The Texas Tech Red Raiders and West Virginia Mountaineers, both desperate for a win, are set to meet in Morgantown Saturday in an important matchup of Big 12 rivals. Texas Tech was upset 37-34 by Kansas in its last game, its third straight loss, and has been forced to wait two weeks for another opportunity. Now 3-5 overall and 1-4 in conference play, Tech must win three of its final four games to make it back to the postseason for the first time since 2017.
The math is identical for the host Mountaineers, who also fell to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big 12 after coming up short in an upset bid on the road against Baylor last week. The 17-14 loss was the fourth in a row for West Virginia.
Texas Tech at West Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas Tech -2.5
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
Texas Tech has not been nearly as effective offensively under first-year head coach Matt Wells as it was under Kliff Kingsbury, having dropped a full touchdown from its scoring average last season (from 37.3 points per game to 30.3), but the total yardage numbers are similar. The Red Raiders averaged 485.2 total yards per game in 2018 and sit at 478.3 today. On a per-play basis, Tech has averaged 5.93 yards per snap in 2019 compared to 5.99 a year ago.
But the Red Raiders have improved significantly in one area: the running game. Texas Tech has averaged 173 rushing yards per game this season on 289 attempts (36.1 per game). Last year, Tech averaged 132.6 rushing yards per contest on 36.4 attempts per game. The Red Raiders have improved from 3.6 yards per carry in 2018 to 4.8 this season.
Texas Tech has utilized three running backs (all running behind one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country) in its revamped attack, led by redshirt freshman SaRodorick Thompson, whose 549 rushing yards and eight touchdowns are best on the squad. However, the depth of the unit took a hit when second-leading rusher Armand Shyne (374 yards, 3 TDs) suffered a season-ending rib injury against Kansas.
But Texas Tech still throws the football. A lot. Though starting quarterback Alan Bowman has been out since September with a shoulder injury, the Red Raiders rank fourth in the Big 12 and No. 16 in the country in passing offense (305.3), while attempting a conference-high 44.5 passes per game. Only Washington State (52.3) and Hawaii (45.4) have thrown the ball more.
Bowman is nearing his return to the field, but Jett Duffey is expected to start again for Tech. Duffey has completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 1,420 yards and nine touchdowns with just two interceptions. He is also a capable runner, having gained 93 yards and one touchdown on 39 attempts this year.
When West Virginia Has the Ball
West Virginia hasn’t had to turn to a backup quarterback because of injury, but that doesn’t mean the Mountaineers are fully settled at the position. In eight starts, Austin Kendall has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,634 yards and 12 touchdowns with eight interceptions. Only Oklahoma State QB Spencer Sanders, who has been picked off 11 times, has been intercepted more among Big 12 signal-callers.
There has also been movement on the depth chart with backup Jack Allison, who appeared in three games this year, entering the transfer portal this week. Redshirt freshman Trey Lowe III, a dynamic athlete who has contributed some on special teams, and Bowling Green transfer Jarret Doege are expected to move into top backup roles with Allison leaving the team.
There are also concerns at the skill positions. T.J. Simmons, who leads the team with 409 receiving yards and is tied with Florida State transfer George Campbell with a team-leading four touchdowns, is questionable to play Saturday. Sean Ryan, who is fourth on the team with 168 receiving yards, hasn’t played in three games. As a result, we can expect Campbell, redshirt freshman Sam James (the team leader with 44 receptions; he also ranks second with 400 receiving yards and has hauled in two touchdowns) and fellow freshmen Bruce Wheaton, Ali Jennings, and Winston Wright to play a bigger role.
Starting running back Kennedy McKoy is also questionable to play due to injury. McKoy leads the Mountaineers with three rushing touchdowns and ranks second to Leddie Brown (211 rushing yards) with 207 yards on the ground. McKoy’s possible absence is another blow to a West Virginia rushing attack that ranks last in the Big 12 and No. 128 in the country in both rushing offense (78.9) and yards per carry (2.64).
Texas Tech has a big edge offensively, but West Virginia has been much better on defense this season. The Mountaineers have allowed 5.66 yards per play, which ranks fifth in the conference and 73rd overall. Not great, but not terrible. The Red Raiders, meanwhile, have allowed nearly a full yard more (6.59), which ranks 122nd in the nation and worst in the conference.
West Virginia also has a home-field advantage, and a significant one considering the nearly 1,500-mile travel distance between Lubbock and Morgantown. Combined with the must-win nature of the game, and the added confidence gained by nearly knocking off an undefeated Baylor squad, the Mountaineers will be difficult to beat.