Well that’s a wrap, folks. The Longhorns can no longer reach the Big 12 Championship after their loss to Baylor, and will now be jockeying with Iowa State and Kansas State for positions in some minor bowl games. For a team that had aspirations of making the College Football Playoff at the beginning of the season, that is … not great. But Texas should try to finish the season strong against Texas Tech to avoid the possibility of having a losing record.
Here’s how the game against Texas Tech could go:
Texas wins if …
… Sam Ehlinger finds his rhythm.
As we saw earlier this year and all of last season, junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger is still talented. Ehlinger has done his best with the plays that have been called and with the weapons that have stayed healthy, but he cannot do it all. If Ehlinger can get things going early against the Red Raiders, he will be very hard to stop. The Longhorns can win this game if Ehlinger leads the offense to more offensive production, especially in the first half.
… the defense continues to play with intensity.
After slugging through the early part of the season with injuries and poor play-calling, the defense has stepped up for the past three weeks and is doing its absolute best to keep the Longhorns within fighting distance of their opponents. The unit has held the last three opponents, two of which were ranked, to no more than 24 points each. The return of sophomore defensive backs Caden Sterns and Jalen Green from injury have done wonders for the unit, and they are giving fans hope that next season will bring a more experienced defense. The defense only needs to replicate its impressive performance for one more regular season game, and if they do, the Longhorns can pull off the win at home.
Texas loses if …
… the offense is unable to produce for a third week in a row.
The Texas offense has been stuck in quicksand for the last few weeks. Against Iowa State, the offense did not start to produce anything until the final drive of the first half, notably electing to go for it on fourth down instead of taking three points earlier in the half. The Longhorns would end up losing by two points. Against Baylor, the only offense the team could muster came on a 68-yard run by sophomore running back Keaontay Ingram at the end of the second half, which led to a 48-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Cameron Dicker. The Longhorns would go on to score just one touchdown in garbage time when the chance of coming back was nonexistent. Texas will lose if they don’t get their act together on the offensive side of the ball.
… the team plays like the season is over.
To be brutally honest, this game simply does not matter as much as it could have when the season began. Many assumed this would be a tune-up to a Big 12 Championship Game rematch with Oklahoma, not a matchup between teams with nothing to play for other than pride. The Texas program desperately needs to avoid ending the season on a three-game losing streak to keep fans hopeful for 2020. If the Longhorns approach this game as an obligation rather than as an opportunity to play one last time this year in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, they will not be motivated enough to play hard and win this game.