In a little over a month Texas Tech will be stepping into their first conference game of the season; probably the most anticipated game of each season. With the realignment of the conference scheduling Texas Tech opens their conference play with the reviled Texas Longhorns. In previous years the Red Raider - Longhorn matchup trends towards the end of the season, where it drew attention no matter the competition’s record.
My colleague, Kyle, wrote an article last week giving a quick preview blitz of the upcoming season for the Red Raiders. In his assessment the 1-0 Tech team will have significant advantages they were without last year such as Alan Bowman at QB1 and a stronger defensive unit in general. Despite those components, however, Kyle estimated that the Red Raiders would still come up short in a 38-35 loss.
Coming off a win against Houston Baptist, the Red Raiders then are faced with their toughest game of the year in an early season bout with Texas. Texas has one 2 of the last 3 games with the Red Raiders last victory in the series coming in 2017 and the Longhorns have started to gain some more momentum in the Big 12 by remaining in the title picture. Last year, the Red Raiders ended their season with a 49-24 loss to the Longhorns but this year could be a little different. Alan Bowman and the offense could be coming off a very strong performance the previous week against Houston Baptist and barring any injury to Bowman, we could see a spark against Texas that we haven’t seen the last two years. I think the defense will struggle against a strong Longhorn passing attack but this game will be closer than the last two. - Kyle Kapper
Unsurprisingly Kyle isn’t alone in his prediction. One of the betting mediums, Sports Betting Dime, mentioned that Tech would probably have around a 22% chance to beat Texas. Many pundits and bettors are looking at the difference in returning production to solidify their low expectations for TTU: Texas ranking 21st in the nation & Tech ranking 81st. None of that to mention the 25% capacity on the Jones Stadium attendance reducing any home field advantage we’re hoping for.
However, playing the Longhorns in Lubbock might be a bigger benefit than people are acknowledging. For the past couple of years Texas has struggled significantly on the road. Last year specifically the only win they picked up on the road was against West Virginia - and that was on a four game winning streak against a Mountaineer team still figuring out their identity. Their games against TCU, Iowa State, and Baylor were all hard losses that could have been avoided; alluding to a larger issue of finishing road games that the Red Raiders are not unfamiliar to.
Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News tweeted on the latest over-under win totals for the season and Texas Tech is sitting only above Kansas ( 2 1⁄2 ) and tied with West Virginia with 4 1⁄2 wins. If Houston Baptist is the first win, we can presume Kansas and West Virginia are the second and third wins. That leaves one estranged upset during the season - per Tech’s MO anyways. The last time Texas came to town Texas Tech had a significantly weaker defense, for starters, but still was able to keep Texas from getting comfortable with beauties like this 100 yard fumble return:
The difficulty of traveling for games in 2020 during a pandemic can’t be underestimated. Increased restrictive measures and procedures will always go to the detriment of the visiting teams, and Texas being the team to travel to Lubbock this year puts the Red Raiders at a distinct advantage. If we operate on the assumption that Bowman doesn’t get hurt against Houston Baptist, that our offensive scheme will become more dynamic with added QB depth, and that our defensive units will thrive underneath the leadership of the new coaches brought in, then 2020 might be the year that Wells notches his first win against the Longhorns at home.
Luckily we’re still in the season of speculation. There’s only three weeks until Texas Tech takes the field and we all get a much better look at this year’s squad (likewise for Texas when they play UTEP). For now, though, we’ll say 2019 was a wash and 2020 could turn up all Texas Tech... I mean this is the year of chaos.