Posted: 09/02/2021 12:37 AM MDT
Updated: 09/02/2021 / 12:37 AM MDT
Two old conference opponents, who could eventually become league opponents again, will start the new season on Saturday on the national stage with many storylines in tow.
Houston and Texas Tech clash at Houston’s NRG Stadium, a high-profile game between two programs that have gone off the radar a bit in the past few seasons.
Both teams are led by third-year coaches who are likely to need some advancement on their teams this fall: Dana Holgorsen of the Cougars and Matt Wells of the Red Raiders.
The two old opponents of the Southwest Conference are part of a group of teams that are somewhat in limbo after the bombshell news that Texas and Oklahoma are leaving the Big 12 Conference for the SEC.
Whether Houston and Texas Tech get back together remains to be seen, but this season only revives their streak for the fifth time since the SWC ended after the 1995 season.
Holgorsen said his team was already prepared for a new season, especially after a 2020 campaign riddled with COVID-19. Add some other elements – including a handful of Cougars who have moved from Texas Tech and some connections between coaching staff – and there are many intrigues.
“You throw a Texas school in there, a Big 12 school in there and expect them to be excited,” said Holgorsen, who led Houston to 4-8 and 3-5 records in its first two seasons.
The Red Raiders were a little better under Wells, 4-8 in 2019, 4-6 in 2020. But this is going to be a new team in many ways with 20 transfers and a Big 12 leading 12 super seniors. those players who take advantage of the NCAA’s decision to give them another year after 2020 have been derailed by COVID.
“What makes me confident is the amount of games that are played by the guys we play with on either side of the ball, be it here at Texas Tech or other schools,” Wells said. “I would say we have an older presence. We have a team of veterans. Lots of boys have played in big games – Division I games – and that’s what I get confident about. “
Most prominent among the newcomers to Texas Tech is a seasoned quarterback.
Tyler Shough moved to Lubbock after starting all seven games for Oregon last season and passing for 1,559 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is the front runner in arguably the largest collection of passers-by the Red Raiders had since Patrick Mahomes after his junior season in 2016.
“He is everything you could ask for and the most important thing is that he fit in very well with his team-mates,” said Wells.
Shough has company in the group of newcomers. Left tackle TJ Stormt was an all-big-12 player at TCU. Receiver Kaylon Geiger is in scarlet and black after catching 141 passes and scoring eight touchdowns in Troy, and Safety Marquis “Muddy” Waters started 35 games in four seasons at Duke.
While Houston didn’t charge that much in the transfer market, the Cougars also rely on a seasoned quarterback to develop Holgorsen’s version of the Air Raid offense. Clayton Tune scored 2,048 yards and 15 points in eight games last fall.
“Clayton is a guy we can count on because he knows the offensive,” said Holgorsen.
Not an argument from Wells.
“He’s accurate, throws a good ball, throws different kinds of balls,” Wells said. “He has arm strength to throw it across the field so I think those are the things that make him good.”