Texas wins if
Nic Shimonek hadn’t had a bad game.
The Texas Tech senior quarterback had never completed less than 60 percent of his passes, never thrown for less than 200 yards and never let his passer rating dip into double digits. He’d been through rough patches, but always seemed to make it somehow and established himself as one of the Big 12’s best quarterbacks. Then TCU came to town.
The then-No.12 Horned Frogs shutdown the senior quarterback in every facet of the game on Saturday. Shimonek completed a season-low 51.5 percent of his passes for 137 yards, another season low, and failed to score a touchdown. TCU sacked him three times and sophomore cornerback Jeff Gladney picked him off once.
It was far and away Shimonek’s worst performance of the season, which was reflected in his 80.3 passer rating.
Texas has been an equally formidable foe against the pass. Led by junior defensive back Deshon Elliott, they currently rank second in the conference with 11 interceptions. The Longhorns also lead the Big 12 with five pick-sixes.
Shimonek will make adjustments. After a loss to Iowa State, the only other game this year in which Shimonek didn’t throw a touchdown, he rebounded against then-No. 10 Oklahoma by throwing for four.
Texas wins this game if its defense can keep Shimonek contained and avoid another offensive explosion.
Texas loses if
Over the past two weeks, the Longhorn offense has found a spark of energy. Texas is averaging 35 points per game, up from its season average of 29.7.
The uptick in production has largely come from the burnt orange backfield. Head coach Tom Herman has finally decided to ride the hot hand, giving freshman running back Daniel Young 33 carries over the same stretch.
Young has responded surprisingly well to the increase in opportunities. He ran for a career-high 67 yards against Kansas two weeks ago, then broke his personal record again with 85 yards against West Virginia.
Herman is still flip-flopping between quarterbacks, but both sophomore Shane Buechele and freshman Sam Ehlinger have made the most of their chances. The two have each thrown an interception in the past two games, but have overcome them to combine for four touchdowns.
Texas Tech’s defense has been porous all season. The Red Raiders have allowed the third most yards and points in the Big 12. The Jayhawks two spots below them in points allowed, the Mountaineers two spots above. The Longhorns scored 42 and 28 against them, respectively.
Texas loses this game if the points drop off and the offense goes stagnant again.