On Saturday in Lubbock, a Texas Tech week five showdown is a matchup of two teams looking to stay out of the basement of the Big 12. Even before Houston made the jump to the Big 12, they have been playing Texas Tech as part of their non-conference play in the last few years. So these two teams are very familiar with each other. This is especially true since Houston’s quarterback was Texas Tech’s starting quarterback for a few games in 2022. What should the good patrons attending the game at Jones AT&T stadium expect on Saturday?
Shough Out Six To Eight Weeks
Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire told reporters Monday that quarterback Tyler Shough will be out for six to eight weeks. This comes after suffering a broken fibula in last week’s 20-13 loss to West Virginia. This marks the third consecutive season that Shough has had his season cut short or interrupted by a significant injury. In 2021, he broke his collarbone in the fourth game of the year. Shough missed the rest of the 2021 season. In 2022, he suffered the same injury in the season opener. That injury didn’t cost him his entire season, returning to finish out the final month of the season.
Shough had surgery on Tuesday. The earliest possible game he could be back for would be the November 11th showdown with Kansas. If Shough is closer to the eight-week recovery time, he could still possibly return for the season-ending game in Austin against Texas. It is now quarterback Behren Morton’s offense essentially for the rest of the season. Morton, who started four games last season and played in nine, has flashed in certain moments in his young career. He has thrown for 300-plus yards in two of his four career starts.
Which Quarterback Will Texas Tech Face?
The starting quarterback for Dana Holgerson’s Houston team isn’t a mystery. In fact, Texas Tech knows him very well. The question at hand is which version of Donovan Smith will show up. When Smith is at his best, he is making big plays with both his arm and his legs. On Houston’s website, he is listed as 6-5, 241 pounds. Trying to tackle an athletic quarterback that big is not an easy task for any defense. He is not a running quarterback. He is always looking to throw the ball first and uses his legs in an opportunistic way. When Smith is locked in, he gives defenses fits. In his best performances across his career, his completion percentage floats around 70%, he averages three-and-a-half total touchdowns and has zero-to-one turnovers.
However, if he isn’t playing at his peak, Smith looks like a very average to below-average college quarterback. In 12 career starts, Smith has had four games where he has thrown at least two interceptions. In those games, his completion percentage dropped to 59.9%. If Texas Tech is going to extend its winning streak against Houston to six games, Smith’s play will play a big role. But the biggest factor will fall on the Red Raider’s ability to get the ball in the hands of their best playmaker even more than he has already seen it.
It Has To be Tahj Time In Lubbock
Anyone who has watched the Red Raiders this season has seen running back Tahj Brooks pop on the field. In the last two games, Brooks has rushed the ball 44 times for 307 yards. On the season, he is averaging 6.8 yards per carry, which puts him on pace for 1,236 yards. That would place him in the top 10 single seasons rushing yard totals in Texas Tech history. Against West Virginia, neither Shough nor Morton were in any rhythm. But Brooks seemed to get chunks of yards every time he touched the ball. However, on a potential game-tying drive in which the Red Raiders got to the West Virginia 11-yard line, he touched the ball zero times.
Offensive coordinator Zach Kittley, in a press conference on Monday, defended his play calls in the last drive of the game. However, he did acknowledge that he needs to get the ball to Brooks more. “We’re looking forward to feeding him this weekend,” Kittley said Monday. This is a great opportunity to take pressure off of Morton, who seemingly plays like every snap he has to prove how good he is when he can simply let the game come to him and his talent can take over. In order to secure a Texas Tech week five victory of Houston, Brooks has to get at least 30 touches on Saturday.
Texas Tech Week Five Prediction
Having an “unpredictable” opponent coming to Lubbock makes it hard to get a read on this game. For that matter, is Texas Tech the team that showed up against Oregon or the team that showed up against Wyoming and West Virgina? Both of these teams rank near the bottom of the latest Last Word Big 12 power rankings. One of these teams is about to see their season sink even further into the basement. Specifically, if the Red Raiders want to keep in sliver of hope alive for an above-average season, this game is a must-win.
In a “gotta have it” spot for the home team in front of a sellout crowd, the offense runs (literally and figuratively) through its best offensive player. The game will not be as high scoring as previous matchups (which have averaged a combined 68 points in the last five matchups) between these two, but a controlled ground attack prevails for Texas Tech’s first Big 12 victory of the season.
Texas Tech 24, Houston 17