Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

September 12, 2018 at 9:19 am.

Red Raiders end nonconference slate against Houston

It’s only the second week of September, but Texas Tech has reached would could be a critical juncture of its season.

The Red Raiders finish up an ambitious nonconference schedule when they host Houston on Saturday. They need a victory to post a winning record in nonconference play and the Cougars enter on the strength of a 45-18 thrashing of Arizona.

Texas Tech opened with a rough 47-27 loss to Ole Miss, then bounced back by throttling Lamar, 77-0. Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury sees the schedule as being well designed to prep the team for Big 12 action.

“It’s the natural progression,” Kingsbury said. “You want to continue to build, continually play better and then be at your best when you reach conference. So hopefully we respond this week and play our best game yet and build some confidence going into our first conference game.”

Kingsbury, following the lead of one of his mentors in Kevin Sumlin, is cagey about injuries. He said McLane Carter, who began the season starting at quarterback before he sprained an ankle in the first quarter against Ole Miss, could be available this week or next week. Similarly, the Red Raiders’ top running back, sophomore Da’Leon Ward, sat out against Lamar, but has a chance to play against Houston. And left tackle Travis Bruffy missed the Lamar game due to a lower leg injury and there wasn’t any definitive statement from Kingsbury about his availability this week.

So it’s hard to tell what the matchup will be in the Houston-Texas Tech clash.

The Cougars will bring one of the best players in college football in defensive end Ed Oliver. But will Oliver be facing backup left tackle Dawson Deaton and freshman quarterback Alan Bowman? Or will it be Bruffy and Carter?

Either way, Kingsbury knows the challenge his team is facing.

“I don’t think you can simulate what (Oliver) brings,” Kingsbury said. “His motor is unlike any player I’ve ever seen. The way he plays, that hard every snap, every play, chasing the football, relentless. You’ve got to give him a lot of credit. It’s impressive to watch.”

Houston seemed to find its rhythm on offense under first-year offensive coordinator Kendal Briles versus Arizona. Kingsbury seems to think Houston, though it’s a Group of 5 program, has Power 5 talent.

“They’re flashing all over the screen against a Power 5 team and so lots of depth, lots of really good players on that football team,” Kingsbury said.