Don’t look now College Football fans, but we’re just about half way through the season. As sad as that is, this is where things either start to get really fun, or really miserable. For Tech fans, its unfortunately been the latter for the better part of Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure as Head Coach. In the final 5 games (6 for Bowl seasons) of each of Kliff’s 5 seasons as HC, Tech has a woeful record of 6 wins and 21 losses. That hurts me to type. Literally makes my fingers ache as I think about some of the losses this team has suffered over the years. Like each of the final 5 regular season games in 2013, after a 7-0 start and a top 10 ranking… We quickly realized that the backloaded schedule was the main cause of that 7-0 start, but that didn’t make it any less frustrating. I could bring up some of the late season losses in 2014, but that entire season was a dumpster fire. There was the 2015 blowout loss to Oklahoma, followed by a wild 70 to 53 loss to Oklahoma State (a game I was in attendance for). 2016 was an especially strange way to fall flat on our faces. After missing the game tying extra point, Tech lost 44-45 to the top 15 ranked Oklahoma State. Tech played really well in that game, despite the heartbreaking fashion in which they lost, it was reason for hope. Then they followed that performance up with what I believe is the most disappointing game in Kliff Kingsbury’s tenure, a 66-10 loss to Iowa State… Where else but in freaking Ames, Iowa! A place that, honestly, nobody cares about… But is somehow a nearly impossible place to win. Which brings us to Texas Tech’s Week 9 matchup.
Texas Tech comes in at 5-2, their best record since 2015. In 2015 they finished the regular season 2-3 and lost to LSU in the Texas Bowl, finishing with an overall record of 7-6. Simply put, that’s not good enough this year. Tech absolutely must finish this season the way they have started it, and that all starts with this game in Ames. The Cyclones are just 3-3 overall (2-2 in the Big12), but they have loads of momentum coming off of their 30-14 win over West Virginia. After a tough start to the season (1-3), ISU has won two straight in impressive fashion. Beating Oklahoma State 48-42 before the upset over West Virginia. This 2-week turnaround for the Cyclones offense came with the insertion of QB Brock Purdy. He, along with RB David Montgomery, have stabilized this offense and made them a legitimate threat to defenses in the Big12. On top of this new offensive development, Matt Campbell is one of the best coaches in the Big12, and their defense is always stout. In the two times Kingsbury has matched up with Matt Campbell, Campbell has coached circles around Kliff. Make no mistake, this Texas Tech team is not treating Iowa State as a 3-3 football team. And this coaching staff sure as heck will not be taking this game lightly. So far this season, Kliff has gotten over the Oklahoma State hurdle, he and the team proved that they can come from behind and show some fight in their close loss to West Virginia, and now it’s time for Kliff to exercise some demons against Campbell and the Cyclones. So lets dive into the matchup.
Tech’s offense Vs ISU’s Defense
The Cyclone’s defense is stout. They rank 2nd in scoring defense, 1st in rushing defense, 2nd in passing defense, and 1st in total defense. I feel comfortable saying that this is one of the 3 best defenses in the Big12 (TCU & UT being the others). The thing about this group is that no one player, or position group stands out above the other. They’re just solid at every level. They’re incredibly well coached. Having said that, they DID allow 42 points to an average Oklahoma State offense, so Tech can have some success if they execute the game plan well. This should be much easier with a healthy Alan Bowman back at the wheel running this high powered offense. Had he still been out, I would not feel great about this offenses chances to have success this Saturday. But after seeing Bowman back in action against Kansas (yes, I know its Kansas), I’m confident that Tech can score points against Iowa State. The offensive line has been solid all year long, even with some injuries, they haven’t really missed a beat. The RB spot looks to be a two man group right now with Tre King and TaZhawn Henry getting the vast majority of the carries. I wouldn’t expect huge numbers on the ground, but I do think they’ll be able to trust the run game. While that would have been the case even without Bowman, getting him back adds that world famous air attack that was missing with Duffey under center. Bowman has been able to establish every WR position each time he’s taken the field. Expect a heavy dose of Antoine Wesley, with that stout secondary of ISU’s, Bowman will lean heavily on his top target. If you’re looking for a barometer for Tech’s success during this game, look at the amount of WR’s Bowman can get involved in the offense. If he can consistently find Seth Collins and JaDion High in the slots, as well as TJ Vasher opposite of Wesley, that will equal success for this offense.
Tech’s Defense Vs ISU’s Offense
In fitting with the rest of this Texas Tech season, this is the side of the ball that I think Tech has the advantage. Yes, Purdy has been really good in his two games as the Cyclones starting QB. But I feel like we may be overreacting a bit to two good games by the kid. I got in a brief twitter exchange with the Barstool Big12 account about Purdy Vs Bowman… The person running this account seemed like he or she may have been a ISU student, or alum, or maybe just a fan, I don’t know. But they seemed to be confident that Purdy was the better player… After two games?? Nah, I don’t buy it yet. And if ISU is a top 3 defense, Tech is no lower than 5th. They rank 3rd in pass defense and 4th in pass defense efficiency. But what I think is the most important defensive statistic, Tech is 1st in the Big12 in 3rd down defense. In a conference that has high powered offenses everywhere you turn, the most important job of the defense is to get off of the field, and so far, no body has been better than Texas Tech at this so far in 2018. When you look at the schedules, I think Tech’s defense is just as proven as ISU’s. The key to success will be limiting Montgomery and getting off of the field on 3rd downs.
I started this blog taking about how much I hate Ames, because it really is a tough place to play, especially for Texas Tech the past few years. So by no means do I think this will be an easy game for Texas Tech. But all year I have said that this is a different Tech team. They’ll be ready for this matchup, and they’ll be thinking of the past two losses to ISU every step of the way. I think this one stays fairly low scoring, and Tech’s defense makes enough stops to get a huge road W.