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Texas Tech-Houston: Rising Cougars Look to Ground High-Flying Raiders

Stephen JohnsonContributor ISeptember 24, 2009

AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Taylor Potts #15 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders drops back to pass against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on September 19, 2009 in Austin, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

This week’s challenge for the Red Raiders brings another intriguing matchup when Texas Tech faces off against Houston on Saturday night.

It seems Tech finds itself in the same predicament every year. They, for who knows how long, are playing a mid major team with everything to lose. If Tech wins, then it is chalked up as a "should win," but if Tech loses, then it could be devastating to their season.

Much hype has been made about this game in southeast Texas. The game is sold out and the Cougars are favored for the contest. It has even been said that Houston will live and die by Saturday night.

Even with this game meaning so much to Houston, Tech should walk out of Robertson Stadium with a win over the No. 17 Cougars.

One thing is for sure: There will be a lot of points scored as both teams will be running the same spread passing attack.

Houston offensive coordinator, Dana Holgerson, was a Tech assistant and WR coach for Mike Leach before taking the job in the Bayou City. Holgerson runs the air raid offense for Houston that he helped run in Lubbock. However, he has made some tweaks to it. Holgerson likes to use a lot more motion in the backfield to confuse opponents.

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Though the biggest difference in the two offenses is that Houston has run the ball 63 times in two games, averaging over 118 yards per contest. Tech has only run the ball 40 times for 149 yards total in three games this season.

The Cougars will be sending out this offensive attack led by QB Case Keenum. He has helped them average 400 yards and 50 points a game this season. Keenum's best attribute is his accuracy, completing nearly 73 percent of his passes this season.

Houston’s offense will operate best off long drives, during which they’ll be able to mix the run and pass evenly.

Their most dangerous players are RBs Charles Sims and Bryce Beall. Sims is the better receiver, catching 11 passes for 174 yards and Beall is the run threat, averaging 68 yards on the ground.

Sims and Beall are the most important part of this offense, save Keenum. They are used much like Tech RBs and will have to be effective running and coming out on screens to have their offense be effective.

The defense for the Cougars is still a mystery in the making. After only giving up 263 yards of offense to Northwestern, Houston then surrendered 434 yards to Oklahoma State one week later.

One does have to wonder how good this Houston defense is. Northwestern was only able to gain 106 yards passing on 22 completions, but Oklahoma State was able to get 240 yards on 18 completions.

It is safe to say that Tech will have a much better passing attack than both of the teams Houston has faced so far this year. Tech WRs Lyle Leong and Tramain Swindall should continue their dominance over secondaries.

The Cougars may also have trouble getting pressure on Tech’s QB Taylor Potts. Houston has only been able to get three sacks over the first two games; DE Tyrell Graham and DT David Hunter will need to do better supplying pressure if they have hopes of slowing down the air raid offense.

If Houston fails to get Potts uncomfortable and control the line of scrimmage, then Tech may finally get its run game on track. Both RBs, Baron Batch and Harrison Jeffers, have yet to impress this season, but both have the speed and toughness to go for big yards on the ground and in the screen game.

This is potentially the biggest game of the season for Houston even after beating Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Winning this game gives Houston a legitimate and deserving spot at a potential BCS game early next year, but a loss will find the Cougars back to being unranked and back into obscurity.

A win by Tech will give the Raiders their first impressive victory of the season and find them ranked come Sunday. A loss and Tech will be relegated to spoiler in the Big XII South by the media.

Tech should "out-athlete" the Cougars and find themselves in the win column come Saturday night, but it will take the effort they had against Texas last Saturday. Houston has already shown they can beat a top team with a potent offense.

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