Our season preview of Texas Tech rolls along as we take a look at their third and final non-conference game at Houston on September 23.
Each team enters 2017 with some major – and similar – question marks. For Texas Tech, it’s a coach on the hot seat, replacing a top 10 pick in the NFL draft at quarterback, and the ever present struggle to improve on defense. For Houston, it’s the adjustment from Tom Herman to Major Applewhite as head coach and replacing a playmaker at quarterback in Greg Ward Jr.
More or less, we should have a good idea of what each team is by this matchup. Houston will have played three games already, including a Power 5 opponent on the road against the Arizona Wildcats.
Texas Tech will have just two games under its belt, but they’ll come in the form of an elite FCS team and comparable Power 5 squad in Arizona State.
If recent history is any indication, Houston would seem to start with a leg up. Texas Tech has missed a bowl game in two of the past three seasons, while Houston has won the American Athletic Conference and the Peach Bowl while knocking off big time Power 5 opponents like Florida State, Louisville and Oklahoma.
On the other hand, Houston has lost to some underwhelming opponents in the same time span, such as SMU and UConn.
A large part of that inconsistency likely boils down to Houston getting hyped to play Power 5 opponents that exceed the talent of their typical competition, and underestimating far inferior opponents.
Despite Texas Tech not being a powerhouse, they’re still a Power 5 program – an in-state, former Southwest Conference one at that.
And since Houston’s other Power 5 matchup is on the road, this will be the hometown fans’ opportunity to watch their Cougars knock off another bigger program. Simply put, Texas Tech won’t be underestimated by Houston despite their recent struggles.
The two key matchups in this game are Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver against the Texas Tech offensive line, and Kliff Kingsbury vs. Major Applewhite.
Observers of Texas Tech in 2016 know that despite being ranked tops in the country in total offense, the offensive line struggled mightily at times. If the unit is unimproved from last year and Ed Oliver and company can stuff the run and pressure the quarterback, Texas Tech may not be able to keep pace with the Cougars.
The game is also a critical test for both head coaches. A win for Kliff Kingsbury would give Texas Tech some early season momentum and would take a little bit of the pressure off going into Big 12 play. A win for Major Applewhite would help him get off on the right foot in his first season at the helm in Houston. If the teams are relatively even matched, the result could boil down to coaching.
In the end, I think Houston’s defense makes enough stops to win in a shootout behind the support of a fired up home crowd.
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