Tech under Charlie Strong.
  • Texas Tech hasn’t beaten Texas in back-to-back meetings since the 1997-98 seasons—the Red Raiders won last season in Austin 48-45.
  • Texas has won 14 of the last 17 matchups.

Red Raiders to Watch

  • Patrick Mahomes II - The junior quarterback leads the nation in passing yards by 592 with 3,519 through eight games. Mahomes has passed for at least four touchdowns five times this season.
  • Jonathan Giles - Mahomes’ go-to option is No. 10 in the nation in receiving yards (927), while also hauling in 11 receiving touchdowns in 55 catches.

Texas Tidbits

  • Texas’ 4-4 record is its best eight-game start under Strong after beginning 3-5 in each of his first two seasons.
  • Texas has won against two top 10 opponents this season and its last four versus top 12 competition.
  • The Longhorns four straight victories over top 12 competition is the second longest streak in the FBS behind Alabama.
  • The Longhorns are 0-4 away from Austin this season.
  • Texas’ freshman and sophomore classes have combined to make 170 starts in 2016.
  • D’Onta Foreman has now rushed for at least 100 yards in nine straight games, which leads the NCAA and is second in school history behind Earl Campbell (11).
  • A win on Saturday would put Texas at 5-4 on the season and tie 2015’s win total with three games remaining, including two in Austin where Texas is 4-0.