Both the Texas Longhorns and the Texas Tech Red Raiders find their season at a critical point.
With three games left on the schedule and just two games separating first and fifth place in the conference, a loss on Saturday effectively ends any hope for either team to find its way into the Big 12 title game. Both the Longhorns and the Red Raiders need the chips to fall perfectly, but the first to fall has to be a win in this rivalry matchup.
Texas Tech is dealing with a major injury, as freshman surprise Alan Bowman is not expected to play for the Red Raiders Saturday due to a partially-collapsed lung. The Red Raiders offense changes under backup Jett Duffey, but what does that offense look like when it takes the field?
To answer that question and more, we brought in Jay Burrous of Viva the Matador to give us the inside scoop on the Red Raiders. To find more of Jay’s work, you can follow him on Twitter (@JayBurrous) or Viva the Matadors (@vivathematadors).
Burnt Orange Nation: I think the biggest question we have to ask is about the quarterback. With Alan Bowman presumably out against Texas, sophomore Jett Duffey comes in to replace him. What does Duffey bring to the table for the Red Raiders, and how does his skillset change what Tech tries to do offensively?
Viva the Matadors: Duffey is an ex-Elite 11 quarterback who’s got an above average arm, great speed/elusiveness, and some “it” factor that’s lead to several ‘wow’ plays. I think what’s been most frustrating to Tech fans though is his inconsistency, and he tends to miss open receivers on short/intermediate routes. Surprisingly though, he throws a beautiful deep ball. We’ll see what happens against a Todd Orlando defense, but I’m very worried that he won’t be able to consistently execute.
Expect a healthy dose of zone read, RPOs, and single-read throws. If the Horns can’t set the edge, or contain Duffey to the pocket I’d also expect he’ll run for 100-plus yards.
BON: The other storyline is the home-field advantage that Tech seems to have. Texas fans are worried about the road trip, at night to play the Red Raiders. What makes Jones AT&T such a tough place to play for opponents?
VTM: Prior to us beating Kansas at home this year, we hadn’t won a home conference game since like 2016. I think Lubbock has maintained a reputation as a hard place to play, but fans have been disinterested in recent years. We rarely sell games out, half the stadium leaves at halftime, and a lot of what made Jones Stadium special has started to dwindle away. But, I’d expect that you’ll see 58k+ people Saturday, it’ll be loud, and if we can get after Texas early on, it could be electric all night.
BON: Heading into this year, the conversation around Tech was an anticipated defensive improvement, but the Red Raiders have still struggled a bit this season on that side of the ball. What should Texas fans expect from the Red Raider defense on Saturday?
VTM: The rumor is that Dakota Allen is done for the season, which is a massive blow to this defense. There’s zero doubt about it that he’s our best player (maybe on the team period). Although, we do matchup with Texas pretty well. I think we play good run defense, our DBs have improved substantially as the year has progressed, and average-to-good quarterbacks have struggled against us. Should Ehlinger miss some easy throws, and turn the ball over like he did last season I don’t see Saturday being kind to Texas fans. But, we’ll see what happens. Although, LJ Humphrey has me concerned, and I think if you guys run Ingram for 20-plus carries he could wear on our defense. The X-Factors will absolutely be Jordyn Brooks and Justus Parker.
BON: Texas Tech started the season fairly strong, going 5-2 through its first seven games, but dropped its last two matchups. Every year the questions start to swirl about Kliff Kingsbury’s job security. Would a third-consecutive loss fire up the “hot seat” talk once again?
VTM: If we manage to get to seven wins, Kingsbury will be fine, and likely get an extension. If we drop a close one to Texas, but then split the games between Baylor/Kansas State, he might be on the hot seat again. Nobody expected us to beat Oklahoma though, and Iowa State has had our number in recent years. There is a decent belief we can steal this one against Texas if we play decently though.
BON: What’s your key matchup or key area of focus for Texas Tech this weekend?
VTM: We can’t afford for Duffey to attempt 40-plus passes, so we’ve got to establish a decent running game. A healthy Da’Leon Ward helps, and Ta’Zhawn Henry is due for a big run so I’m hopeful? Should Texas force Duffey to pass though I don’t see how we win, and I’d expect us to lose by 10-plus points if he does throw too much. Otherwise, I think that Devin Duvernay is a huge player for you this weekend. There’s no doubt that Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey will get the bracketed/double coverage, so can Duvernay take the top off one or two times? If he does, does Ehlinger get him the ball? This should be a great matchup for Demarcus Fields and Adrian Frye.
BON: What’s your score prediction?
VTM: I’ve gone back and forth on this for awhile now and my gut says that this game isn’t close. Either Texas wins by 10-plus points because Duffey was inconsistent, or the Longhorns implode and we win by 10-plus points. Obviously, I’m a homer so I’ll take Texas Tech 35-24. But, if I were in Vegas I’d expect that UT probably wins 35-24....so, take that for what it’s worth. Regardless, I’ll be in Lubbock for this one and I can’t wait.