Here are five key matchups in the Texas-Louisiana Tech game to keep your eye on Saturday night:
Texas QB Sam Ehlinger vs. Louisiana Tech QB J’Mar Smith
To some fans, this may actually be a matchup between Ehlinger and famed Bulldog Terry Bradshaw. Making Bradshaw eat his words (the Hall of Famer told Bulldog fans that Ehlinger “ain’t that good” earlier this year) won’t be simple. Louisiana Tech ranked 28th against the pass last year, and Ehlinger’s arm averaged only 220.3 yards and 1.3 touchdowns against the top-40 secondaries belonging to Tulsa, TCU and Georgia. UT’s Heisman Trophy contender did complete 72.1 percent of his throws in those three games, though. Meanwhile, Smith’s last two seasons have featured a respectable 3,160 and 2,974 passing yards.
Texas CBs vs. Louisiana Tech WR Adrian Hardy
Tom Herman said earlier this week that Hardy, a junior, can “play anywhere in the country.” And since the one-time Oklahoma signee went off for 10 catches, 181 yards and two scores against LSU last year, who is to argue with that? Texas is still figuring out who its two new starting cornerbacks will be, although sophomore Jalen Green has climbed to the top of the depth chart. Hardy (Spring Dekaney) and three of UT’s top cornerback candidates — Green (Heights), Anthony Cook (Lamar) and D’Shawn Jamison (Lamar) — all call Houston their hometown, so football fans in the Space City should keep an eye on this match-up.
EDGE: Louisiana Tech
Texas DT Keondre Coburn vs. Louisiana Tech C Kody Russey
A 6-1, 290-pound junior, Russey has made 23 starts over the past two seasons. Most of those starts were made at the center position. He’ll line up against a first-time starter in Coburn, a former four-star recruit who appeared in three games last season during a redshirt campaign. Poona Ford and Chris Nelson have given Todd Orlando a formidable presences in the middle of his defensive line the past two seasons. He’ll need a similar showing this fall from either the 340-pound Coburn or the 280-pound Moro Ojomo, who is also a redshirt freshman.
Texas OC Tim Beck vs. Louisiana Tech DC Bob Diaco
Diaco went only 11-26 as the head coach at UConn but a 20-17 win in 2015 prevented an undefeated season for Herman at Houston. Diaco, who spent last year as Oklahoma’s linebacker coach, has had similar highs and lows with the four previous defenses he has coordinated. His 2012 Notre Dame defense ranked second nationally in scoring defense (12.8 PPG) but only 14 of the 129 FBS-level schools were worse than his 2017 Nebraska defense (36.4). Since 2011, Beck’s offenses at Nebraska, Ohio State and Texas have averaged between 29.2 and 39.4 points per game.
UT’s season-opening trend vs. Louisiana Tech’s season-opening trend
From 2000-14, Texas went 15-0 with an average margin of victory of 37.6 points in its first games of the season. The Longhorns, however, are one Tyrone Swoopes touchdown run away from being 0-fer in their last four openers. There isn’t really a common theme between those Maryland slip-ups and a 38-3 loss to Notre Dame as Malik Zaire threw for 313 yards in one game, Ty Johnson ran for 132 yards in another and UT committed three fourth-quarter turnovers last year. Louisiana Tech opened three of its last four seasons with a 1-0 record, but the Bulldogs have been beaten the last four times their season began with a Power 5 opponent.