This past Saturday Joey McGuire and his team accomplished one of the biggest goals for this season: become bowl eligible. The 14-10 win over Iowa State in Ames marked the first time since 2013 that the Red Raiders have clinched bowl eligibility in back-to-back seasons. With their postseason opportunity solidified, the finale against Oklahoma now looks like a “who cares game”. Not for this team. More is on the line than just a late-season victory.
Texas Tech has not defeated the Sooners since 2011 when the team stunned their rivals 41-38 in Norman. In addition, no Tech team has beaten Texas and Oklahoma in the same season. McGuire’s first squad has a chance on Saturday night. A win would also give the Red Raiders a winning Big 12 Conference record for the first time since 2009. No one at the facility should be letting off the gas after just clinching a sixth victory.
Defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter echoed that when he was asked during Monday’s press conference about what senior night means to the players.
"“The story’s still being written even through this week. This is the first back-to-back bowl team in the last ten years or so for Texas Tech. We have an opportunity to beat Texas and OU in the same season for the first time I think ever, have a winning record in the Big 12 for the first time in a long time. All those kind of things, but I think even bigger than that is when our fans see our guys play, I hope they see a different attitude from our defense. The guys, especially our seniors, have set a standard that we are going to play hard.”"
For the past decade, the Red Raiders have been a small nail to the Sooner’s large, powerful hammer. The closest battle in recent memory came in 2016 when Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield transformed the NCAA record books. Former Oklahoma head coach, Lincoln Riley won every matchup against Tech, but now Oklahoma has quickly gone into a rebuilding phase under new man in charge Brent Venables.
Venables spent a decade as an assistant with the Sooners in the early 2000s, but now as the head coach, his team has struggled mightily in Big 12 play. Oklahoma started the season ranked ninth in the country and won their first three games but then lost three straight, including a 49-0 shutout against Texas.
The team has rallied to go 3-2 over their last five games and is coming off a big win against Oklahoma State. However, that is a far cry from where most would have expected the Sooners to be right now. Still, the Red Raiders should not take Oklahoma lightly, but this matchup now looks more leveled than in year’s past.
The Sooners are still an offensive power in the conference, ranking second in yards per game averaging 454. Dillion Gabriel is in his first season as a starter at quarterback and is fourth in the Big 12 in passing, but his defense has not provided much relief. Oklahoma is eighth in total defense and is surrendering an average of 437 yards per game.
Saturday night’s matchup is another opportunity for McGuire and his team to get another signature win for “The Brand”. For the seniors, it is a chance to go out in style at The Jones one more time and achieve history. There is no reason to slow down now.