That was better.
Texas did what it was supposed to do to Rice to close out nonconference play — namely dominate the Owls so badly that the game was over long before halftime arrived. There’s not a whole lot to take from that result, as Rice isn’t a good team and may finish near the bottom of the West Division in Conference USA, but it is certainly what Texas fans wanted to see.
Now, Texas starts Big 12 play against a team in Texas Tech that is much more like Arkansas ability-wise than Rice. There are questions and keys for the Longhorns as they host the Red Raiders for maybe the final time and here at Horns Illustrated we’ll take a look at them.
- How does Texas handle an 11 a.m. kickoff?
Don’t roll your eyes at this one. It is the first time this season the Longhorns will have the early time slot, and coming off two straight weeks where it played at 7 p.m., an 11 a.m. kickoff will be an adjustment. Players will likely have a 6 a.m. wake-up call in order to eat four hours before the start of game and playing the first 11 a.m. game of the year can present issues, especially at home. We assume Sarkisian and company will have the players ready for the adjustment, but it is something to keep in the back of your mind.
- Will the defensive line perform good enough for the team to win?
Texas Tech has an air-raid offense, but it still runs the ball plenty. And after Texas was gashed against Arkansas’ run game, we certainly expect the Red Raiders to try and establish the ground game. There’s no need to have a lockdown performance of the Tech run game, but if the Red Raiders rush for more than 140 yards, that will spell trouble.
- Will Casey Thompson make the coaches keep playing him?
We asked this question last week, but it is still relevant — and likely will be for whichever of Thompson or Hudson Card starts for the rest of the season. Thompson was very efficient against Rice by completing 15 of 18 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. But that was the Owls, and though Tech is rarely known for their defense, this will be a major step up in competition. If Thompson can manage the game and throw for 180+ yards in an efficient manner and use his legs to move the ball with at least 50 yards of rushing, this will likely be his job again going into the TCU game.
- How will the Texas secondary respond to the Tech aerial attack?
This will be the first time all year the Longhorns secondary will be challenged, as even Arkansas didn’t throw much. The Red Raiders have talent in the receiving corps — mainly in junior Erik Ezukanma — and a lot of size as well, so players like D’Shawn Jamison and Josh Thompson will need to show they’re improved from a year ago. B.J. Foster and whoever the other safety is — either Brenden Schooler or Jerrin Thompson — will also need to have productive days. Tech can put up meaningless yards all day long, but anything over 375 yards passing will be cause for concern. Whatever happens, the Longhorns can’t let Ezukanma go off.
- Does Bijan Robinson rush for more than 130 yards?
Yes. This may be a bit bold, but we aren’t impressed with Tech’s defense despite what their stats say (look at who the Reid Raiders have played). Robinson is a talent, and he should get 20 touches in this game, making 130+ yards and at least two touchdowns very attainable. Plus, with Thompson being a scrambling threat, that can also help Robinson’s rushing numbers.
- What’s the bottom line on this game?
Texas needs to win this game. It is at home and — frankly — Texas is supposed to beat Texas Tech. But there’s not a whole lot we know about Tech as it has played no one of note in the first three weeks with wins over Houston, Stephen F Austin and Florida International. Don’t be surprised if this game ends up in a shootout, with Texas doing a lot of damage on the ground and the Red Raiders doing a lot of damage in the air.