Texas players take the field led by Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian before an NCAA college football game against Rice on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
- Texas Tech (3-0) faces Texas (2-1) on the road at noon ET Saturday on ABC
- The Red Raiders have opened the season 3-0 for the first time since 2017 and begin Big 12 play in Austin
- See game odds, analysis and a prediction by scrolling below
The Texas Tech Red Raiders have started the 2021 campaign with victories over future Big 12 rival Houston, Stephen F. Austin and Florida International. But the level of competition increases Saturday in their conference opener, when they face the Texas Longhorns.
Steve Sarkisian’s squad is 2-1 in the well-traveled coach’s first season at the helm and has alternated victories in its first three games. The Horns beat a ranked Louisiana team. A bad loss followed at Arkansas.
Then, UT bounced back against Rice. Now, the Burnt Orange are a little more than a touchdown favorite over Matt Wells’ club in Austin at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.
Texas Tech vs Texas Odds
|Texas Tech Red Raiders||+8 (-115)||+270||O 61.5 (-105)|
|Texas Longhorns||-8 (-105)||-350||U 61.5 (-115)|
Odds as of September 22nd at DraftKings
Shough It Off
Keen college football followers will recognize the name Tyler Shough. The former Oregon quarterback led the Ducks to the Pac-12 title last season (although, that title carries a significant COVID asterisk along with it). He threw for 1,553 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions last season in Eugene – and so far, so good in Lubbock.
In the Red Raiders’ first three games this season, Shough has gone 55-for-81 passing for 804 yards and six touchdowns.
Coach Sark at his weekly news conference, impressed with Texas Tech quarterback Tyler Shough: “He’s a big, physical guy…I think they do a really good job in their passing game with RPOs and taking their shot downfield.”
— Craig Way (@craigway1) September 20, 2021
Erik Ezukanma returned to the program as Tech’s leading receiver, capping 2020 off by haling in 46 receptions for 748 yards and six scores. This season he has been even better, catching 16 balls for 350 yards and a score. In addition to Ezukanma, Shough has pass-catching tight end Travis Koontz at his disposal. The big senior has 10 catches for 81 yards and a team-high two receiving touchdowns thus far in 2021.
When Shough isn’t slinging it, he has the luxury of handing the ball off to Austin-area native in running back Tahj Brooks. Through the first three games of the season, Brooks has 35 carries for 284 yards and four touchdowns, which are good for team-highs in each category. Look for Brooks to play a big role Saturday in a return to his home area.
Tahj Brooks presses the sprint button for a 41 yard touchdown pic.twitter.com/dcmY5FeKrM
— Justin Groc (@justgroc) September 5, 2021
Defensively, Texas Tech ranks second in the conference in allowing only 54 rushing yards per game. Of course, that has come against vastly inferior competition. Now, Wells’ group gets Bijan Robinson.
Next in Line?
The Longhorns have a long history of elite running backs – including Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. Robinson could very well be the next in line.
— Greg Brandt (@devywarehouse) September 19, 2021
The sophomore racked up 176 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns, including 103 on the ground in UT’s season-opening 38-18 victory over the then-23rd-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns. In fact, over his last seven games, Robinson has totaled 1,041 yards from scrimmage, with 821 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. He’s also been good for three more trips to pay dirt through the air. As Coach Sark eases is junior quarterback Casey Thompson, having Robinson in the backfield is a comforting sight.
Here is a Longhorn stat that is hard to ignore:
“Since entering at halftime of the 2020 Valero Alamo Bowl, Casey Thompson has guided Texas to a score on 16 of the last 18 drives he has led, including 7 of 8 against Rice.” pic.twitter.com/6nZxlswEjs
— Anwar Richardson (@AnwarRichardson) September 19, 2021
After naming Hudson Card the starting QB heading into the season, Sarkisian had a change of heart following Card’s struggles in Fayetteville during a 40-21 loss to the Razorbacks in Week 2. Enter Thompson, who has impressed both Texas coaches and teammates alike with his preparation. If he continues his ability to put the Longhorns in position to score, the Red Raiders will be in trouble.
History Favors the Home Team
The Horns hold the advantage in the all-time series, 53-17 and have won 10 of the last 12 matchups between the two Lone Star State rivals. That includes last season’s thriller, which saw UT roar back from a 15-point deficit with just over three minutes remaining to best the Red Raiders, 63-56, in overtime in Lubbock.
The home team is also 2-0 in Big 12 openers against the Red Raiders in Austin.
While Texas figures to take care of business, Tech won’t be an easy out. Except for the 2019 matchup, every recent game between these two programs has been decided by one score. If Wells can keep it close, watching how Sarkisian handles the pressure of a late, tense game will tell us a lot about this football team.
With that in mind, I’m fading a pick here and playing the over with two powerful offenses set for a possible shootout.
- The pick: Over 61.5 (-105)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.