Big 12 conference play commences for Texas and in-state foe Texas Tech on Saturday at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas. The Longhorns need to get back on track after an easy win vs. Rice last week and a crushing Week 2 loss to Arkansas in the nonconference slate, the latter of which caused them to fall out of the AP Top 25.
Texas Tech, meanwhile, has had the streakiest path imaginable to reach 3-0 in Matt Wells' third season. The Red Raiders fell behind 21-7 against Houston and 14-7 against FIU before storming back to win those games by a combined 50 points. However, the Big 12 opener is Tech's toughest opponent yet, so getting behind early may prove costly.
Wells entered the 2021 season on one of the hottest seats in the country. The Red Raiders have done well enough to keep that seat from getting any hotter, but a win over the Longhorns and first-year coach Steve Sarkisian would go a long way in actually cooling it.
The Longhorns have won three straight games over the Red Raiders and 10 of the last 12. However, Texas Tech has won two of the last three matchups in Austin. Texas eked out a 63-56 overtime victory in 2020 behind three receiving touchdowns from WR Joshua Moore.
Here are the storylines to follow for Saturday's Big 12 showdown, as well as picks straight up and against the spread by our team of experts.
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Texas vs. Texas Tech: Need to know
Quarterback shuffle: Freshman Hudson Card won the Texas quarterback battle over the offseason, but veteran Casey Thompson came back and wrestled the job away with two touchdowns against Arkansas. Thompson has completed 77.4% of his passes while averaging 8.5 yards per attempt. He will get his first real test as a starter against the Red Raiders. How will Steve Sarkisian respond if Thompson gets off to a slow start?
Easy Ezukanma: Texas Tech wide receiver Erik Ezukanma has quietly been one of the most electric players in the nation though the nonconference slate. The junior caught 13 passes for 322 yards through Tech's first two games. When FIU tried to blanket Ezukanma, it opened things up for five other receivers to catch multiple passes. At 6-foot-3 with blazing speed, Ezukanma is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Bijan breakout: Texas' sophomore running back, Bijan Robinson, ranked among the most hyped players in the nation heading into the 2021 season and he's delivered so far. The Arizona native has rushed for 299 yards and five touchdowns while catching six passes for 91 yards and another score. Sarkisian has done a nice job of getting Robinson the ball in different areas of the field to create mismatches.
Tone setter: The Big 12 already looks like a jumbled mess. Four teams already have at least one loss and a few others are probably lucky they don't. This Big 12 opener presents a critical opportunity for both teams to get their conference slates going in the right direction. These two teams have played 70 times historically, but the Longhorns will soon be leaving this rivalry for the SEC, which makes this an intriguing game.
How to watch Texas vs. Texas Tech live
Date: Saturday, Sept. 25 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Darrell K. Royal Stadium -- Austin, Texas
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Texas vs. Texas Tech prediction, picks
Texas Tech won't be able to push the Longhorns around like Arkansas did, but the Texas offensive line remains a concern regardless. Robinson can cover enough of the holes that the Horns will still come away with a victory. Still, expect a motivated Texas Tech to do just enough to keep this game close down the stretch. Prediction: Texas Tech (+8)
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