Texas Tech and Texas face off in a Thanksgiving matchup with big implications for Texas. There are several matchups in the game that will dictate whether or not Texas factors into the Big 12 championship hunt.
The Red Raiders have been eliminated from Big 12 title contention, but they boast arguably the most explosive offense in the Big 12. They pass for 400.2 yards per game (tops in the nation), and score 37.5 points per game—27th in the nation.
At 7-3, the Longhorns can make a big-time move up the Big 12 standings with wins against Texas Tech and No. 9 Baylor to close out the season. If they overlook the Red Raiders and focus on preparing for Baylor, though, they won't have an easy go of things on Thanksgiving Day.
Look for this matchup to be one of the more exciting games of Turkey Day. The following matchups will be what dictates the outcome.
Texas Defense vs. Texas Tech Passing Attack
The Red Raiders are the only offense in the FBS to average 400 yards or more per game in the air. They are able to open up the deep ball with their run game and collection of screens.
These screens do more than just pick up the passing yards. They keep the chains moving, and they keep the linebackers playing up toward the line of scrimmage. Then, it's up to Davis Webb to toss the ball over the top of defenses.
For Texas, the best strategy would be to keep a linebacker or two in the flat, while potentially dropping a lineman back into zone or spy coverage. This would both prevent the screen plays from totaling big yardage and prevent Webb from killing the defense down the middle of the field.
Devising defensive strategies like these aren't easy, and the Texas Tech passing attack has been successful all season long. The chances of Texas completely putting a halt to the air attack are slim to none.
The secondary needs to take advantage of the balls downfield and either bat them down or pick them off. With a turnover or two, the Texas defense can put the offense in good field position with higher chances to succeed.
Texas' Depleted Offense vs. Texas Tech's Poor Defense
Johnathan Gray, David Ash and Daje Johnson won't suit up against Texas Tech, and the Longhorns will need to overcome those losses to win.
Thankfully for them, the Texas Tech defense has been horrible over the past four games. Their last four games—all losses—have seen the opposition put up 50.5 points per game. Sure, they opened the season allowing 19 points per game and that resulted in a seven-game winning streak. The potential is there, but the results lately haven't been good.
Their problem lies in run defense. In their last four games, they're allowing an unbelievable 297 yards per game on the ground. Yes, that's only on the ground.
Running backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will see a lot of action if the Red Raiders defense is as soft as it has been the past month. The two backs have combined for 12 touchdowns on the year, and their ability to get in the end zone against Texas Tech will be key for the Longhorns offense.
Case McCoy vs. Texas Tech Secondary
Case McCoy has been very inconsistent this season, throwing just eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. All nine of his picks have come in the last five games, including a zero-touchdown, three-interception performance last week against Oklahoma State.
Needless to say, the key for McCoy against Texas Tech's secondary is to not turn the ball over. McCoy is by no means a mobile quarterback, so he'll need to do his best to avoid the pass rush and not force throws into the heart of the defense.
He'll need to go through his progressions, find the open man and deliver a strike to his receiver. It is, of course, easier said than done, but he needs to be able to do this when given ample time in the pocket.
Nobody is expecting McCoy to light it up with 400-plus passing yards, but 200-plus yards with a couple of touchdowns and no picks is exactly what Texas needs. Luckily, he'll be able to lean on his running game to keep the chains moving.