How to Beat the Pettiest Team in Texas in 3 Easy Steps
We've heard the story all week: the University of Houston has denied the request of Texas Tech to allow the Red Raiders to wear white for their annual 'Celebrate Cotton' game. Here's the source whisperer, Don Williams, breaking the news on Tuesday:
According to NCAA rule Rule 1-4.5-b: "By rule the visiting team must wear white jerseys. This means white, which does not include light gray, pale yellow, etc. The home team may wear white, but only if they get written agreement with the visiting team before the season starts."
So, Houston denied the jersey swap before the season started, but the news breaks as the two teams prepare to play this weekend in Lubbock. I have no idea why the Cougars would deny the opportunity for Texas Tech to celebrate cotton by wearing all-white unless they hate cotton.
Does Houston hate cotton?
Another explanation could be Houston was beaten by the Red Raiders last year while Dakota Allen and the boys were wearing these duds:
Look at those fresh, white tees!
There are also other reasons like Houston's red isn't as deep as Texas Tech's, and it make them feel inferior. Or maybe Houston doesn't want to accommodate the Red Raiders because they are so much worse on the road than they are at home and need any advantage they can get over Texas Tech on Saturday.
Houston, since 2012, is 16-14 on the road, compared to 30-11 within their friendly confines. And while The Jones has lost some of its luster in the last few seasons, I still think it can be one of the toughest places to play when the atmosphere is hoppin'. Maybe there can be 65,000 pissed off cotton farmers in Lubbock on game day to spur the Red Raiders to victory.
Houston is no slouch, but I do think their 2-0 record is a bit deceiving. They opened with a Rice team that struggled against an FCS team in the zero week, and then they beat an Arizona team that at times doesn't look they have anyone on the field except their quarterback. Their first two opponents are 0-4 against FBS schools to open the season.
I'm not saying Texas Tech has played a rigorous schedule; I'm just trying to temper a 2-0 record. Houston hasn't played a challenging game yet. In fact, the Cougars struggled against Rice for an entire half, and actually went to halftime trailing before outscoring the Owls 28-0 for a big win. Houston did the opposite against the Arizona Wildcats, jumping out to a 31-point lead in the first half before being outscored 18-14 in the second half.
Ugly wins are still wins, though, and that's something Texas Tech couldn't do in week one against a team that most think won't do much the rest of the season.
I guess what I'm saying is, I think Texas Tech and Houston are a really even match-up, and Texas Tech fans shouldn't be worried about getting blown out by an AAC team. Could a blowout happen either way? Sure, but I think that is out of the question with the match-ups here.
Here are the three easy steps to beat Houston, the pettiest team in Texas.
1. AIR RAID: ALL SYSTEMS GO
I know Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been talking about improving the run game but I think the Red Raiders have a clear advantage over Houston through the air. The Cougars are giving up 340 yards per game in the air to Arizona and Rice means that Texas Tech can torch the Cougars by giving Alan Bowman the keys and flipping the NOS like Brian O'Conner.
That doesn't mean that the Red Raiders don't need to run the ball. The game plan will obviously be tailored made and focused on avoiding defensive tackle Ed Oliver. While Oliver deserves his own bullet point probably, I think going full Mike Leach by using a blazing fast offense that utilizes screens and an outside zone rushing attack, Texas Tech can limit Mr. Oliver's impact on the game.
2. LIMIT THE KING
Ed Oliver has an enormous effect on the Houston defense, but D'Eriq King is arguably more important to the Cougars. He's the heartbeat of the offense. He has an accurate arm and the offensive coordinator who can scheme his targets into the open field. He's also one mobile son of a gun, which has hurt Texas Tech in the past. King isn't the only athlete on the Houston offense. Marquez Stephenson and Courtney Lark are also dynamic, but King is definitely the leader of the Cougars.
If Texas Tech wants to make a stand on Saturday, they must limit the big play potential of King and his receivers. The running game is vital to the Cougars' attack, but it's King and his court that are responsible for Houston's 8-yard per play average so far in 2018.
If you want a comparison to someone the Texas Tech team has played in the past that had a similar threat as D'Eriq King, look no further than last year's USF team and Quinton Flowers. The senior Bull had more than 300 yards passing, 100 yards rushing and five total touchdowns against the Red Raiders in the Bowl Game last December. If King has a similar stat line, the result here will be the same, too.
Here are some highlights from King, his offense, and Oliver and the defense in the Houston vs Rice game. You can clearly see Houston's strengths and weakness on full display:
3. PLAY NASTY
The Houston Cougars are finesse. The Texas Tech Red Raiders are finesse.
This game will come down to whoever can get nasty. Big hits, forced fumbles, tough running, the receivers 'Mossing' defensive backs, whatever it may be -- the nastier team will win this game. Can Jack Anderson be nastier than Ed Oliver? Can Eli Howard and Tony Jones get nasty in the trenches? Can the Texas Tech secondary look like they belong on the field? These will be the storylines that matter Saturday afternoon.
Texas Tech needs to play this game unafraid. As the great Ricky Bobby once said: "There ain't nothin' more frightenin' than drivin' with a live cougar in the car. If you're calm, that wonderous big cat will be calm, too. But if you're scared, that beautiful death machine will do what God made it to do -- namely, eat you with a smile on its face."
Houston is going to score points; there isn't a doubt in my mind that Texas Tech is incapable of posting back-to-back shutouts. I know...bold. But that's how I live my life. That doesn't mean that Houston will score 45 again, a mark they've gotten two in the first two contests.
Houston scored 24 last season against the Texas Tech defense, and the Houston offense has improved with Kendal Briles, so let's peg the mean between 45 and 24 and set that as Houston's score.
Texas Tech is a little harder to peg. Alan Bowman has looked good, but McLane Carter could be the first out of the tunnel on Saturday. I don't know that that makes a huge difference because both quarterbacks can be productive against the Houston secondary. Can they score more than 35? I think they can.
Clayton Hatfield ices the game late with a field goal that makes the final 38-35 and Texas Tech goes into Big 12 play, still confused as to how good they really are, but a 2-1 record lets them rest a little easier.
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