Game Preview: Houston vs Texas Tech
Who: Houston Cougars and Texas Tech Red Raiders
Where: TDECU Stadium, Houston, Texas.
When: Saturday, September 23, 11 a.m.
How to watch: ABC/ESPN2
What pregame show to listen to: Countdown to Kickoff, 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 23rd.
For the first time in 2017, the Texas Tech Red Raiders will enter a game as an underdog. Houston is favored by either 6, 6.5 or 7 (depending on where you look), with an over/under of 72. So, Vegas is preparing for a 42-35 type score, with Texas Tech taking their first loss of the season.
Houston is 2-0 right now, with wins over Arizona and Rice.
Arizona has scored 60+ points in their two wins, but only managed 16 points against Houston. Houston won 19-16. Rice beat UTEP just like Houston did, but is 1-2 with losses to Stanford and Houston. Houston won the game over Rice, 38-3.
Neither Arizona nor Rice are good, but Houston is 2-0 and favored over Texas Tech.
On the same note, neither Arizona State nor Eastern Washington are very good, but Texas Tech is 2-0.
Houston is favored because they have strung together a few good seasons back-to-back. Tom Herman, in two years, went 13-1 and 9-4 in the AAC. They also had an above-average recruiting class in 2016, with the prized jewel of Ed Oliver, who is still dominating along the defensive line for Houston.
I guess the thought is that Houston has better talent, but that just isn't the case.
According to 247sports.com, the Houston recruiting classes average 65th national ranking, with their best class was in 2016 at 36th. Texas Tech has a 42nd national ranking average, with their best class coming in 2015 when they had a 32nd ranked class.
It's also been circulating that the Big 12 is some limping puppy of a conference. Well, just putting this into a vacuum, the Big 12 is better than the AAC. Yes, Houston beat OU last season. They also lost to a 5-7 SMU team. The narrative all of 2016 is that Houston belongs in the Big 12, and last year they probably did. This year? I think the 2015, 13-1 luster has worn off.
The Houston Cougars aren't a better program than Texas Tech.
There are two off-the-field keys to the game. The first one is the 11 a.m. kickoff. Kliff Kingsbury is 3-5 in 11 a.m. kick offs. The Red Raiders are 2-1 on the road at 11 a.m., but the two wins are at Lawrence, Kansas against the Jayhawks.
The second is that, historically, Houston owns Texas Tech. The overall record is 18-11-1. The last time the two met on the field was 2010 when Texas Tech won 35-20. Houston won in 2009, 29-28.
Texas Tech should win this game, but should is a whole different thing than will.
Nic Shimonek now has two starts in college football. They were both good. He will have another good game against Houston. The Texas Tech receiving corps will provide ample opportunities for Shimonek to be great this season. Expect another 350+ passing yards and a few touchdowns from Shimonek.
The running game, as always, is important, but it isn't going to be a huge part in the game. Much like the Arizona State game, Texas Tech will get 100-ish rushing yards and will run some shovel plays and bubble screens to supplement.
Most important here is containing Ed Oliver. He's the best defensive lineman Texas Tech will face this year and he'll spend snaps all across the team's offensive line. This will be a huge opportunity for not only the offensive line as a unit, but for the individuals across the front. Especially for true freshman Jack Anderson, who has an opportunity to kind of cement a growing legacy and gain some confidence.
Houston is only giving up 9.5 points per game, but like I said earlier, their strength of schedule so far has been atrocious. Bottom line, if you can contain Ed Oliver, you can do whatever you want to the Cougars defense.
That may easier said than done, though.
The most improved unit this needs to be the CBs for Texas Tech. ASU ran one route up and down the field last week and it exposed the CBs. The Houston offense is not the ASU offense, however.
The Houston offense hasn't scored over 40 on the season and only mustered 38 against Rice.
Kyle Allen, the former Aggie, is the starter this season and has completed an astronomical 86 percent of his passes. That's ridiculous. That also means the Houston offense doesn't throw the ball down the field. They control the clock and the field position. Allen is averaging just 8.22 yards per attempt. We can compare that to Nic Shimonek's 11.59 yards per attempt.
If the Texas Tech defense can keep the Houston offense in front of them, they can control this game.
The running game is an issue in every game where Texas Tech is involved, even if the opponent isn't a dynamic run team, which Houston is not. Through two games, Houston is averaging 37 carries and 144 yards.
Here's what I think will be a winning total from the Texas Tech defense: 275 passing yards and 200 rushing yards.
If Texas Tech can hold Houston to those numbers and win the turnover battle, I think they will win the game.
Texas Tech has punted six times in two games.
Houston has punted nine times in two games.
Let's keep this ratio in mind
Texas Tech needs to make any huge special teams mistakes and limit the dynamic kick returners of Houston, while not kicking a knuckle ball out of bounds on kick-offs.
I'm confident to pick Texas Tech to cover in this game at anywhere from a 6 or 7 point underdog right now. And since this is Texas Tech, I'm obviously taking the over.
What I'm not as confident is picking Texas Tech to win...but I am anyways.
42-38. Texas Tech wins.