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Cougars Close Regular Season At Tech

Houston Cougars (5-6, 4-4 Conference USA) at Texas Tech Red Raiders (6-5, 3-5 Big XII)

Kickoff: 7:00 PM, 11/27/10

TV: Fox Sports Net

The Line: Texas Tech by 9

It's not the marquee match-up many had in mind when they saw "Houston at Texas Tech" on the schedule. But there's plenty on the line this weekend in Lubbock.

For the Cougars, this game is the difference between post-season football and the season ending on four straight losses. While the season hasn't lived up to the expectations many (yours truly included) had, a victory would mean the Cougars can continue to practice, and get one more chance to get some young players, including quarterback David Piland, some game action.

For the Red Raiders, this is a chance to avenge last year's loss, which blurred the line between the traditional powers in the state of Texas, and the up-and-coming Cougars. Tech will be hoping to pile it on on Saturday, to make it clear that last year's 29-28 UH victory was a fluke.

Here's how we see it:

Texas Tech offense vs Houston defense

The transition from head coach/mad scientist Mike Leach to Tommy Tuberville has had its ups and down, especially on offense. The Red Raiders' scoring average is at its lowest point since Leach's first season at the helm in 2000, and they have failed to reach 30 points against their last five 1-A opponents.

Taylor Potts has seen his yards-per-completion drop by two-thirds of a yard from last year, but does have more touchdowns against fewer interceptions. The running back duo of Eric Stephens and Baron Batch has seen its per-carry yardage drop a hair, as well, with an inexperienced line in front of it.

On the other side, nothing seems to be going right for the Cougar defense. Three straight opposing quarterbacks have run for 100+ yards against Houston, but until last week, there was the silver lining that the other facets of the defense were playing reasonably well. However, against Southern Miss, nothing went right. In addition to QB Austin Davis' rush performance, Kendrick Hardy ran for over 200 yards, and Davis also gained nearly 300 yards in the air.

The good news is that Potts has run for positive yardage in just four games this year. The bad news is that the Red Raiders have myriad other talented offensive players for Houston to worry about. On the road, against a Big XII opponent, the much-maligned defense gets a trial by fire to end its season.

Houston offense vs Texas Tech defense

True freshman quarterback David Piland's season has been a difficult story to tell. Piland has put up numbers that blow out of the water the numbers Case Keenum put up as a freshman with a redshirt season to prepare in 2007. He has thrown for 3+ touchdowns in four straight games, and set a building record with 467 passing yards at Roberts Stadium last weekend.

However, his record as a starting quarterback sits at 2-5. It's easy to lay too much blame on an individual when that individual is the starting quarterback, but he does have to shoulder some of the responsibility, and some of the Cougar faithful would like to see the more highly-touted recruit Terrance Broadway get a chance to show what he can do.

The come-and-go running game will have to show up on Saturday for Houston to have a chance. Michael Hayes and Bryce Beall combined for just 38 yards on Saturday, after averaging 133 rush yards per game through the first ten games.

The Bottom Line

This feels like one of those motivation games, where whoever comes out and "wants it" more will come away with it. I could see Tech running away with this one, I could see the Cougars winning by a couple scores, and I could see it coming down to the wire. I do see the Cougars scoring comfortably, if not blowing Tech out of the water. But will the Houston defense, finally (hopefully) not having to worry about a scrambling quarterback, do enough to pull out the win? I can't end the season on a pessimistic note, so I'll say yes.

Houston 38

Texas Tech 34

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.