Tech takes defense, has edge over struggling Longhorns

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Quarterback:
Through five weeks, David Ash was one of the nation’s most efficient quarterbacks and the leader of an improved Longhorns offense. In the past three games, however, Ash has struggled, throwing four interceptions and just one touchdown. Seth Doege, on the other hand, is enjoying a fine season for the Red Raiders, passing for 2,540 yards and 30 touchdowns through eight games. Doege is completing 70.7 percent of his passes for an efficiency rating of 164.2, which is superior to Ash’s totals of 68.7 percent and 150.3, respectively. Earlier this season, Ash was the Big 12’s top quarterback outside of Geno Smith, but after eight games Doege may have surpassed them both as the conference’s top passer.

Advantage: Texas Tech

Running backs:
Texas has been without Malcolm Brown for the past four games, but all that this has done is allow Johnathan Gray to see increased playing time. The standout freshman has answered the call, rushing for 427 yards on 81 attempts for an average of 5.3 yards per carry. Joe Bergeron has been steady all season long in the backfield for the Longhorns, and he leads the team with 450 yards and 15 touchdowns. Tech’s running game has been solid as well this year, and Kenny Williams leads the team with 504 yards on the ground. Overall, the Red Raiders’ 4.6 yards per carry pales in comparison to the Longhorns average of 5.0, and Texas’ 26 touchdowns on the ground greatly outweigh Texas Tech’s nine rushing scores.

Advantage: Texas

Wide Receivers:
Part of the reason that Doege is having such an impressive season is due to the strong play of the Texas Tech wide receivers. Eric Ward and Darrin Moore make for a dynamic starting duo, as the two have combined for 84 receptions and 18 touchdowns. The Longhorns have struggled to complete passes in two of their past three games, but overall their receivers have been productive as well. Mike Davis is having a big year, hauling in 34 balls for 559 yards and four scores, and Jaxon Shipley has also made 30 receptions and scored four times. Texas’ receivers have averaged more yards per catch, but the Red Raiders receivers have gained more than 900 yards through the air than have the Longhorns.

Advantage: Texas Tech

Offensive Line:
Both teams have been very efficient this season, and this is thanks in large part to their offensive lines. Texas has averaged five yards per carry and 12.1 yards per reception, and this is because the Longhorns’ line has done well in opening holes for the running backs and giving Ash enough time to set up screens or throw downfield. Texas Tech has also put up solid averages, running for 4.6 yards each carry and earning 11.3 yards with each catch. The Texas line has done a better job in protecting the quarterback, as it has only allowed seven sacks in eight games compared to Texas Tech allowing 13 quarterback takedowns thus far.

Advantage: Texas

Defensive Line:
The Red Raiders have struggled to get consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, as they have only recorded 12 sacks in eight games. They have done a solid job in limiting opposing quarterbacks production overall, as they allow 178.8 yards per game through their air, but the pass rush has left something to be desired. The Longhorns defensive line took a significant hit when end Jackson Jeffcoat went down for the season with a torn pectoral, but there seems to be enough depth at the position to still wreak havoc in the passing game. Overall, Texas has registered 20 sacks on the year, and Alex Okafor is having a strong year at the other defensive end slot.

Advantage: Texas

Linebackers:

The Longhorns had another rough game stopping the run last Saturday against Kansas, as the Jayhawks earned 234 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Missed tackles have plagued this linebacker unit all season, and this was never more evident than on Kansas’ first touchdown drive that saw James Sims continually gain yards after initial contact. Texas Tech has done a much better job stopping the run, which is a large reason that they have been much more solid at the linebacker position. The Red Raiders have held opposing runners to 121.2 yards per game, while the Longhorns are allowing 218 yards on the ground each week.

Advantage: Texas Tech

Defensive Backs:
The Texas defensive backs have allowed more yardage than they would like this season, as opposing teams are averaging 229.2 yards per game against the Longhorns. This is due to a propensity to allow big plays by the Texas secondary, with teams gaining 13.4 yards per completion. Texas Tech has been less forgiving in the defensive backfield, as they have limited teams to 178.8 passing yards per game and 10.1 yards per reception. The Longhorns have forced more turnovers in the air, intercepting nine passes to the Red Raider’s seven, but overall teams have had more trouble putting up big passing yardage against the Texas Tech secondary.

Advantage: Texas Tech

Special Teams:
The return game has been a strength of both teams this season. The Longhorns are averaging 24.2 yards on kick returns and 11.1 yards on punts, while the Red Raiders have averaged 21.1 yards and 9.2 yards, respectively. Both teams have also been solid in limiting the returns of opponents as well. The biggest difference between these teams is the consistency of the field goal unit. The Red Raiders are 10-of-14 on field goal attempts and they are yet to miss any of their 40 extra point attempts. Texas, on the other hand, has made just 4-of-9 field goal tries, and Longhorn kickers have also missed an extra point attempt and had another blocked. Should this game come down to a last second field goal attempt, Texas Tech would have the edge.

Advantage: Texas Tech