Texas Tech football seeks bowl certainty in the state of Iowa

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Joey McGuire rebuilds the excitement level at Jones AT&T Stadium in his first year as Texas Tech coach and leads the Red Raiders to five home wins for the first time since 2009. This is also the last season that Tech finished better than .500 in Big 12 football games, and the Red Raiders still have a shot at the latter this year.

One thing McGuire failed to deliver in his freshman year: triumphs on the road. Actually not even one.

Tech’s last chance to do so comes Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium in spooky Ames, Iowa. The Red Raiders (5-5, 3-4 in the Big 12) are the senior night opponents for Iowa State (4-6, 1-6) in a duel between two teams trying to qualify for the Bowl .

“We cut our work out for ourselves,” McGuire said. “We go out on the road and we’re still looking for that first win on the road. It’s going to be a difficult place to play but we’re really excited to come home on Saturday (a win against Kansas) and where we’re at as a team.”

The starting signal will be given at 6 p.m. when the National Weather Service forecast calls for 17-degree weather with a wind chill of 5. At 10 p.m. 10 degrees with zero wind chill are expected.

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Tech is 0-4 on the road, although the Red Raiders have been underdogs against ranked opponents in each of those games. A team of Matt Wells went 4-0 away in the Covid-shortened 2020 season but the last time Tech finished victorious in road games before that was in 1998.

“That was an issue,” said linebacker Krishon Merriweather, “so this week we’re really focusing on focusing on our task assignment and alignment and really getting the work done this week.”

The State of Iowa was a team of extremes. Statistically, the Cyclones pair one of the best defenses in the FBS with the least prolific offense in the Big 12, yet the conference’s leading receiver. The ISU ranks among the top 12 in the nation for rushing defense, passing defense, total defense, and scoring defense, and bottom of the Big 12 for rushing offense, total offense, and scoring offense.

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The offense revolves around getting the ball to wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson, who has caught 97 passes for 1,059 yards and six touchdowns.

However, Hutchinson’s presence wasn’t enough for many weeks to get the Cyclones over the jump. They’ve lost five games by seven points or fewer.

Iowa State has made one bowl and finished with a winning record five straight years, but needs to beat Tech and win at TCU next Saturday to keep its bowl streak alive. The ISU’s 1-6 record in the last seven games is the worst stretch under seventh-year coach Matt Campbell since the Cyclones started 2016, Campbell’s first season, 1-8.

“For some reason we stutter in this inconsistency,” Campbell said, “and why I haven’t been able to fully get us out of there yet. It’s frustrating, and these are things I need to be better at. I need to find out where that gap is and continue to do everything in our power to close the plug.

Tech had a five-game losing streak against the Cyclones last year with Jonathan Garibay’s 62-yard field goal when time made the difference in a 41-38 game. That win made the Tech Bowl eligible, and the Red Raiders finished the season by defeating Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl.

To be bowlable again, Tech needs a win on Saturday or next Saturday in the home finals against Oklahoma.

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