Our game-by-game season preview of Texas Tech rolls on as they eclipse the halfway mark of the season by returning home to face Iowa State. According to my predictions, Texas Tech would enter the contest at 2-4 and in desperate need of a win if it wants to become bowl eligible.
In 2016, Iowa State stunned the Red Raiders with a 66-10 victory in Ames. Absolutely nothing went right for Texas Tech as they were dominated from start to finish rather inexplicably. That’s not to take anything away from Iowa State, but Tech entered the game fighting for bowl eligibility and Iowa State entered at 2-8. For Tech to flop to such a great extent against relatively weak competition after being competitive with good teams most of the season was baffling.
Regardless, Texas Tech will be looking to exorcise those demons in 2017. Iowa State appears to be a team on the rise under second year head coach Matt Campbell and may contend for a bowl game this season after a long stretch of futility. All the pieces may not be there yet, but based on last year’s results there’s little doubt the Cyclones are headed in the right direction.
The air of optimism surrounding Iowa State’s program is in stark contrast to the cloud of uncertainty surrounding Texas Tech’s. The Red Raiders have a coach firmly on the hot seat and some major pieces to replace on both sides of the ball. This game could be one that is looked back on as make or break for Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech.
To win, Tech must be able to stop the run, match up well with All-Big 12 wide receiver Allen Lazard, and establish balance on the offensive side of the ball. I’m relatively optimistic that each of these criterion will be met much better than they were in 2016.
The middle of Texas Tech’s front seven will include linebackers Dakota Allen and Jordyn Brooks, two standouts from 2015 and 2016, respectively, who will be playing together for the first time this fall. The duo is the best Tech has had at linebacker in quite some time.
At defensive tackle, sophomores Joe Wallace and Broderick Washington, redshirt freshman Nick McCann and senior Mychaelon Thomas will provide size and depth that has been lacking in years past. Texas Tech’s struggles to stop the run in recent years are well documented, but this group looks better on paper than some of the defensive line units that surrendered thousands of yards in the last few years.
Texas Tech has also stocked up on depth at the cornerback position. If they can find just one guy to match up with Lazard, they may be able to slow him down enough to get the job done. Transferring in from the JUCO ranks are Octavius Morgan, a projected starter, and Jaylon Lane. Douglas Coleman and Desmon Smith each showed promise as true freshmen in 2016. By mid-season in 2017, Tech should have an established corner to match up with opposing number one receivers. This role will be crucial against Iowa State.
Lastly, Tech was simply unable to run the ball in 2016. They can’t dig themselves into a hole against Iowa State and help out the Cyclones defense by becoming one dimensional. If they can establish even just an average run game to couple with their typically prolific passing game, Tech should be able to score.
I think the Red Raiders will improve enough in these three key areas to come out on top and keep their season alive.