What's at stake for the Red Raiders this week? After the 21-point home loss to Oklahoma, Texas Tech is edging into the danger zone. That may seem a strange thing to say about a 4-1 team, but the Red Raiders are no ordinary team and the Big 12 is no run-of-the-mill conference.
The first issue for Tech is psychological. I believe this Red Raiders still believe in themselves, but if they fall behind by three scores to the potent West Virginia Mountaineers, that belief may vanish. Tech could then become timid—the last thing you want out of a football team—and a rout could become a reality. Then the Red Raiders, twice drubbed and coming off a season in which beatings were a weekly thing, could implode. From a psychological standpoint, Tech does not have to win this game, but they do have to keep it close.
More practically, the Red Raiders must win this game to stay alive in the hunt for a Big 12 title. If Tech springs the upset, the Mountaineers go from favorites to mere contenders and the Red Raiders solidify their contender status. But if Tech goes 1-2 in league play, they can kiss all realistic hope for a title goodbye.
What's going on: With the exception of backup receiver Marcus Kennard, backup center Tony Morales and backup defensive tackle Mike Starts, the Red Raiders appear to be in great physical shape. Starting running back Kenny Williams tweaked an ankle against Oklahoma, but should be at 95 percent health, minimum. This time last year, a quarter of the roster had gone under the knife. Tommy Tuberville's team has been lucky so far on the injury front.
What we've learned: We've learned that the inconsistency which plagued quarterback Seth Doege last season remains a huge hobgoblin. In two conference games he has completed 67 percent of his passes for 267 yards per game with three touchdowns and five interceptions. Two of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns.
Those numbers are unacceptable for a team that runs the ball 75 percent of the time, let alone one that throws it 60 percent of the time. We've also learned that Tech is not good enough offensively to overcome poor quarterback play.
Facts and figures: West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is completing 81 percent of his passes, which is three percent better than second place David Ash of Texas. Smith's pass efficiency rating is a gaudy 202, some 21 points better than runner up J. W. Walsh of Oklahoma State. Suffice it to say that from a statistical standpoint, no quarterback in college football history has had a better first half of a season than Smith.
Texas Tech still has the nation's No. 1 rated pass defense, allowing just 117 yards per game. The Red Raiders dropped to No. 7 in pass defense efficiency following the meeting with Landry Jones and Sooners.
Texas Tech has intercepted a modest five passes on the season. That bodes ill against Geno Smith, a quarterback who hasn't thrown a pick since the Teapot Dome Scandal.
What it will take to win: It's really very simple: Seth Doege must not bring his A game, he must bring his A+ game. If Doege hits his open receivers—and there will be plenty against the Mountaineers—does not turn the ball over and does not take avoidable sacks, the Red Raiders will score lots of points. The defense will feed on the offense and get a few stops against Geno the Machino. And then Red Raider fans might actually be bothered to make some noise. The pressure will mount on the Mountaineers, and the Red Raiders will spring the huge upset. Anything less than that from Doege, however, and Tech has no shot.