On paper this game shouldn’t be close.
Texas comes in ranked fourth in the nation compared to unranked Texas Tech. Texas has better recruits, better facilities and way more money. To be honest, they outclass Tech in every conceivable way.
The funny thing is, though, this game isn’t played on paper and none of the above matters. The only thing that matters is who gets to put a "W" in the win column at the end of the day.
Even though Tech is unranked, this will be the first real test for the Longhorns this season. Texas will face a new look Raiders team in a very hostile environment.
In order for the Longhorns to win and keep their National Championship dreams alive, they will need to focus on three things and none of them have to do with the oft-mentioned run game.
1) Score early
So far this season Texas has had a problem with scoring in the first quarter. It seems they are able to put together one or two decent drives but are unable to finish in the red zone. Now this could be a by-product of trying to establish the run early in each outing or the precursor to a larger problem.
The last thing Texas wants to do is go down early in Lubbock. If they allow the crowd into the game, it could be a problem for the 'Horns. Even though Garrett Gilbert dealt with pressure in the National Championship game, at least half the crowd was pulling for him.
That’s not going to be the case in Lubbock.
The crowd will be loud, hostile, and eager for their team to pull off the major upset. Texas needs to score early and often to neutralize the crowd and the advantage that they undoubtedly give the Red Raiders.
They also need to score to try and keep up with a still potent offense. Sure, the coaches have changed, but rest assured the air-raid offense is still in effect and is as lethal as ever.
2) Let Gilbert Be Gilbert
Now is not the time to be conservative.
Everyone raves about how powerful an arm Gilbert has; well, now would be the time to show it. Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis has kept the offense as simple as possible for the first few games in order to get Gilbert comfortable and not to give too much away too early in the season.
Throughout his career at Texas, Davis has a reputation of keeping too tight of a leash on his young quarterbacks. You saw the results of that in the Alabama game in the first half. Once he opened up the playbook and let Gilbert play, Gilbert was able to show why he is the quarterback of the future for Texas.
So far this season the play-calling has been very vanilla.
There are a couple of run plays, the ever-popular flanker screen, a sideline go route, a reverse, and that’s about it. Davis needs to incorporate more play action and misdirection into the Texas offense.
Let Gilbert roll out of the pocket and look for mismatches in the defense.
3) Forget about 2008
This will be the biggest key to the game. Every press conference, every interview always leads back to the one-second loss Texas suffered the last time they visited Lubbock.
In order to be successful this trip Texas needs to not fall into the trap of replaying that game in their heads over and over again. That game is done, it's over: the better team won that night and now the 'Horns need to forget about it and deal with the game at hand.
The problem is, every chance anyone gets, all they want to talk about is Michael Crabtree’s last-second heroics or Blake Gideon’s dropped interception that would have sealed the game for the 'Horns.
Mack Brown and the rest of the team are all saying the right things, trying to move past that game, but it’s easy to say the right things early in the week. It’s a different story in a close game; it could be hard to keep the thoughts of 2008 from creeping in if Texas is facing a close game in the fourth quarter.
Football games are won and lost not on the field, but on one square foot of real estate sitting on the player’s shoulders. Texas needs to stay focused on this game, not one that happened almost two years ago.
If Texas can do all of these things look for a big 34-24 win; otherwise, it could be another long September night Lubbock.