Last year Patrick Mahomes started in place of a banged up Davis Webb but he too got banged up against UT. Mahomes was knocked out of the game in the 2nd quarter and walk-on Vincent Testaverde, Jr. had to come in the game. With Mahomes being inexperienced at the time and Testaverde not having any experience, the Red Raider offense couldn't get anything going. Since last year, Mahomes has gained that key experience and Testaverde has transferred to Miami. This year the Red Raiders will be looking to score more than one offensive touchdown.
Result: Texas Tech 13 vs Texas 34
Texas 2014 Record: 6-7
Where: Austin, TX
Texas Key Returners: #32 RB Johnathan Gray (147 carries, 637 yards, 7 TDs), #98 DT Hassan Ridgeway (43 tackles, 6 sacks), #21 CB Duke Thomas (53 tackles, 3 INTs)
Key Matchup: Can Texas Tech's offense be productive against UT's defense?
Texas Tech's offense just couldn't get things rolling last year. Mahomes and Testaverde combined for 225 yards passing and 1 interception. One bright note from the 2014 game is that DeAndre Washington averaged 6.1 yards a carry and Justin Stockton averaged 9.3 yards a carry. With Texas losing Cedric Reed at DE and Malcom Brown at DT, I can see our run game being even more effective this year. It will also help that whoever is at QB, Webb or Mahomes, will have valuable playing experience. If our offense is healthy this year than we should be able to put up 21+ points this year.
While the Longhorns lose some key players on defense they do return some of their core guys as well. Hassan Ridgeway will be the anchor on the defensive line and will be called on to be leader for UT up front. As I mentioned earlier, Cedric Reed and Malcom Brown are both gone from the Longhorns d-line so Ridgeway will now be their dominant returning lineman. Ridgeway ranked second on the team last year in sacks with 6 and will be looking to rack up some more this year. Even though the Longhorns lost some key contributors on the d-line and linebacking core, they do return most of their secondary. One of those key guys is cornerback Duke Thomas. Thomas started 10 games as a sophomore, 13 as a junior and had All-Big 12 honors last year. In last year's game Thomas had a career-high 4 pass breakups against Tech as well. Both Ridgeway and Thomas will be two of the main pieces for the 2015 Longhorn defense.
On offense the Longhorns lose running back Malcolm Brown but in steps Jonathan Gray. Gray was one of the most sought after recruits in the nation and was a part of the Longhorns 2012 recruiting class. Gaining Gatorade National Player of the Year honors and being named ESPN's HS Mr. Football USA twice comes with a lot of expectations. This year Gray will be a senior and he will be the go-to guy for the Longhorns. Texas' leading returning wide receiver only had 27 catches for 313 yards last year and the Longhorns also have a quarterback competition between Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard. Swoopes had a mediocre season completing 58% of his passes and throwing for 13 TDs and 11 INTs. Apparently Heard has closed the gap on him this spring so we will see who emerges as the starter. With the uncertainty at QB and WR, I see Gray being the focal point of the UT offense.
Why I worry
We haven't beaten UT since 2008. For whatever reason we just haven't been able to put together a winning effort since Crabtree's ridiculous last second touchdown. Charlie Strong took over and implemented his way of football, this year will be a true sign of how his team adapts. He was able to put together a nice recruiting class last year and is a man of discipline. Like K-State, disciplined teams usually play well no matter who the players are. If Gray has his anticipated breakout year then the Red Raider defense could have a tough day.
Why I don't worry
UT's offense has a lot of unanswered questions. Will Gray be the player everyone expected? Who will be the go-to WR? Is it Swoopes or Heard? I believe if we are able to play mistake-free football on offense and limit turnovers we can win this game. The biggest factor we will have to focus on is UT's run game. If we can stop the run and force the QB to throw it will give us our best chance of winning this game.