There once was a time when playing at Jones Stadium was one of the most dreaded experiences in the NCAA for opposing teams. Unfortunately, those days faded as Lubbock became just another college football outpost during the Texas Tech football program’s long slide from Big 12 contender to Big 12 bottom feeder.
However, this season, Jones Stadium has once again become a place where visiting teams find life rather difficult to manage. That’s been a key to this year’s success in head coach Joey McGuire’s first go-round on the job.
So far, Tech is 4-0 at the Jones. That includes wins over three FBS teams that were .500 or better at the time they came to town. What’s more, both Houston and Texas were ranked when they climbed up the Caprock to take on the Red Raiders.
While that home record is nothing to throw a parade over just yet, it is a sign that the program may be headed in the right direction.
For instance, Tech has already surpassed last season’s home win total of three. What’s more, only once in the previous six seasons has Tech managed to win as many as four games at home and that season was 2020, the pandemic-shortened year in which Tech failed to beat a ranked team (at home or on the road).
Tech could obviously get to five wins if McGuire’s squad can take down Baylor this Saturday night. The last time that the Red Raiders mustered that many home wins was in 2009 when Tech managed to claim six games on their home turf. But the rub there is that three of those wins came against North Dakota, Rice, and New Mexico. What’s more, in that season, Tech did not play a ranked team in Lubbock.
The point is that this year’s squad has already done more at home than just about any other version of the Red Raiders have in recent memory. That’s because, of course, recent memory has been something to forget.
In fact, there was a stretch from November 2015 to October 2019 that Tech went without a Big 12 home win over a program other than Kansas. Of course, Tech has already managed to accomplish that feat twice this year.
Entering this season, it was obvious that what happened in home games would be key to this season’s success. With seven contests to be played at Jones Stadium, Tech is in a unique position where this year could be a success even if the program doesn’t win a single game away from the 806 (which hasn’t happened yet).
However, in order to accomplish that, Tech would have to win six or seven games at home. That’s nothing to take for granted considering that this program has won six regular-season games just once in the past four years.
This year just feels different though. Having already taken down Murray State, Houston, Texas, and West Virginia in Lubbock, Tech now has a shot at going unbeaten at home.
All three of the remaining home games appear winnable. This weekend, Tech will be a slight favorite to beat a Baylor team that has looked suspect the last two weeks, a stretch that includes a 43-40 loss to the same West Virginia team that Tech just beat 48-10. The ESPN.com Matchup Predictor gives Tech just the slightest edge as it says that the Red Raiders have a 50.8% chance of coming out on top.
Two weeks from Saturday, Kansas will come to town. While this game won’t be the layup that previous visits from the Jayhawks have been, it will be one that Tech should be favored to win. Currently, Tech has a 71.7% chance of prevailing according to ESPN.com.
Then, the Red Raiders will close out the regular season at home on the Saturday after Thanksgiving by hosting a wobbling Oklahoma Sooners team. Though both teams sit at 4-3 on the year, Tech’s resume far exceeds OU’s and ESPN.com gives the Red Raiders a 60.5% chance of knocking off the Sooners for the first time since 2011.
Sure, Tech fans want to see this program win one of the two remaining road games (at TCU or at Iowa State). That’s a mile marker that McGuire has to get his team past if 2022 is going to be a major success.
Still, by taking care of business at home thus far, Tech has set itself up for a potentially strong finish to the season (also something that hasn’t been a hallmark of this program for far too long). And starting with Saturday’s massive tilt with Baylor, Tech can continue to assert its new-found home dominance. If that happens and Jones Stadium comes back to life and regains its reputation for being a place no Big 12 team wants to play, Tech will have taken a huge step toward contention while bringing back the mystique that the Jones has been missing since the 2000s.