LUBBOCK, Texas — Texas Tech could be bowl eligible at the earliest date in five years if it beats Iowa State on Saturday.
In his first season as coach of the No. 20 Red Raiders, Kliff Kingsbury might equal what his former coach did in 2008. Mike Leach had Texas Tech at 6-0 three weeks before the Red Raiders rose to their highest ranking ever, No. 2, after toppling No. 1 Texas to reach 9-0.
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Kingsbury, who said he expects to win every game, sees beyond Texas Tech (5-0, 2-0) becoming bowl eligible should the Red Raiders come out on top of the Cyclones (1-3, 0-1).
“Being bowl eligible means in December, you get to practice with those young guys and get them more reps,” he said. “I think that’s what all coaches look forward to.”
Iowa State is eyeing its first Big 12 win after falling 31-30 to Texas on a final-minute score last week.
The Cyclones’ loses have come by a combined 15 points.
“I know this may surprise some of you, but we’re pretty emotional and passionate every football game,” said Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads, who launched into a fiery postgame tirade about what he believed was a bad call near the goal line in the closing minutes of the Texas loss. “Win or lose, 10 or 20, last second or a game that’s decided in the third quarter, one of the challenging things in athletics is overcoming both wins and losses.”
Kingsbury also could become the first Texas Tech coach to win his first six games in his first season.
Rhoads thinks highly of the former Red Raiders quarterback, noting that Kingsbury’s team was down 10 points early at Kansas last week.
“Winning on the road is hard, especially in this league, and they did it with a great sense of poise, and I think that comes from the very top,” Rhoads said.
Here are five things to watch when Iowa State plays Texas Tech:
QB QUESTION FOR RED RAIDERS: There is uncertainty about starter Baker Mayfield, who is 132 for 201 for 1,488 yards passing with five interceptions to rank 18th in the nation. His right knee, which was twisted on a tackle last week, has no structural damage but it might be too sore for the freshman sensation to start or play. Backup Davis Webb has had some playing time but has thrown four picks. Rhoads said Baker’s been “marvelous: but that it won’t matter who plays QB for the Red Raiders.
FUMBLES_RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME: Iowa State is the only team in the nation with three players — DEs Nick Kron and Cory Morrissey and DB Deon Broomfield — with two fumble recoveries each. The Cyclones have recovered seven fumbles to rank second in the Big 12. “It’s never an easy game, by any means,” said Texas Tech DE Kerry Hyder, who has 18 total tackles and two sacks. “They always come out ready to play. So I expect them to come out with a chip on their shoulders as usual.”
PENALTY PROBLEM: Texas Tech is near the bottom (tied for 118th) in penalties per game. The Red Raiders have been penalized no fewer than eight times in each game. They’ve been penalized 45 times for 416 yards for a per-game average of 83.2 yards. Kingsbury has harped on reducing penalties all season.
RED ZONE FACEOFF: Texas Tech is third in the nation in red zone defense, allowing opponents two touchdowns and four field goals in 11 penetrations inside the Red Raiders’ 20. Iowa State is one of four teams nationally that’s perfect once the Cyclones get inside the red zone, getting nine TDs and four FGs in 13 trips.
DUAL THREAT RED RAIDERS: Texas Tech has three receivers in the top 10 in the receptions in the Big 12: Jace Amaro, Eric Ward and Jakeem Grant. The Red Raiders’ passing attack gets even better when their run game is humming. “They’ve got great players on the inside and the outside,” the Cyclones’ Broomfield said. “You can’t just concentrate on their passing game.”