The 21st-century Texas Tech Red Raiders have a pretty good history of pulling major bowl upsets.
In 2004 a 7-4 Tech team entered the Holiday Bowl as decided underdogs to Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch and a 10-1, No. 4-ranked California squad that was steaming mad at not being selected to play in a BCS bowl. In the run up to the game itself the Golden Bears spent more time complaining about the unfairness of it all than they did on their opponents, who they seemed to deem unworthy of playing in the same stadium.
But we all know what happened. After falling behind 14-7 in the first quarter, Sonny Cumbie, Joel Filani and Mike Leach's Air Raid offense went to town on the Berkeleyites and when the smoke had cleared, the Red Raiders left San Diego with an impressive 45-31 victory.
The dynamics of the 2013 Holiday Bowl were not quite so dramatic, but yet again Texas Tech entered a bowl game with a PAC-12 opponent as the heavy underdog. The Red Raiders were a modest 7-5 and riding a five-game losing streak which included blowout losses to Kansas State, Baylor and Texas. Arizona State, on the other hand, was 10-3 and ranked No. 16 in the land.
Yet it was the unsung and seemingly downtrodden Red Raiders who jumped on top immediately, led by as many as 21 points, and coasted to a surprising 37-23 win.
The moral of the story is that bowl games are an entirely different animal from regular seasons, and that, therefore, upsets are not uncommon.
With the news that Texas Tech had drawn LSU (8-3 and No. 20 nationally), there appears an almost cast-iron certainty that the Red Raiders will yet again be underdogs. And yet again, Tech’s opponent has reason to be wary.
To begin with, the Red Raiders are on a roll of sorts, having beaten Kansas State and Texas consecutively to scuttle a recent trend of playing horrendous and virtually winless football in the second half of seasons. What’s more, both the Wildcats and Longhorns bear some resemblance to the Bayou Bengals in that they all have offenses built almost entirely around the running game.
Texas Tech’s defense has been porous—to put it charitably—against the run, but when it doesn’t also have to contend with a potent passing attack, the Red Raider D can do just enough to allow Tech’s offense to outscore the oppo.
And while the Red Raiders are on the upswing, LSU, after a tremendous start to the season, is now in a funk of sorts. The Tigers have lost three of their last four games (including to an Arkansas team Tech beat earlier), and are averaging only 17 points per game during that stretch.
Furthermore, stellar running back Leonard Fournette, once the front-runner for the Heisman, averaged a somewhat pedestrian 97 rushing yards per game in the final four games of the season. Texas Tech could allow Fournette to double that total and still win the game with some room to spare.
Regardless of the point spread, the rankings, and national perception, this game shapes up to be an entertaining, and high-scoring affair that will be decided in the fourth quarter. Texas Tech’s bowl games are never dull, and the 2015 Texas Bowl will assuredly not break that precedent.