Texas Tech football: Red Raiders face brutal 5-game stretch

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 07: Running back Ta'Zhawn Henry #26 and head coach Matt Wells of Texas Tech stand in the tunnel before the college football game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the UTEP Miners at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 07: Running back Ta'Zhawn Henry #26 and head coach Matt Wells of Texas Tech stand in the tunnel before the college football game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the UTEP Miners at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

Starting with this weekend’s trip to Arizona, the Texas Tech football team faces a brutal 5-game stretch that could define the season.

Though we are technically two games into the 2019 Texas Tech football campaign, the real season begins this week when the Red Raiders finally face a team that is capable of beating them.  Saturday night’s game in Tempe is the first of a five-game stretch that will go quite a long way towards defining Matt Wells’ first campaign in Lubbock.

After heading to Arizona, Tech has a week off before opening Big 12 play in the most difficult way possible, by taking a trip to Norman, Oklahoma to face the Sooners.  The Red Raiders then will return to Lubbock for the first home game in nearly a month when Oklahoma State comes to town.

Then, Wells takes his team back on the road for a meeting with Baylor in Waco.  The next week brings Iowa State to Lubbock to end the five-game baptism by fire that comprises the first half of the 2019 schedule and will finally show us what a Matt Wells team looks like in earnest.

During that time, Tech likely enters a game as a favorite only once, this weekend when they are a two-point road favorite.  Of course, at OU, Tech will be a huge underdog and at this point, the best the Red Raiders are likely to enter the other three games as is a pick-em.  That could change but the point remains the same, this batch of games is daunting.

Before the last week of October when the Raiders head to Lawrence, we will see Tech take on four of the top six schools in the Big 12 preseason poll meaning that all four were picked to finish ahead of Wells’ club.  What’s more, this stretch comes against teams that have had their way with the Red Raiders in recent years.

In the last decade, Tech has gone a combined 11-28 against the four Big 12 teams it opens conference play with.  That includes a seven-game losing streak to Oklahoma, a three-game losing streak to Iowa State, and a 9-game losing streak against Oklahoma State that ended just last season.  And against each of these Big 12 teams, the Red Raiders have a losing record since 2009.

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Next, take a moment to consider the five quarterbacks Keith Patterson’s defense will be faced with shutting down.   We’ve already spent some time this week discussing Arizona’s Khalil Tate who is one of the nation’s best dual-threat QBs.

OU will be led by Alabama grad transfer Jalen Hurts.  He led the Crimson Tide to the 2017 National Title (though he was benched at halftime of the championship game) as well as the 2016 title game.  In his first two games at OU, all he’s done is pass for 591 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 223 more yards and three more scores.

OSU is starting redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders, a former 4-star recruit who is a 73% passer so far and who’s put up six touchdowns and no interceptions while amassing a passer rating of 211.6 in his first two career starts.  The former 4-star signee is also a threat with his feet as he’s gained 160 yards on the ground.

Down in Waco, junior Charlie Brewer is one of the more highly-regarded Big 12 QBs this year.  Though I do not hold him in nearly as high of esteem as most seem to given his below-average arm strength, I can’t deny the fact that he’s a fierce competitor who is completing over 70% of his passes this year after throwing for over 3,000 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2018.

Finally, Tech will end this stretch by taking on one of the few sophomore QBs in the nation who could make a case for having had a better freshman season than Alan Bowman had last fall.  Also a danger with his legs, Purdy amassed 2,825 total yards and 23 total touchdowns a year ago.

Entering this year, we knew that Bowman would be the Red Raiders’ best asset and that on any given Saturday, his presence would mean that Tech will be at worst on even footing with its opponent at the game’s most critical position.  But you could also argue that during the upcoming five-game stretch, Tech will not a have massive advantage at that position as it will quite often towards the back end of the schedule. Thus, the rest of the team will be tasked with elevating their play to make up the difference.

Right now, most Tech fans would probably settle for a 2-3 record in between now and the Kansas game.  That would put the Red Raiders at 4-3 and needing only two wins in the final five games of the year to reach bowl eligibility.

Though we all want to see a win over Arizona tonight, if Tech only comes out of this stretch with two wins, it would be preferential if both came in Big 12 play.  It would also be huge if at least one came at home where Tech has not beaten a conference team other than Kansas since 2015.

Following this gauntlet, Tech will face Kansas and West Virginia, two teams picked to finish below them this year, in back to back road games.  Given the way both the Jayhawks and Mountaineers have looked this season, those are two games the Red Raiders should expect to win.

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Then a three-game stretch to close the season that brings TCU and Kanas State to Lubbock before a trip to Austin sets the Red Raiders up with an opportunity to end the season with some momentum.  But before we can think about the prospect of the Red Raiders finally having a winning November, we must first see how well this team can navigate the most difficult stretch of this season, which begins this week in Tempe.