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Texas Tech looks for statement win against Houston

The Red Raiders face off against a strong Houston team in the annual Celebrate Cotton game

Lamar v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

After a dominating home opener against Lamar in which Texas Tech won 77-0, the Red Raiders will be looking for their first strong win of the season against a very capable Houston team. Led by juniors Ed Oliver and D’Eriq King, the Cougars managed to crush the Kevin Sumlin led Arizona Wildcats 45-18 in a game that was 31-0 at halftime. Major Applewhite is in his second year as coach of the Cougars (9-5 record), and his roster features a lot of leftover talent from the Tom Herman era at Houston.

Arizona v Houston Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

Texas Tech won last year’s game at Houston 27-24, however both teams have had a lot of changes since then. Both Texas Tech and Houston have different starting quarterbacks, different starting running backs, and different offensive coordinators. Houston made the most controversial hire in the offseason by hiring Kendal Briles to be their offensive coordinator. Briles has had a lot of success at Baylor (under his dad, Art) and FAU, however the allegations against Baylor have really tainted his image and reputation.

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl - Baylor v Boise State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Houston comes into this game averaging 564 yards per game and 45 points a game. D’Eriq King already has 10 touchdowns in only two games (seven passing, three rushing), while five receivers have caught touchdowns for the Cougars. Patrick Carr leads the team in rushing with 136 yards on only 16 carries, while Marquez Stevenson, Keith Corbin, and Courtney Lark all have at least 120 receiving yards, with each averaging over 20 yards a catch.

Key Players

Offense

T.J. Vasher (Texas Tech)

Houston has an extremely talented defensive line (led by Ed Oliver), however their pass defense has given up yardage to both Arizona and Rice. They like to play a mixture of press man coverage (often times blitzing) and outside zone coverage (typically on non-blitzing plays.) Vasher has shown flashes of excelling against both types of coverage so far in his career at Texas Tech, and will be looked at early and often by Alan Bowman as a security blanket. How Vasher plays against Houston’s outside corners will have a major impact on the result of this game.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Texas Tech Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Arguably the weakest link on the Texas Tech defense is the corner back position. While Adrian Frye came away with two picks last week against Lamar, this has been a group that has struggled mightily over the past year with containing top receivers. Players like AJ Brown, Byron Pringle, CeeDee Lamb, David Sills, and Marcell Ateman have all torched the Red Raider corners. Marquez Stevenson has only seven catches on the year, however he has been explosive with those catches with 147 yards and two touchdowns. One of the Houston receivers will need to step up and force extra coverage if they want to maximize their offensive potential.

Defense

Jordyn Brooks and Dakota Allen (Texas Tech)

Both Brooks and Allen will be vital to stopping the Houston offensive attack, as one will need to spy King (likely Allen), while both will need to plug the running lanes that will likely form by the nature of the Kendal Briles RPO happy offense. Brooks has been relatively anonymous the first two games, while Allen had a poor showing against Ole Miss. If neither play well this week it could spell trouble for the Red Raider defense.

Lamar v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Garrett Davis (Houston)

Garrett Davis will be a key factor in Houston’s plans to keep the Tech offense in check. While Ed Oliver commands most of the attention on Houston’s defense, Davis has quietly made a name for himself starting on Houston’s defense at safety the past three years. Davis has been strong against the run, and also had two interceptions against Arizona. With a Texas Tech offense that has struggled to generate big passing plays this season (only two passes of 40+ yards), Davis could really prove the biggest factor in making Alan Bowman’s life more difficult by forcing everything to be underneath.

Key Stats

Turnovers

Texas Tech has yet to turn the ball over this season. Houston has three picks on defense already this year. Winning the turnover battle like Tech did last year will be critical to winning this game.

Penalties

10+ penalties going against Tech just will not cut it against a Houston team that thrives on putting opposing offenses into must pass situations.

Sacks

Jack Anderson, Paul Stawarz, and Madison Akamnonu are all going to have to contain Ed Oliver at certain points. Limiting the offensive line breakdowns that we have seen in the past will be vital to containing a player of Oliver’s caliber. So far the Red Raiders have not allowed a single sack. While that will likely change, keeping Alan Bowman upright will be extremely important.

Final Analysis

While Houston is a very talented team, a win here is not out of the question. To win this game, Texas Tech will need to play better on both sides of the ball than they did against Ole Miss. Alan Bowman will have to play a solid game and not turn the ball over, the secondary will need to contain Houston’s explosive receivers, the offensive line will have to hold up against Ed Oliver and company, and the defensive line needs to bring pressure against D’Eriq King. If all of those things happen, Texas Tech will stand a good shot at winning