Things tend to get weird in Lubbock, and when you add in Homecoming and a night game? Saturday is going to be terrifying.
To get the scoop on a very enigmatic Red Raiders team, I reached out to my friend Albie Shore of the impeccably named “Tortillas and Takes” podcast. You can find Albie on twitter: @Mr_AlbieShore and be sure to check out his podcast (@TortillasNTakes) as well!
FOW: Which Texas Tech team do you think better represents where the program is? The one that gave up 70 to Texas or the one that won a tough game on the road at WVU and why?
AS: Using my exquisite expertise on the subject, I am going to give you some top tier analysis that you can only get here: I. Don’t. Know. So far, we have seen Texas Tech play two games, vs Houston and West Virginia, where the team looked every bit of the 7-8 win team the Tortillas & Takes squad predicted this team could be. They have also played two games, vs SFA and Texas, where Tech looked like Kansas south, so it really is tough to call. The team is legitimately talented so I still lean closer to the West Virginia outcome than the Texas one, but whether Wells & company can get this team ready to play like that will not be known until Saturday evening.
FOW: With Shough out for a while, how does the offense change with Henry Colombi back as QB1 and does it impact the season goals for Red Raider fans too?
AS: With only a game and a half sample size, it seems as though the offense will not change much. Last year when the offense switched from Bowman to Colombi, it was a stark difference since Colombi was much more mobile but didn’t have the arm talent that Bowman had. This year with Shough being just as mobile and Colombi vastly improving his deep ball, they are both a similar type of QB. We have seen offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, you may have heard of him, be more willing to throw the ball down field with Colombi but overall the offensive philosophy of using the run and short passes to set up big plays has remained the same.
FOW: With Erik Ezukanma expected to miss Saturday’s game, what does that mean for the rest of the WR corp?
AS: At the time that I am writing this, Ezukanma is still questionable for this game as he remains in concussion protocol so he still could very well play. If he does not, that just mean it will continue to be the Kaylon Geiger show. Geiger, the Troy transfer, has led the team in receiving yards each of the past three games and has really proven his value to the offense in such a short time. Another name that has really become a deep threat in Ezuukanma’s absence is Sophomore Loic Fouonji. Fouonji was the 4-star stud of Tech’s 2020 recruiting class and has been pegged as “the next great Texas Tech WR” after Ezukanma, it seems as though we are starting to get a taste of this potential.
FOW: Tech’s defense has greatly improved under Matt Wells, and has played well in four of their five games this season. What has been the biggest change that he has brought to that side of the ball?
AS: Only at Texas Tech can a defense be greatly improved yet still ninth in points allowed in the conference. That being said, you are correct that this is a much-improved unit. Outside of that abysmal Texas shellacking, this defense has not given up more than 22 points all season. Honestly the biggest reason the defense is better is that there is simply more talent and depth on that side of the ball. I’d argue this is the most talented linebacking group Tech has had since the Ruffin McNeil days of the late 2000s and though this secondary may not scare many offenses, the depth is there to withstand a situation such as last week where three starters were sidelined.
FOW: Speaking of defense, Colin Schooler has been a huge impact player for Texas Tech. What has the Arizona transfer brought to the table?
AS: Matt Wells has many faults but recruiting transfers is not one of them and being able to snag Colin Schooler may just be his piece de resistance. If you haven’t seen Schooler’s tackle on Charlie Brewer last year, please do. Schooler is big, physical and athletic while also making the necessary big plays at big times. The defense feeds off of his energy and impact, but it helps that he has Riko Jeffers, Krisean Merriweather and company beside him as well so he doesn’t have to do it all himself.
FOW: Who are a couple players on both sides of the ball that TCU fans might not know much about but should?
AS: One big change in the West Virginia game was the appearance of backup QB Donovan Smith playing in a Wildcat role. It will be interesting to see just how much Cumbie uses him in this capacity going forward. Smith isn’t just a gadget player, he can really throw the ball just as well as he can run so even though I am not a fan of a 2-QB system, we will see just how much Cumbie wants to implement it this game. Another unknown player we finally got the chance to see last week was Jerand Bradley. Bradley is a big-body true freshman receiver who still has two more games to burn before Tech has to decide on his redshirt so I expect him to get more shine here.
As far as the defense is concerned, the tag team duo of Jaylon Hutchins and Tony Bradford have been a delight in the middle of the defensive line. The D-Line has struggled to get much pressure this season, but it isn’t because of these two guys who have combined for 29 tackles and four sacks from the DT position. Also, these guys are hilarious:
FOW: What’s your score prediction for the game and how do we get there?
AS: The battle for the saddle is always weird and wacky. Such as when the backup for a future Heisman winner came in to deliver the game winning drive for Tech, or when Aaron Green turned into a ballerina to win a heartbreaker for TCU, or when arguably the worst Tech defense of all time somehow held TCU to 24 points in a double overtime game, heck there was even that time in 2014 where a Tech-TCU game was cancelled and never played (October 25, 2014 never happened no matter what any of you say). Before the season, I thought TCU was the third best team in the conference and though the record suggests otherwise, I still believe TCU has a tremendous amount of talent on offense with Duggan and Evans making a scary backfield tandem, but the defense is giving up 35 points per game against FBS opponents. For possibly the first time since TCU came to the Big 12, I am not convinced the Horned Frogs have the better defense which is WILD to say. I have gone back and forth on this pick many times and though I am positive Matt Wells will do something insane in this game because he obviously doesn’t like it when the fanbase likes him, I am going to go with Texas Tech to win this game 31-27. No, I am not confident in this prediction and yes, I understand TCU’s Duggan and Evans are the closest thing to Texas’ Thompson and Robinson who BLUDGEONED Tech’s defense, so please feel free to ridicule me if this prediction does not come to fruition. However, with this being homecoming, a blackout night game, in the Jones, I am hoping – nay – praying that Tech has finally turned the corner and is realizing the potential they have plus Cumbie is going to want this win BAD, so I imagine more shots downfield than usual which has become Colombi’s specialty. Nothing would make me happier than seeing Tech win followed by coach Patterson’s press conference. They have become one of my favorite Big 12 pastimes.
FOW BONUS QUESTION: Is the Saddle Trophy the most underrated rivalry trophy in sports?
AS: It is an absolutely fantastic rivalry trophy that doesn’t get enough love. This weekend, two egregiously annoying and elitist universities will be fighting for a golden hat yet that’s the trophy we see plastered all over ESPN: absolute bullocks. Give me the saddle over that hat, the weird Bedlam Bell, and even the Chancellor’s Spurs that Tech & UT “fight” over any day of the week.