The regular season finale pits No. 7 ranked Texas football (in the latest College Football Playoff Rankings release) against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at DKR in Austin on Nov. 24. Texas hosts Texas Tech at home on Black Friday for the final Big 12 matchup at DKR.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns have plenty of motivating factors heading into this game against Texas Tech. One of the motivating factors for the Longhorns in this game, and the most obvious, is the ability of the Longhorns to avenge the loss to Texas Tech in overtime in Lubbock last season.
How No. 7 Texas football can dominate
Texas fell short of Texas Tech with a banged-up squad that was without starting quarterback Quinn Ewers in Lubbock. Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire declared during the offseason that “everything runs through Lubbock”, in reference to the Red Raiders beating Texas and the Oklahoma Sooners last season.
Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark also added fuel to the fire regarding the Texas-Texas Tech game on Black Friday when he said the Red Raiders “better take care of business in Austin” when he was a speaker at a Red Raider Luncheon a few months ago. The fact that Yormark is attending the Texas-Texas Tech game this week gives the Longhorns more motivation to send the Red Raiders back to Lubbock with a major loss on Black Friday.
There are also matchup advantages the Longhorns have in this game that could push them over the top. Here are four reasons why the Longhorns can dominate Texas Tech in the regular season finale on Black Friday.
Texas Tech’s passing offense hasn’t shown the ability to exploit the weaknesses in the Texas pass coverage this season
Offensive coordinator Zach Kittley and the Red Raiders run an up-tempo offense that has relied on the ground game behind standout senior running back Tahj Brooks this season. Texas Tech’s offense lives and dies by the ground game with Brooks. He’s the only running back with over 200 carries in Big 12 play this season.
But Brooks has been ultra-effective on the ground in Big 12 play, as he leads the Power Five in missed tackles forced. He’s also one of two running backs with over 1,000 rushing yards in Big 12 play, along with Oklahoma State’s Ollie Gordon.
Given the insane reliance Texas Tech’s offense has on Brooks and the ground game, the passing game hasn’t been a very big component this season. That is unusual for a Kittley offense that emphasizes the traditionally pass-heavy air raid scheme. But you have to do what you need to do to win games in conference play.
It also doesn’t help that Texas Tech had many quarterback injuries this season. After four games played, senior quarterback and former Oregon transfer Tyler Shough was injured again this season. Shough entered the transfer portal last week, giving way to sophomore Behren Morton as the starting quarterback for the rest of the campaign.
Morton has played well for Texas Tech this season, given the circumstances. He’s completed nearly 64 percent of his pass attempts for over 1,400 yards, a dozen passing touchdowns, and four interceptions. Morton also has a dual-threat component to his game, as he’s got three rushing scores this season.
The revolving door at quarterback and some injuries in the receiving corps have made it difficult for Texas Tech to consistently get a passing game going, especially in hostile environments on the road this season. Morton and the Red Raiders have only accumulated at least 250 passing yards and multiple passing touchdowns in one of four Big 12 road games this season. And that one game came against a bad Baylor defense on Oct. 7 in Waco.
Texas Tech has struggled to find a consistent go-to target in the passing game this season. Redshirt sophomore Jerand Bradley was expected to step up as the next big-time weapon in the receiving corps for Kittley and the Red Raiders, but he hasn’t performed consistently this fall.
Despite being targeted 68 times in the passing game this season (ranking 12th of 48 eligible Big 12 wideouts), Bradley has only hauled in 36 receptions (roughly 53 percent). That reception percentage is the worst of the 15 most targeted Big 12 wideouts.
Texas Tech’s two other leading wideouts are slot receivers Xavier White and Myles Price. White leads Texas Tech in receiving yards and ranks third in receptions. He’s quick in space and can make things happen after the catch.
Price, meanwhile, is second in receptions and third in receiving yards for the Red Raiders this season. He’s a quality slot receiver but has missed some time due to an injury. Price didn’t play in Texas Tech’s nailbiter win last weekend over the UCF Knights. But he could be available this week vs. Texas.
While Texas Tech’s offensive philosophy under Kittley involves spreading you out in the passing game and running up-tempo, they don’t have many attributes that the other spread offenses do that have hurt Texas. We’ve already mentioned the revolving door at quarterback and the inconsistencies from Tech in the receiving corps.
Another contributing factor to Tech’s inconsistencies in the passing game is the accuracy and timing issues for Morton on intermediate and deep routes. Morton ranks in the bottom half among Big 12 starting quarterbacks in adjusted completion percentage and yards per attempt on intermediate and deep passing attempts.
Texas Tech hasn’t consistently been able to stretch the field against opposing defenses this season due to Morton completing less than half of his passing attempts of at least 10 air yards. The lack of chemistry with Bradley in the passing game can be partly to blame for that.
Given the issues Tech has consistently connecting in the intermediate and deep passing game this season, they might not be able to stretch the field enough to exploit Texas’ weaknesses in the secondary at safety and with the underneath stuff. If needed, Texas can focus additional resources to defend the inside-breaking routes to eliminate the threats out of the slot for the Red Raiders through the air while adding another guy closer to the line of scrimmage to defend the run.
Morton and the Red Raiders are sure to try to attack the middle of the field against Texas’ secondary with their two productive slot receivers in Price and White. But this is something PK and the Longhorns must be prepared for as the Red Raiders haven’t proven to be able to stretch the field and attack opposing secondaries with inside routes in any meaningful way this season.