Texas Tech Football: Their Easiest and Toughest Games This Season
Unless you've been living under a rock the past few months or you're just not a big follower of Texas Tech sports, then it's no secret that a new era is beginning in Lubbock, Texas.
After the controversial firing of former head coach Mike Leach, it is now the job of Tommy Tuberville to build on the successes of Coach Leach and lead the Red Raiders to the proverbial promised land.
The shoes of Leach, who won 84 games and took Texas Tech to 10 straight bowl games during his tenure as head coach, will be large ones to fill.
Many feel Tuberville, who won 85 games and an SEC championship while coaching at Auburn, is up to the task.
He'll have much to accomplish if he is to begin his tenure on a successful note. Besides deciding a winner in the ongoing quarterback battle between Steven Sheffield and Taylor Potts, he'll have to unite a fanbase torn after the departure of Leach.
With returning talent like running back Baron Batch, receivers Alex Torres and Detron Lewis, defensive lineman Colby Whitlock, and linebackers Brian Duncan and Bront Bird, as well as Potts and Sheffield, the transition may be more seamless than some might think. The idea of a quality 2010 season coming from this year's Red Raider squad is far from far fetched.
The new era begins on a Sunday afternoon against the SMU Mustangs. It will end with a late November game against Houston.
From the games that should be nothing more than tune-ups to the toughest tests of the year, here is a little preview of every game this season, ranked from easiest to toughest.
12. Weber State (Saturday, November 20th)
Texas Tech's schedule has an odd quality to it: the conference schedule is book-ended by two non-conference games.
The first game after Tech's final conference bout is somewhat of a cool-down game against FCS school Weber State.
Weber State went 7-5 last year before getting knocked out of the FCS playoffs in the first round by William & Mary.
While this game will be played at a time of the year when injuries could be a factor, Texas Tech is far too deep and talented for this to be much of a game.
This one could, and truthfully speaking should be over before halftime.
Texas Tech and Weber State have never played each other.
(Photo credit: www.weberstatesports.com)
11. At New Mexico (Saturday, September 11th)
Texas Tech's second game and first test on the road is a very forgiving one.
New Mexico went 1-11 last year, while their defense gave up 418.7 yards per game, ranking them 99th in the nation.
And they'll have to replace quarterback Donovan Porterie.
The Lobos run a multi-look offense that can give teams trouble—they kept it interesting last season against the Red Raiders until Sheffield took the game over in the second half—but don’t expect the home field advantage in Albuquerque to be enough to pull them to a win.
If Texas Tech loses this game, get your panic button out.
All-time: Texas Tech leads series 34-6 (two ties)
Last twenty years: Texas Tech leads series 8-1
Last ten years: Texas Tech leads series 5-1
Last matchup: Texas Tech 48, New Mexico 28 (2009, in Lubbock)
10. SMU (Sunday, September 5th)
SMU head coach June Jones is doing what he did at Hawaii, setting a previously irrelevant team on the path to success.
After a turbulent first season under Jones, the Mustangs rebounded to finish second in Conference USA. They then destroyed Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
With quarterback Kyle Padron returning to Jones' run-and-gun style offense, SMU could be in for a breakout season of sorts.
That alone makes this game a bit dangerous. Throw in the fact that it's the season opener, against a national television audience, and it could have "trap game" written all over it.
Texas Tech is still by far the more talented team here, and if they've acclimated themselves to Coach Tuberville's philosophies and schemes over the offseason, then they shouldn't have much of a problem winning this one.
If the Red Raiders struggle, especially at the quarterback position, then an upset isn't out of the question.
And if the quarterback struggles, "upset" might circulate through the bleachers as well.
All-time: Texas Tech leads series 31-16
Last twenty years: Texas Tech leads series 12-0
Last ten years: Texas Tech leads series 6-0
Last matchup: Texas Tech 43, SMU 7 (2008, in Dallas)
(Photo credit: smumustangs.com)
9. At Iowa State (Saturday, October 2nd)
Another team with a relatively new coach, Iowa State's first year under Paul Rhodes ended with a 7-6 record and a victory over Minnesota in the Insight.com Bowl.
A major highlight of the year was a 9-7 victory in Lincoln against Big XII North champion Nebraska.
With many starters returning, the Cyclones will be expected to make a repeat bowl performance, despite having a tougher schedule than last season.
The last time Texas Tech lost to Iowa State was a 2002 game in Ames.
This will be Tech's fourth game of the year, preceded by a bye week.
By this time, both teams should know what they're made of; Texas Tech will have played Texas, and Iowa State will have already played Big Ten contenders Iowa and Kansas State.
The battle to watch will be in the trenches, between the Cyclone offensive line and the Red Raider defensive front seven.
Last season, the Cyclones gave up only 16 sacks all year, while the Red Raider defense sacked the quarterback 41 times. The Cyclones return four starters to their offensive line, while the Raiders only return three starters to their front seven.
If Texas Tech can mirror their defensive performance from last year, they should be able to disrupt Iowa State's spread attack. If not, then this game could be much closer than these two schools' last few meetings.
Iowa State had the 97th ranked defense in the nation last year in yards allowed, which means Tech should be able to move the ball, regardless of who is running the offense.
All-time: Texas Tech leads series 7-1
Last twenty years: Texas Tech leads series 5-1
Last ten years: Texas Tech leads series 3-1
Last match-up: Texas Tech 42, Iowa State 17 (2007, in Lubbock)
8. Oklahoma State (Saturday, October 16)
After a couple of years on the national stage, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are in rebuild mode in 2010. Only 10 players who have starting experience are returning from a team that went 9-4 and earned a Cotton Bowl bid.
Without a quarterback like Zac Robinson, and with four players lost on the offensive line, it will be a tall order to improve an offense that was somewhat average last season.
Oklahoma State hired Houston offensive coordinator of two years Dana Holgerson. Holgerson, before running the high powered spread attack at Houston, was an assistant under Mike Leach at Texas Tech.
With all the fresh faces on the field, this may be the best possible time to institute a new system.
The Cowboy defense has just as much unproven talent as the offense, and could be subject to a beating if the Texas Tech offense is firing on all cylinders.
At the end of the day, home field advantage could be the deciding factor here. The home team hasn't lost a game in this series since 2001, when the Red Raiders won in Stillwater 49-30.
All-time: Texas Tech leads series 21-13
Last twenty years: Texas Tech leads series 9-5
Last ten years: Texas Tech leads series 6-4
Last matchup: Oklahoma State 24, Texas Tech 17 (2009, in Stillwater)
7. Baylor (at the Cotton Bowl; Saturday, October 9th)
With the return of Robert Griffin III, the Baylor Bears go from Big XII South cellar dweller to potential bowl contender. That's the kind of impact Griffin has.
Arguably the most important player to any team in the country, the Bears will live or die based on the performance of their quarterback.
If he can play to the caliber he did before tearing his ACL in the third game of last season, then six wins—the minimum required to earn a bowl bid—are not out of the question.
Even without Griffin, the Bears gave the Red Raiders all they could handle last season in a packed Cowboy Stadium. Texas Tech had to score 17 straight points to end the second half to pull out the victory.
That makes it two years in a row that Tech needed a late comeback to beat Baylor. If the Red Raiders find themselves down late in the game once again, the third time could be the charm for the Bears.
Baylor recorded only 18 sacks last season, so Potts/Sheffield should have plenty of time to make decisions in the pocket. Exploiting the Bears' average defense will be key to the Red Raiders' success.
Baylor hasn’t beaten Texas Tech since 1995.
All-time: Texas Tech leads series 34-32 (two ties)
Last twenty years: Texas Tech leads series 17-3
Last ten years: Texas Tech leads series 10-0
Last matchup: Texas Tech 20, Baylor 13 (2009, in Cowboy Stadium)
6. At Colorado (Saturday, October 23rd)
With16 players returning from last season's 3-9 team and no definite resolution to the quarterback controversy between Tyler Hansen and Cody Hawkins, there isn't much room for optimism about the Buffaloes' chances this season.
Yet for some unknown reason, Colorado has for the most part owned Texas Tech these past few years.
In 2006, Coach Dan Hawkins' first year, he led the Buffaloes to a 30-6 win over the Red Raiders in Boulder. Colorado won only one other game that season.
In 2007, Texas Tech was one of Colorado's six victims, despite hosting the game.
Call it a curse or whatever you want, Tech fans are hoping that the reason for what caused the team's inability to score a victory against their rivals from the Rockies left with Mike Leach.
This may be one of the Red Raiders' final opportunities to beat them: With Colorado bolting for the Pac-10 after this season, Texas Tech may not face them for quite some time.
It's doubtful many fans object to that notion.
Colorado had an average defense last season, ranking 47th in the nation and 5th in the conference in total yards allowed. The offense ranked 101st in yards gained.
All-time: Colorado leads series 5-4
Last twenty years: Colorado leads series 4-2
Last ten years: Colorado leads series 3-1
Last matchup: Colorado 31, Texas Tech 26 (2007, in Lubbock)
5. Houston (Saturday, November 27th)
To cap off the regular season, Texas Tech will spend Thanksgiving weekend with one of the most potent offenses in the country: quarterback Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars.
Despite losing their offensive coordinator, the Cougars shouldn't lose a step with returning players like Keenum and receivers James Cleveland, Tyron Carter, and Patrick Edwards.
While this certainly won't be the first major test of Coach Tuberville's new defense, it just might be the most demanding. Keenum has led the nation the last two years in total offensive production from any single player.
There is good news to all this. Not only is Texas Tech at home for this rematch of last year's last minute thriller, but Houston's defense is as leaky as its offense is potent.
The Cougars ranked 116th in the nation last season in total defense, giving up an average of 465 yards a game.
If Texas Tech's offense proves to be as able to move the ball this season with new offensive coordinator Neal Brown calling the shots as it has had been the past decade under Mike Leach, then this game could end up being a horse race.
First to 40 wins.
All-time: Houston leads series 18-10 (one tie)
Last twenty years: Texas Tech leads series 5-2
Last ten years: Houston leads series 1-0
Last matchup: Houston 29, Texas Tech 28 (2009, in Houston)
4. Missouri (Saturday, November 6th)
While not the most talented team on Texas Tech's schedule, Missouri is another school that seems to have the Red Raiders' number.
Missouri has won the past three games against Tech by an average margin of 26 points.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert and running back Derrick Washington are returning to the fold this year, which means that the offense that averaged 403 yards per game last season shouldn't miss a beat during this one.
For this game, the performance bar for Tommy Tuberville's new 3-4 scheme should be set at around 38 points. Missouri has scored that many in every game against Tech this decade.
If they can hold Missouri under that, then we know something's working, if only a little bit.
If not, then home field advantage and all the offense in the world may not be enough to save them.
Missouri had only an average defense last season, ranking 52nd in the nation in yards allowed.
All-time: Missouri leads series 5-2
Last twenty years: Missouri leads series 5-2
Last ten years: Missouri leads series 3-1
Last matchup: Missouri 41, Texas Tech 10 (2007, in Columbia)
3. No. 4 Texas (Saturday, September 18th)
In the third game and third week of the season, Texas Tech will receive the biggest test it will face all year within the friendly confines of Jones Stadium.
The preseason Big XII favorites, the Texas Longhorns, are coming to town.
As with many members of the Big XII South, the Longhorns have many question marks around them as well.
How will Garrett Gilbert fare in his attempt to fill the large shoes of Colt McCoy? Who will fill several gaping holes on defense? How will the offensive line perform with only two starters from last season returning?
And will Mack Brown's return to a more pro-style offense be successful?
Luckily for Texas Tech, three weeks may not be enough time to answer these questions.
With Taylor Potts at the helm in front of a record crowd in Austin, the Red Raiders performed admirably before conceding a ten point victory.
This time, Tech will have the crowd behind them.
The Red Raiders have formed a bad habit the last couple of home games against the Longhorns: getting an early, big lead, and then letting it get away in the fourth quarter.
Of course in 2008, then quarterback Graham Harrell led a miracle drive that ended one of the most memorable games in Texas Tech history.
In 2006, the Red Raiders weren't so lucky, losing 35-31. If Tech gets an early lead, they should aim to keep it. Hopefully, Tuberville proves that to be a coaching problem from the past few years.
While it doesn't quite carry implications of that fateful game two years ago, this matchup will go a long way towards setting the tone for 2010 for both teams.
For Texas Tech, beating the No. 4 team in the nation would be the perfect way to begin conference play.
It would also go along way towards converting members of "Team Leach" over to "Team Tuberville."
All-time: Texas leads series 44-15
Last twenty years: Texas leads series 14-6
Last ten years: Texas leads series 8-2
Last matchup: Texas 34, Texas Tech 24 (2009, in Austin)
2. At Texas A&M (Saturday, October 30th)
An extremely talented quarterback, a potent offense, very little defense to speak of...might sound a lot like a Houston clone.
The thing is, Houston doesn't have a three tiered, 83,000 seat football stadium filled with crazy fans who swing towels and yell things like "Chigaroogarem" until your ears bleed.
Oh, and if you haven't heard, Jerrod Johnson is an absolute beast.
The Texas A&M Aggies sported the fifth ranked offense in the nation last year. They also had the 101st ranked defense in the nation.
If Texas A&M has made any sort of improvements on the defensive side of the ball, then they become legitimate contenders for the Big XII South title.
If not, then they could just as easily end up with another 6-6 regular season record.
While the Red Raiders have won their last two trips to Kyle Field, they were absolutely embarrassed on their home field last season by the Aggies.
Johnson gained 309 total yards and two touchdowns, while running back Cyrus Gray gashed the Red Raider defense for 131 more yards and three touchdowns.
If Tech can't handle the run, or at the very least Johnson, then this could be a long, painful day in Aggieland.
Then again, if Tech's offense comes out firing, then it could be another horse race.
What do you say, first to fifty wins?
All-time: Texas A&M leads series 35-32 (one tie)
Last twenty years: Texas Tech leads series 11-9
Last ten years: Texas Tech leads series 7-3
Last matchup: Texas A&M 52, Texas Tech 30 (2009, in Lubbock)
1. At No. 8 Oklahoma (Saturday, November 13th)
The Oklahoma Sooners haven't lost a home game since the season opener against TCU in 2005.
The Red Raiders haven't won a game in Norman since 1996.
That's all the justification needed for this to be the number one toughest game on the schedule this year.
Throw in the facts that Oklahoma has done a great deal of healing after a season plagued by injuries and that Texas Tech's last trip to Norman resulted in a 65-21 "stomping," and it just got even harder.
Quarterback Landry Jones showed marked improvement towards the end of his freshman season, and with the exception of slip-ups against Nebraska and Texas tech, he played exceptionally the second half of the year.
With running back DeMarco Murray and receiver Ryan Broyles also returning, the Sooner offense might be as potent as ever.
If the injury bug hasn't bitten the Sooners by then—It will be both Texas Tech and Oklahoma’s 10th game of the season—then they should be back in the championship form they’re used to being in.
Last season, Texas Tech gained 549 yards in a dominating 28 point win against Oklahoma. The defense from that Sooner team lost some integral pieces at the end of the year, but it was also without other pieces at the time because of injuries.
This will be the toughest game for the Red Raiders to pull out, especially since the Sooners will want vengeance for the beat down Texas Tech put on them last year in Lubbock.
That of course was vengeance for the beat down Oklahoma had put on Texas Tech in Norman the year prior to that.
It’s being labeled by some as “Jump Around III.”
Guess we better jump up, jump up and get down, then.
All-time: Oklahoma leads series 12-5
Last twenty years: Oklahoma leads series 12-5
Last ten years: Oklahoma leads series 7-3
Last matchup: Texas Tech 41, Oklahoma 13 (2009, in Lubbock)