For the second time this season, Texas Tech is set to face one of the new members of the Big 12. However, this time, the novelty factor is real.
While the series with Houston is one that has been kept alive in recent years with non-conference matchups, Saturday’s game at BYU is going to be truly unique for Red Raider fans. This will be just the second time these programs have ever met on the field. The first was back in 1940 in Lubbock, a 21-20 Red Raider victory.
Fortunately, there are some statistical areas that suggest the Red Raiders could have success this week.
It won’t be easy though. Provo, Utah is a tough place to play. With one of the most passionate fan bases in the country, BYU is undefeated at home in 2023 and has gone 9-3 in their own stadium the past two years. That record includes wins over Baylor, Utah, Arizona State, and Wyoming.
One aspect of playing in Provo that won’t be new this year will be playing at altitude. While many may think of Utah as being a rather mountainous state, Provo’s elevation is just 4,549 feet, well below the elevation of Laramie, Wyoming (7,165 feet) where Tech opened the year. What’s more, Provo isn’t astronomically higher than Lubbock (3,255 feet).
Instead of worrying about the elevation, Tech will have to worry about other factors, including player availability, especially at the QB position. With Behren Morton a game-time decision, it is highly possible that true freshman Jake Strong could be making his first career start in just his second NCAA game. What’s more, a closer look at the BYU stats shows why Tech’s QB play could be even more critical this week than usual.
Texas Tech may need to air it out against BYU
Regardless of who plays QB for the Red Raiders, the game plan is likely going to be to attack the Cougars through the air. That’s because BYU is one of the worst pass-defending teams in the conference.
In Big 12 games, the Cougars are giving up 277.6 passing yards per game. That’s better than only Houston, Kansas, and Oklahoma State. What’s more, by allowing 10 passing TDs in conference play, the Cougars are last in that category.
Last week, TCU threw for 447 yards and four TDs against BYU in Fort Worth. What makes that even more remarkable is that the Frogs had to rely on their backup QB, Josh Hoover, a freshman from Rockwall, Texas
The week prior, a Cincy team that is third to last in the conference in passing yards per game managed to put up 256 yards and three TDs in the air in a loss to the Cougars. That was almost 70 yards more than the Bearcats average on a weekly basis.
Now, the question that has to be asked is whether or not Tech can trust a physically limited Morton or a true freshman in Strong to beat BYU on the road by throwing the ball all over the yard. That might be a dicey proposition but it is one that the Red Raiders’ offensive coaching staff will likely explore.
Earlier this week, O.C. Zack Kittley was rather adamant that he isn’t going to run the ball against defenses that are deploying a heavy box. That’s what every team Tech faces for the rest of the year is going to do, though, and that includes BYU.
What is worrisome for Texas Tech fans is that the Red Raiders couldn’t exploit a K-State defense that was missing multiple starters in the secondary last weekend. Much of that was because of Morton’s injury and Strong’s shaky debut, of course.
Will a week of healing for Morton and practice for Strong make a difference, especially on the road in what will be a charged atmosphere at night? That remains to be seen. But what we do know is that BYU can be thrown on and that could be how the Red Raiders try to attack, even with the questionable QB situation.