Here we are folks, the most important game of the season for the Red Raiders, and possibly for the Longhorns as well… No matter their records, this is always the most important game for me as a Red Raider fan. Not because I hate Texas. In fact, I actually like the Longhorns, always have. I’ve never really understood why Tech fans put so much energy into hating the Longhorns, acting like it’s a heated rivalry. When in reality, it’s a friendly rivalry at best. UT fans have never treated Tech the same way as they do OU or A&M. So why give them the big brother treatment that they think they deserve? I will admit, since the departure of the Aggies from the Big12, maybe the rivalry has stiffened a bit. But I still put much more energy into my hatred for Baylor, TCU, and even the Oklahoma schools than I do Texas. But back to the original point, this is one of the most important games of the year, every season, for me. Why? Because my family is split down the middle, Scarlett on one side, Burnt Orange on the other. Bragging rights in the Maddox family is no joke, we will go at each other relentlessly for 365 days about this game… So forget the fact that both teams have lost two in a row and are in desperate need of a win, this game still matters!
Speaking of bragging rights, Texas Tech has a chance to have more bragging rights over UT than they ever have if they can get a win on Saturday. Tech has won 2 of the last 3 match-ups, moving that edge to 3 out of 4 would be huge. Especially when you consider that Tech also beat Houston and TCU, and at this point look like they’d be favored over Baylor (with a chance to take their 3rd straight in that rivalry). Simply put, Tech could hold wins over all major teams in the Lone Star State other than A&M (who remains scared of a match-up with any team in Texas). Obviously, Texas has the same opportunity, with wins over TCU and Baylor already.
As for the more relevant stakes of this game… Both teams are coming off back-to-back losses, both teams need a win to avoid a disappointing end to a season that started off well, and there’s a chance both teams will be coming into the game Saturday night with banged up defenses. Dakota Allen could miss this game after getting banged up (knee) against OU. While UT has 4 defenders potentially our, defensive end Brackyn Hager, who’s a certified weirdo but really good player, is questionable. Tech fans should remember him as the guy that sort of threatened to cheap shot Pat Mahomes a couple of years ago. Defensive end Markez Bimage is out, and DBs Brandon Jones and Davante Davis are questionable. Offensively, Texas seems pretty healthy. Ehlinger looks like he has fully recovered from his shoulder issue. For Tech on the other hand, all signs are pointing to Alan Bowman not being able to suit up on Saturday. Which certainly complicates things for the Red Raiders.
Before we talk about how Tech can be successful without Bowman, lets talk a little about the Longhorns.
At this point for Tom Herman and his crew, national (and local) reaction to the Longhorns wins AND losses are never quite accurate. After every win, they get overrated. After every loss they get underrated. So sitting at 6-3, and coming off of two consecutive losses, it’s hard to know exactly how good this team is. They lost the opener to Maryland and everyone made fun of them for the next month… Turns out Maryland is a decent team. They beat OU a few weeks later and everyone starts asking if they’re a Natty contender… Fast forward to present day, they’ve lost back-to-back games, including the disappointing loss to Oklahoma State. So just how good is this team? I think they are what they record is, at 6-3, their pretty good. But FAR from unbeatable. Sam Ehlinger has really come into his own this season, they have a committee of nice running backs, a nice trio of WRs in Devin Duverney, LJ Humphrey, and Collin Johnson, and a solid offensive line. While they haven’t been able to be a consistently explosive offense the way that OU, West Virginia, or even Tech (when healthy) has… They have a good group. Defensively, they are extremely talented, always are. But the past couple of weeks, plus the injuries mentioned earlier, make them seem fairly vulnerable. As always when talking about opposing teams, I won’t pretend to be an expert on this team. But I feel comfortable with saying this will be a close game, regardless of who comes out on top.
For Texas Tech, hopefully you have followed this blog weekly and know pretty much why they currently sit at 5-4. I talked about the “what if’s” that will always define last weeks loss to OU here. What Kliff and company now have to do is make sure those “what if’s” stay right where they are and don’t become the defining theme of the 2018 season. Defensively, there’s no shame in the performance against OU. You’d have liked a bit more hindrance in the run game, but overall I thought that group played well enough. I think they have pretty much played well enough all season… Dakota Allen is a question mark going into the game. After hurting his knee vs OU, I would be surprised to see him suited up come game time. That’s a big blow, but Riko Jeffers has been solid all year, and I think he can step in admirably for the defensive captain. The issue is going to be depth. Brayden Stringer got some playing time last week, I would think we’ll see more of him, but I know the hope was to redshirt him and I’m not sure he can play anymore and keep his redshirt… So we’ll have to keep an eye on that situation.
For Tech’s offensive outlook, might as well be a mirror image of the defense. All signs are pointing towards Alan Bowman missing another game with issues relating to a partially collapsed lung. So, once again, in comes Jett Duffey. Jett has played a lot this year. He got some garbage time minutes against Lamar where there was some good and some really bad. He came in against West Virginia and lead an incredible come back attempt, only to single handedly squander that come back with a BAD pick-6. He started against TCU, struggled for the first half, got benched, then came back in after it was clear that McLane Carter was still not healthy. After coming back in, he lead two impressive TD drives to seal the victory against the Frogs. And last week, he once again comes in at the half for the injured Alan Bowman. I thought he did as well as one could have hoped, he took care of the ball and gave his team a chance. It’s pretty clear that Duffey doesn’t measure up to Bowman’s proficiency in the pass game, but the talent is, and always has been, there. Kliff will have a tough job this week game planning the offense to cater to Jett’s strengths. Two reasons I think Jett will have a good game: 1. I have said it all year and will continue to do so, for all of Kliff’s failures as a HC, QBs and offensive creativity have been second to none. I think he will have Jett ready to go. 2. UT has no real idea of what to prepare for. Im sure they’ll rely heavy on the TCU film, but theres no guarantee that the offense will be similar at all to that game.
I admitted that being a homer played a small role into my prediction that Tech would beat OU last week… But I actually think I was right about that game. Kliff had a perfect game plan, the defense forced some turnovers, and I truly believe that Tech would have won that game had Bowman stayed healthy. So with that said, I’m gonna ride with my guys to get a must win on Senior night. Duffey will play well, the defense will hold strong in the red zone and force some FGs. And Tech will be two wins (over BU and KSU) away from their best season since 2009.