Texas Tech football: Red Raiders will beat the Cyclones if…

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(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)

Today, the Texas Tech football team faces a tough test against Iowa State but a victory could be in store if Matt Well’s team can do the following.

It is tough for Texas Tech football fans to have any real animosity towards Iowa State.  Aside from when the two schools meet face-to-face, there seem to be few reasons for Red Raiders and Cyclones to quarrel.

But raise your hand if you are tired of seeing Tech play the role of the fire hydrant while Iowa State plays the role of the German shepherd and lifts its hind leg on the Double-T in football.  What was once as close to a guaranteed Big 12 win as Red Raider fans could assume outside of Kansas has now become a game that most view as one of the more difficult on the schedule, regardless of the fact that it is being played in Lubbock.

Does it still feel odd to anyone else that Texas Tech now finds itself looking up at Iowa State in the Big 12 hierarchy?  After all, this is a series that has been historically dominated by the good guys.

These programs have met 17 times with Tech holding an 11-6 lead.  But just three years ago, Tech’s advantage over ISU was at eight games.

The series began in 1967 with a 54-0 Tech win in Lubbock.  The only other year the programs squared off prior to the inception of the Big 12 was in 1974 when the Red Raiders triumphed 24-3 in Lubbock.

Before the current 3-game ISU winning streak, the only times the Cyclones had downed the Red Raiders came in 2002 (a game that featured the infamous Senaca Wallace TD run), 2010, and 2011 (a 41-7 ISU stunner at Jones Stadium that came just a week after Tech knocked off No. 1 OU in Norman).  But my how times have changed.

Matt Campbell has worked wonders in Ames since taking over as head coach prior to the 2016 season.  He’s never known the taste of defeat when playing the Red Raiders and his teams have won their three games against Tech by an average of over 23 points per game.

It’s been the 3-3-5 cloud defense that has given the Red Raiders fits.  Tech’s averaged just 18 points per game against ISU in the last three years.  And in two of those seasons, 2016-17, the Red Raiders didn’t manage to put up over 13 points.

This ISU defensive scheme is all about leveraging space.  It drops as many as eight or even nine players into coverage and dictates to the offense where the ball has to go, which is almost always into an area of the field where the Cyclones can quickly rally to the ball.

The cloud scheme is designed to make an offense think that there are open areas of the field to lure the ball into the zones in which the linebackers and defensive backs can arrive en masse.  One of those areas is outside the hashes about 5-15 yards from the line of scrimmage, an area where Tech has always made a living with its slot receivers.   ISU has claimed that part of the field and the Red Raiders have not proven capable of adjusting accordingly.

If one wants to beat the Cyclone defense, the way to do so is by establishing an effective ground game to pull the safeties and linebackers closer to the line.  Then, the defense is susceptible to deep shots over the top, especially off of play-action.

That’s an area where Tech has not been good enough or disciplined enough to have success.  Running the ball is not something the Kliff Kingsbury offense wanted to do or excelled at, which played right into the Cyclone’s hands.

It’s not that Tech needs to average five yards per carry today.  That’s a tough ask given that ISU is allowing only three yards per rush, best in the Big 12.   Because the linebackers and safeties are so deep at the snap, it is tough for the offensive linemen to get to them at the second and third levels of the defense allowing for the defenders to easily avoid blocks and get to the ball.

But there has to be some success on the ground to prevent ISU from simply sitting back and clogging up the passing lanes.  Since David Yost was hired by Matt Wells as offensive coordinator, many Red Raider fans have looked forward to seeing how his offensive scheme will attack this defense and now we are set to finally find out.

Today, we are going to focus on the Red Raider offense because they face the far tougher test.  Iowa State has a solid offense but not one that strikes fear in anyone’s heart the way the two Oklahoma schools do.  If the Red Raiders play with the type of effort and discipline on defense that we’ve seen the past two games, they will be able to hold their own against ISU.

So let’s hone in on the marquee matchup of the day, the Tech offense and the Iowa State defense.  If this is finally going to be the day that the Red Raiders can emerge from the fog of this 3-3-5 scheme and get back on the winning side of this series, the following has to happen.

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