Date: Saturday, August 31, 2019
Kickoff Time: 7 P.M. CT
Location: Austin, Texas
Stadium: Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium
TV: Longhorn Network
Streaming: Watch ESPN (TV provider must have LHN)
Series Record: First Meeting
Betting Line: Texas -19.5
Both teams bring back some key offensive players, but have to replace multiple starters on defense. How quickly these two teams can adjust to their new situations will go a long way in determining how this matchup will go.
Louisiana Tech will be led on offense by quarterback J’Mar Smith, wide receiver Adrian Hardy and running backs Israel Tucker and Jaqwis Dancy. Texas will be led by quarterback Sam Ehlinger and wide receivers Collin Johnson and Devin Devernay.
Smith ranked 26th nationally in 2018 with 3,160 passing yards. However, he threw just 15 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. Ehlinger had only 132 more passing yards than Smith despite playing an extra game. However, he had 25 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
Hardy was Tech’s leading receiver last season, recording 1,145 receiving yards and six touchdowns. However, he is the only receiver of the top four returning in 2019. Someone else will need to step up. While Texas loses its top receiver, Johnson was just shy of the century mark with 985 receiving yards. Devernay had 546.
Dancy was the leading rusher for the Bulldogs with 667 yards and nine touchdowns. Tucker was second with 377 yards and three scores. Despite losing Kam McKnight, the Bulldogs should have solid depth at running back.
Texas loses its top rusher in Tre Watson, but Keaontay Ingram was less than 100 yards behind him with 708 rushing yards last year. UT’s issue at running back will be depth, as Daniel Young and Kirk Johnson will miss the game.
Defensively, both have to replace several starters, including both entire defensive lines. Both teams should be experienced in the secondary, however.
For Tech, stud cornerback Amik Robertson returns, while his fellow corner L’Jarius Sneed will move to safety alongside freshman Bee Jay Williamson.
Tech’s top two tacklers also return. Inside linebacker Collin Scott recorded 87 tackles in 2018. James Jackson, who will move from safety to outside linebacker, had 74.
Four of Texas’ top six tacklers are gone. Other than safeties Brandon Jones and Caden Sterns, the only returning starter is linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch, who has just six career starts.
It seems like Louisiana Tech may have a slight edge on the defensive side of the ball, while the offense favors Texas. The gap in the offenses could be the deciding factor.
Texas might try to keep the game plan simple with LSU coming up next week, but that doesn’t mean the Horns won’t be dangerous. As good as Robertson and the Tech secondary have been, they’ll be challenged by Ehlinger and his receivers. In addition, Ehlinger was the third leading rusher for Texas in 2018, so Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco’s new defense will have to figure out how to contain him.
Tech, meanwhile, can’t be one dimensional on offense. Hardy is good, but what will the Bulldogs do if Texas double teams him? They need one or two other receivers to step up, and they need to get the run game going. Most importantly, they must protect the ball.
Many times in the past, Tech has found itself facing a large deficit early. On many such occasions, the Dawgs have been able to claw their way back in the game. But each of those times it was too late to make the comeback. The key for Tech is to keep the game close from the beginning. If Texas gets out to a big early lead, expect the Horns to lean on their run game to chew up clock.
Just as important, Tech will need to finish drives. Field goals aren’t going to cut it in Austin.
Even with Texas probably playing vanilla so they don’t give away too much ahead of LSU, the odds are against the Bulldogs. The defense will have to slow down a quality offense, and Smith will need to play one of his best games thus far.
But even if Tech probably won’t win, it could still be an entertaining game. Tech has been able to keep it respectable against most Power 5 teams in recent years. Texas, meanwhile, Has lost to Maryland in its last two season openers, and only managed a 28-21 win over a 3-9 Tulsa team just last year.
So, you never know.