The pressure is finally off Texas Tech now that the Red Raiders have become bowl eligible.
The Raiders reached bowl eligible status after last week's 64-21 runaway victory over Weber State ran their record to 6-5. That also means there's less pressure on Tech to win this weekend's regular-season finale against Houston.
A won-loss record barely above .500 is not exactly what the Raiders envisioned when they replaced coach Mike Leach with coach Tommy Tuberville last January. But they'll have to take the end results and deal with them.
"Getting to six was a big deal, obviously," Tuberville said. "We want to win this game (against Houston), but I don't think it will make a difference where we go or who we play against (in the bowl game).
"There's probably three or four bowls that are looking at us, and those won't shake out until two weeks from (Nov. 21), after all the championship games are played. It's good to know that it looks like we will have a great opportunity to play one more game for the seniors and have a chance to practice all the younger guys a few times and have a reward for all involved, and hopefully have a good trip."
The Raiders are slotted to play in either the Texas Bowl in Houston, the Pinstripe Bowl in New York, or the Ticket City Bowl in Dallas. And they absolutely have no preference where they wind up.
"Any bowl is a good bowl," Tuberville said. "It's a reward for what your players have accomplished. Most of these bowls I've never been to -- being in the Big 12 -- but we just look for the opportunity to keep practicing and have a chance to play one more time.
"It's good for your recruiting and it's good to sell your team wherever you go. Of course, most of the games are nationally televised, and it gives us a chance to have a little more publicity."
The game against Houston also gives the Raiders a chance to exact some revenge. When these two clubs met in Houston last year, the Raiders made every mistake imaginable -- mental and otherwise -- before losing in the waning seconds, 29-28.
"We walked away from that game last year feeling like we should have won that game," quarterback Taylor Potts said. "A couple of plays here and there and the game would have turned out different, but it didn't."
For the Raiders, this year's game against Houston could wind up being the biggest form of revenge of them all. That's because Houston is 5-6 and needs to defeat Tech in this regular-season finale for both teams to become bowl eligible.
"Obviously that is a lot more incentive for them to get bowl eligible, as we did last week," Tuberville said. "There was more pressure on our team (last week) knowing that we have to get to get to six somehow, and let's get the pressure off.
"I think the biggest thing for us is there is no pressure now, and if they have to win this one to get to six I am sure we will get their best effort. So we will bring that up to our players all week long -- about this is not just another game for them. This is a chance (for Houston) to play for another month and go to a bowl."
--This is Houston's first trip to Lubbock since losing 44-35 on Nov. 21, 1992. That game was played in a driving snow storm, and an estimated 200 of the paid attendance crowd of 27,887 managed to show up and watch the game.
--The Raiders are usually unbeatable at home, but they are only 3-2 at home this season. A victory would give them a home winning record for the 13th straight season and a perfect non-conference home record for the eighth consecutive season.
--This will be just the second time Tech and Houston have played each other since the breakup of the Southwest Conference following the 1995 season. The other time, of course, was last year when the Cougars won in Houston, 29-28.
--Former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury is the co-offensive coordinator for Houston. Kingsbury played for Tech from 1999-2002 and is second on the school's career passing list with 12,429 yards.
--A victory for Tech over Houston would guarantee a winning season for the Raiders for the 16th straight year, and guarantee a non-losing season for the 18th consecutive year.
--If the Raiders defeat Houston they won't have to count last week's 64-21 win over FCS foe Weber State towards being bowl eligible. Tech has never counted a win over an FCS opponent towards being bowl eligible.
SERIES HISTORY: Houston leads Texas Tech 18-10-1 (last meeting, 2009, 29-28 Houston).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Quarterback Taylor Potts was absolutely flawless last week against Weber State. In playing less than half the game, Potts completed 21 of 24 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns, and he also ran for one TD. Tech was able to score eight touchdowns and kick two field goals in their first 10 possessions against Weber State. The impressive showing also included the Raiders collecting 669 total yards and 34 first downs. But the opponent Tech was playing should be taken into consideration. As for Houston, the Cougars are not particularly strong defensively. They have given up 28 points or more in seven games this season, including 127 points during the past three games.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Tech's defense has allowed 34 or more points in five games this season, and the Raiders are 1-4 in those situations. Tech was at its best last week against Weber State. But, then again, it was Weber State. The Raiders have to stop letting opponents march up and down the field on them as if they're not even on the field. That's been their biggest problem -- not taking any pride in stopping the other team in crucial situations. Despite being down to its third quarterback because of injuries, Houston is sixth in the nation in passing offense (316.9 yards per game) and 13th in total offense (471 yards per game). Quarterback David Piland has completed 169 of 284 passes for 2,200 yards and 22 touchdowns. Cougars wide receiver Patrick Edwards has 61 catches for 923 yards and 13 touchdowns, and James Cleveland has 57 receptions for 800 yards and six TDs.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "When you lose a close game to an in-state team, it brings back old memories." -- Texas Tech first-year coach Tommy Tuberville, who wasn't around for last year's 29-28 Houston victory over the Raiders.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Houston at Texas Tech, Nov. 27 -- The Raiders should have a chip on their shoulders if they take the time to think about the game they believe the Cougars stole from them last year. Since this is a non-conference game which has no bearing on the Big 12 race and should have been played back in September, how focused will the Raiders be is the $10 million question that won't be answered until Saturday. The Cougars have lost five of their last seven games, including the past three.
KEYS TO THE GAME: If the Raiders approach this game in a cool, calm and collected manner just because they're already bowl eligible for the 18th straight season, then they will enter that bowl game having to win it just to finish the season with an above .500 record. The Cougars have a lot to play for and will be sky-high, because they want to become bowl eligible. Because of what's at stake for the Cougars, they may be more mentally prepared for this game than the Raiders. It's up to Tech coach Tommy Tuberville to stress to his players the importance of trying to win every game, regardless of what is or is not at stake.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
K Matt Williams -- He has hit his last seven field goals. That includes the 41-yarder he nailed against Weber State.
WR Lyle Leong -- Leong is second in the nation in touchdown catches with 16, and averages 8.73 points per game.
QB Taylor Potts -- He only needs six passing attempts to move into fourth place on Tech's career passing attempts list.
WR Detron Lewis -- Lewis is five receptions shy of moving into fourth place on the school career reception list.
--WR Jacoby Franks (broken right foot) hasn't played since the Oct. 23 game at Colorado.
--WR Alex Torres left the game against Weber state with a bruised shoulder and is questionable for the contest against Houston.