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The Film Room Previews: The Texas Longhorns

Football on Thanksgiving, people. It doesn't get much better than this.

The Texas Longhorns have had a rough time this season. It seems like every other week the status of their program flips from "totally dead" to "LONGHORNS BACK" back to "totally dead". That isn't their fault, the Longhorns have long been in the media spotlight due to their track record of success. However, for us, this creates a situation that Tech fans aren't used to. For the first time this season, I really feel like this game hinges less on the way we respond to adversity and more on how Texas responds to adversity. Despite the loss at West Virginia, the back half of this season has really mellowed out. We held a similarly balanced Kansas State team to under 150 yards of rushing, and for the first time this season, didn't allow a 100 yard rusher. If Texas comes into this game with a similar amount of balance, I think our offense can score enough to make this a relatively comfortable win.

WEEKLY PLAYLIST:

Big Money - Don Cannon ft. Rich Homie Quan and A$AP Ferg

C.R.E.A.M. - Wu Tang Clan

Old Money - Lana Del Ray

Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy) - Big & Rich

Put 'Em Up - Jonathan Dror

Texas Fight Rap - Notorious EBC

OFFENSE: "Power-Spread"

Much like Kansas State, the Longhorns line up in a spread formation with QB Jerrod Heard, and attempt to run it down your throats. Much of how this game will look will depend on the health of their running backs D'Onta Foreman and Jonathan Gray. WR Daje Johnson will always be dangerous, and it wouldn't surprise me to see upwards of 4-5 deep shots with him covered by one of our young corners. Basically, anything could happen. We have no idea. Kinda weird to be on this side of the coin, huh?

DEFENSE: 4-3, but how much you wanna bet we'll see a 4-2-5 variant

Texas definitely has the talent to dominate on the defensive side of the ball. What seemed to be a porous defense at the beginning of the year has slowly been getting better and better. The only issue is that the Longhorns haven't played an offense as dynamic as ours since playing TCU. In my opinion, the more we can wear out this talented defense the better. Kliff has been great with the clock as of late, so I would expect a slightly less breakneck pace as we try to keep the Longhorns on the field as long as possible.

WHY I'M WORRIED:

The Longhorns are a different team at home. They're insanely up and down, and with bowl eligibility hanging in the balance, I would expect to receive both barrels from Charlie Strong and company on Thursday. WR passes, exotic blitzes, the whole 9 yards. I don't think we get Charlie Strong fired if we beat him, but the uproar in Austin will be loud. If he doesn't win this one, he's going to hear all offseason about how he isn't the right guy for the job, and I don't think he wants that at all.

WHY I'M NOT WORRIED:

Texas is very one-dimensional on offense. We saw how that worked out with Kansas State. If we can hold the Longhorns to around 175 rushing yards, I think we can win. Texas has enough weaknesses that we can exploit as well. As much as people slam us for being a one-dimensional offense, DeAndre Washington and Justin Stockton are a problem at running back. If we can stay balanced and keep the Longhorns guessing, I see no reason why we can't score a fair amount of points on this defense.

HOW WE MATCH UP:

God I hate putting the read option in here every week, but this week it's for a good reason. The read option is easily Texas's strongest play.

HA HA HA IT'S NOT A READ OPTION FOOLED YOU. But in all honesty, this is the Texas passing play I see hurting us the most. We've struggled more with play action and draw plays than we have with straight ahead runs or definite passes. We can be absolutely certain that Texas is going to try to confuse our young secondary with a lot of play action fakes and short pump fakes that lead to deep routes. Either way, they will try to get us to play undisciplined.

The biggest key to the game this week for Texas Tech is to play disciplined. If we can stay in our lanes, pursue the ball well, and wrap up the ballcarrier. D'Onta Foreman, if he's healthy, is not a guy to play around with. Texas will likely dabble in a lot of fake bubble screen and read option concepts. Speaking of the read option...

Y'all really thought it wasn't going to make an appearance? The difference between Texas's read option and other team's read options is the appearance of the fake jet sweep from Daje Johnson. Pre-play, there is no less than four Texas ball carriers who could potentially get the rock in this 2-back Gun set. Everything based off the read option will be a huge problem this week. QB Jerrod Heard is excellent with his ball fakes, and has the frame to bounce off of our smaller linebackers.

Heard is a little bit of an anomaly. Passing the ball he isn't a huge threat, completing 59.2% of his passes with a 5-5 TD-INT ratio. But running the ball he's absolutely fantastic. Texas's gameplan will operate on his ability to execute read-options and pump fakes well against our young defense. If there's a week for our linebackers to play well, it's this one. I expect us to go back to the 4-3 that worked incredibly well defending Hubener and the K-State offense.

On defense, the Longhorns are talented and aggressive.

On this play, they cover exceptionally well. The pass rush is a tad lackluster, but it still forces ISU QB Joel Lanning out of the pocket. I really think Patrick Mahomes will command a spy from one of Texas's middle linebackers by the end of the game, if not right off the bat. If he doesn't, we might see a lot of plays like this one. Texas Tech excels at finding ways to gain yardage when everything is shut down. DeAndre Washington in the flats will be an incredibly viable option for Mahomes on the run. I can also see Jakeem Grant playing closer to the LOS this week as we allow Reginald Davis and Devin Lauderdale to challenge Texas with the deep and intermediate routes.

When Texas blitzes, they won't show it. This delay will be the difference in a completed pass or a successful scramble and a sack. If Texas outright blitzes us, they have the talent to create some real havoc in our backfield. They don't run blitz very much, thankfully, but when they do it's always relatively effective.

I see a lot of DeAndre Washington in ISU's Mike Warren, and that's why I wanted to highlight this play. I really think we can use Texas's aggression against them in the run game, particularly on read-option and draw looks. Malik Jefferson is a stud, but he's young, and there might not be a better running back in the Big XII than DeAndre Washington. Aaron Green and Wendell Smallwood could challenge for that spot, but the way Washington moves in the open field is unparalleled. If we can get him and Jakeem Grant in the open field, Texas will have problems I don't think they can solve.

THE VERDICT:

Texas might be the only team more unpredictable and streaky than us. If we can weather the storm of emotions and play well on the road for once, we have a very good chance at a win. This team is still fighting for a bowl berth, and has Baylor next, so we aren't "their bowl game" or any other cliche, but Texas has ample motivation for this one. Expect some DeAndre, expect some screen/read option concepts from the Longhorns, and expect some points. Texas Tech wins, but it isn't pretty, and it definitely isn't easy.

SCORE PREDICTION:

Texas Tech 42, Texas 38