Texas Tech football: What Red Raiders must do to beat UCF

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Raider Red rides a motorcycle before the Texas Tech game against TCU, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, at Jones AT&T Stadium.

Today the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Central Florida Knights will face off in Lubbock where one team will earn its sixth win to become bowl-eligible.  It will be the first time the programs have met and it should be a closely-contested affair.

It’s been a bit of an eye-opening experience for the Knights in their first run through the Big 12.  After starting the year 3-0 with a trio of less-than-impressive non-conference wins over bad teams, they began conference play 0-5.

However, that losing streak did ask UCF to face some of the better teams in the conference such as Kansas State, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  It also coincided with an injury to starting QB John Rhys Plumlee.

The dynamic dual-threat passer is now back in the mix and he’s led his team to a pair of wins in the last two games.  One was a 28-26 win over an awful Cincinnati team and one was a shocking 45-3 home win over then-No. 15 Oklahoma State.

It’s last week’s drubbing of the Cowboys that has Red Raider fans concerned about what the Knights could bring to the table in Lubbock tonight.  However, that game was likely an anomaly.

First of all, it was a home game and the Knights are a different team when playing in Orlando.  So far, their only conference road win was the victory at Cincy by two points.

Second, the Oklahoma State game was played in a driving rain storm.  That was a huge factor in magnifying the trap game aspect of that matchup for the Cowboys.

Remember that Mike Gundy’s team was only one week removed from scoring an emotional win over in-state rival Oklahoma in what was likely the final edition of the Bedlam rivalry to ever be played on either school’s campus.  Thus, it is easy to see how the Cowboys could have been less than focused on putting their best foot forward against the Knights.

Combine a week of sitting around listening to the infamous “fat little girlfriends” (which Mike Leach once famously blamed for a poor Texas Tech showing) with a monsoon and all of the pieces seemed to be in place for an OK State no-show and that’s exactly what happened.

Thanks to turnovers on the Cowboys’ first two possessions, UCF would jump out to a 17-0 lead, and that took Gundy’s team out of its game plan.  In fact, the nation’s leading rusher, Ollie Gordon II got only 12 carries and amassed a meager 25 yards.

Instead, the still-average Alan Bowman had to throw the ball 36 times and he was far from being able to save his team as he completed only 19 passes and threw three interceptions.  It was just one of those clunkers that we see from good college football teams every season as 18-23 year-olds continue to be unreliable when it comes to effort and focus on a weekly basis.

Other than that game, UCF is yet to beat an FBS team this year with a winning record.  In fact, the three other FBS teams aside from OSU that the Knights have beaten have a combined record of just 9-21 in 2023.

In other words, if the Red Raiders consider themselves a decent team, then this is a game they have to find a way to win.  So let’s take a look at what specifically Joey McGuire and his team need to do to get to six wins.

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