7 Point Preview: Texas Tech vs. Houston

It’s here.

1. Game Info

Texas Tech Red Raiders (0-0, 0-0)
Houston Cougars (0-0, 0-0)
September 4th @ 6:00 p.m.
NRG Stadium – Houston, Texas
Texas Tech -1.5
Sunny 92-76.

2. Overview

ESPN FPI 37 66
F+ 67 63
FEI Rank: 54 64
SP+ Rank: 77 59
Sharp FB Beta-Rank 29 79

These are all a bit meaningless right now with the season set to start and any advanced stats are based on last year, but there’s also the idea that these are projections, especially the FPI, Sharp, SP+, and FEI rankings. It is interesting that SP+ is not as bullish on Texas Tech as the other two advanced models. I would think that with Texas Tech returning so many players on defense that this will hopefully bode well for Texas Tech.

3. Texas Tech Offense vs. Houston Defense

TTU Offense UH Defense
F+ Rank: 61 61
Sharp FB 38 63
Play Efficiency 27 93
Drive Efficiency 84 42
Negative Drives 51 78
Explosive Drives 22 76
Rush Efficiency 51 59
Pass Efficiency 31 78

Houston’s defense is probably going to lean on being incredibly fast and not worry so much about the size aspect. That probably plays well within the AAC and so Texas Tech will need to be prepared to counter that speed. And the speed aspect is only partly true as Houston will play two fire hydrants up front, Latrell Bankston (6-0/295), a transfer from Iowa State, and Olivier Charles-Pierre (6-2/360) with Logan Hall (6-6/275) at another defensive tackle. David Anenih (6-3/249) is the pass-rushing defensive end, so that will be someone to watch on the edge.

The linebackers of Donavan Mutin (6-0/230), JoVanni Stewart (5-9/194), Mannie Nunnery (6-2/225), and Deontay Anderson (6-2/230) are the likely starters and Stewart’s inclusion is obviously a bit different, but that’s where I think the speed component is key for Houston

Cornerback Marcus Jones (5-8/185) is the star of the secondary, although I know I’ve heard of Hasaan Hypolite (5-11/210) who is a big safety and well thought of as well. I’d add that Damarion Williams (5-10/180) is no slouch, all-conference as well.

A few things that will be interesting for Texas Tech. I’ll be really excited to see how the interior of the Texas Tech offensive line handles the Houston defensive line. They’ll need to create space, and a push, and be incredibly strong. I’ll be excited to know if the interior of the line is truly improved. I’ll be able to judge the amount of time that Tyler Shough has and how much running room Tahj Brooks has (assuming that SaRodorick Thompson can’t go, but he’s supposed to be pretty much a game-time decision).

Alternatively, how will the receivers do, will the combination of Kaylon Geiger, Sr. and Trey Cleveland on one side with Erik Ezukanma on the other be enough to force Houston to add a defender to the secondary? How involved will the tight ends be this year? Will they be blocking afterthoughts or actually involved with the passing game? The idea of Houston attempting to cover a 6’9″ tight end makes me giggle on some level. With a more varied offense, will Houston have a more difficult time adjusting to a different style? I think it’s imperative that Texas Tech use its size to beat Houston.

I think the biggest knock on Shough was his inconsistency. Especially a fade in the second half. Honestly, that’s really true of any college player who plays, but doesn’t become a star. They can’t stack the good games, quarters, or plays on top of each other, but when that does happen good players become great.

The most difficult prediction for me will be how the team will look for Texas Tech. The advanced stats numbers may not mean a ton this year. Last year, the offense was horribly inefficient at being a successful drive team, a team that ultimately scores. From a play perspective, Texas Tech was fine driving the ball. I think it is absolutely necessary that the team continue to be as efficient running and passing the ball. I’d also state that I think some of the problem was that the drives just took way too long and with longer drives leaves room for more mistakes.

4. Texas Tech Defense vs. Houston Offense

TTU Defense UH Offense
F+ Rank: 71 64
Sharp FB 30 86
Play Efficiency 18 109
Drive Efficiency 53 66
Negative Drives 33 94
Explosive Drives 24 81
Rush Efficiency 28 96
Pass Efficiency 42 60

Houston’s offense is really contingent on Clayton Tune (6-3/215) being a better version of his 2020 self, which will probably be the case. Most players who see a lot of plays progress and get better. I’d also add that the coaches don’t have a ton of options if Tune isn’t the guy. He just has to be the guy because everyone else is incredibly inexperienced.

The Houston receiving corps are very talented and varied.

As far as receivers are concerned, these are the main players I think you’ll need to watch. Nathaniel Dell (5-10/155) was the leading receiver last year with 29 catches for 428 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jeremy Singleton (6-0/185) was behind quite a few players and down the depth chart quite a bit. KeSean Carter (5-11/190) was one of my favorite players for Texas Tech, a tough-as-hell receiver that will take a beating and keep beating you. Tight end Christian Trahan (6-3/245) caught 22 passes for 294 yards, so he’ll go deep and beat you and he’ll be a threat in the red zone as well. Transfer Jaylen Erwin (UCLA) (5-11/175) was non-existent for UCLA in 2020; Seth Green (Minnesota) (6-4/240) caught 3 passes for the Golden Gophers in 2020; and Jake Herslow (Old Dominion) (6-0/178) caught 9 passes for 95 yards in 2019 (the Monarchs didn’t play in 2020).

Clayton Tune is the biggest problem rushing the ball He’ll tuck and run at any given opportunity, over 72 carries in 2020 in just 7 games for 253 yards. Mulbah Car (5-11/215) is likely the starter and he only ran for 192 yards on 52 carries, while change-of-pace running back Ta’Zhawn Henry (5-7/170) will likely split duties. Incoming freshman Alton McCaskill (6-1/210) could be a game-changer as he’s a good combination of both.

Houston’s biggest issue on offense was that they just weren’t an efficient offense. I don’t know if the problem was Tune or the running game, but my thought is that Holgorsen just didn’t run the ball well and as a team, they weren’t efficient largely because the offensive line didn’t give Tune a ton of time, but also because Tune isn’t incredibly accurate, 59% completion percentage, while only 7.2 yards per attempt. If you want a comparison, Alan Bowman completed 64% and 6.9 yards per attempt.

And the Texas Tech defense needs to make some strides as well to be honest otherwise, they’ll make the Houston offense look like world-beaters. I think there was improvement as the season progressed, but success is short-lived and consistency is the key. The ability to limit explosive drives was a huge part of what Keith Patterson wanted to do last year, but we’ve also seen during the spring Patterson blitzing a bunch. And having a group of linebackers who know how to play and maybe cover for those linebackers that are coming down from the line of scrimmage a part of the plan. I’d also add that in listening to the Matt Wells radio show, the players were asked who are the fastest players and McLane Mannix said that safety Marquis Waters is one of the fastest players on the team. When’s the last time that Texas Tech has had a safety with range?

5. Special Teams and Injuries

The special teams is a bit of a sore spot for Texas Tech. The return games were less than stellar and the place kicking was a disaster. The punting was fantastic, as McNamara was 5th in the nation in net yardage. Texas Tech was 114th in the nation in field goal percentage and both return units (on offense and defense) were in the back half of the rankings so I would hate for the season to hinge on terrible special teams, but it’s a problem.

Houston was a bit of a mixed bag, great on kickoff returns, but not great on punt returns. Great on limiting punt returns, but not great on limiting kickoff returns. I’d also add that Houston was 61st in field goal percentage, so middle of the pack.

As of right now, the only injuries that I’m aware of are running back SaRodorick Thompson, who is a game-time decision, and possibly receiver Erik Ezukanma, but I think he’ll play. As far as Houston is concerned, running back Jame Fullbright is out for the year and defensive lineman Chidozie Nwankwo is suspended indefinitely.

6. Lagniappe

lagniappe | something given as a bonus or extra gift.

I’d like to think that with a full offseason and a lot of momentum with guys who are seemingly committed to Texas Tech’s program that there’s a lot of things going in the right direction. I’d like to tell you that Texas Tech is set for success.

But I’ve been burned a lot. I’m always hopeful. but the truth of the matter is that this seems like things are moving positively. The staff cleaned up almost every hole on the team other than the field goal kicking situation.

From every position group, I think Teas Tech is slightly better, largely better in a handful of spots including offensive line, running back and receivers as well as linebackers. I’d push at quarterback, secondary, and defensive line. The push at quarterback is probably a bit of surprise given Shough’s performance last year, but Tune wasn’t great either and based on potential, I think Shough is better. We’ll see if I’m right.

Dallas Morning News’ Chuck Carlton | Sources: Big 12 looking at four schools, including Houston, as potential new conference members

But BYU, Central Florida, Cincinnati and Houston would fulfill one goal of building the best football conference possible from schools outside the “power five” conferences in larger markets. UCF, Cincinnati and Houston have all played in New Year’s Six Bowls within the last six years, and BYU has a rich football tradition.

The sources also noted that each school has large, interested alumni bases that would be potentially attractive to media partners.

Houston is maybe the most surprising choice. After the Big 12 explored expansion in 2016 and then added no one, outspoken Houston regents chairman Tilman Fertitta blasted the Big 12, calling the process “a sham.”

Of course, in the Big 12, things have been known to take detours, as expansion did in 2016. Plenty of discussion and research remains. Politics and self-interest can intervene at any minute.

Dallas Morning News’ Ryan Mainville | Texas Tech prediction: Red Raiders aim for three-straight wins over Houston

This should be a very good and competitive football game regardless of the outcome. ESPN’s current line of Texas Tech being one point favorites indicates just that. Both teams feel evenly matched at various positions, but Texas Tech seems to have a chip on their shoulder heading into the 2021 season.

Shough and Cumbie feel like a good pairing that is just waiting to make it work on the field. The depth at running back is a huge plus for the Red Raiders, even if Thompson has to sit. The defense is experienced enough to feel like a safe bet, even as they work through first-week hurdles. Texas Tech will leave Houston with one of its biggest wins of the past few years and head coach Matt Wells will earn some trust back from his fanbase.

7. Prediction

My predictions, I’ve discovered over time, are relatively worthless. Regardless as to my performance, the line varies anywhere between Texas Tech -1 to -1.5 to -2. I’ll tell you that Texas Tech is 1-4-1 against the spread their last 6 games in September and are 13-1 straight up in their last 14 games played in week 1. Houston went under the last 4 of 5 games. They are 15-5 in their last 20 games in September and are 1-4 against the spread their last 5 games.

Before the game I plan on downloading some sort of app to keep track of any and all bets that I make during the year.

I’ll take Texas Tech as I think the initial line of Texas Tech -7.5 was more accurate than the current line, so with the line dropping to -1, that seems pretty easy.


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