To put it bluntly, Texas Tech can’t afford to drop Saturday’s game at BYU if there is to be any hope of a bowl game this year. That’s the reality given that the Red Raiders need to win three of their final five games to get to six wins.
On paper, this is the second-easiest game remaining for Joey McGuire and his team, even though Provo is no joyful place to play. That’s simply because the rest of the games in 2023 are going to be even greater tests, outside of the home finale against UCF.
A home visit from TCU is no guarantee given that the Frogs have won four in a row overall and four in a row on the road in that series. Then, a visit to Kansas will test the Red Raider defense given the firepower the Jayhawks possess. Will a sputtering Texas Tech offense with massive questions at QB be able to keep pace?
UCF comes to Lubbock a week later and even that game will be a fight. While the Knights have struggled in their first Big 12 season, the return of dynamic QB John Rhys Plumlee from a leg injury that has cost him a month will make UCF extremely dangerous.
Then, the season finale in Austin will be an uphill battle for sure. Given that Texas could be playing not only for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game but also for a potential playoff bid, Tech is almost certain to get the Longhorns’ best shot in Texas’ final Big 12 home game ever.
Aside from the UCF game, Tech is likely going to be an underdog in each of the season’s remaining games after this week. Thus, beating BYU, a game that is considered by the oddsmakers to be a virtual toss-up, seems to be essential.
An escape from Provo with a win and then a win over either TCU or UCF at home seems to be the best path to six wins for this team. Of course, that’s still going to be a disappointing record given where the expectations were in September but just getting to a 13th game is what the Red Raiders have to strive for now.
Now, the importance of bowl games is debatable. Some view getting to the postseason as a sign that a program is healthy and moving in the right direction.
Those people would feel better if the Red Raiders could get to a bowl for the third year in a row, something that hasn’t happened in Lubbock since 2008-10. What’s more, they would also like to see the program win a bowl game for a third year in a row for the first time since 2002-04.
Clearly, there are some benefits of a bowl appearance. An extra two or three weeks of practice is often good for younger players and being able to sell the notion of sustained forward momentum to the fan base makes it easier on the program’s marketing department.
On the other hand, other fans may be cynical about the tangible benefits of playing in a mid to low-tier bowl game. For instance, four times since 2010, Tech has made it to a relatively insignificant bowl game only to put forth a losing record the following season. Unfortunately, 2023 is also trending towards that same scenario.
Ultimately, if they are going to hand out bowl bids, Tech might as well try to earn one, even if playing in the weedeater or whipped cream bowl won’t transform the program’s fortunes in the long term. To do that, beating BYU seems to be almost mandatory. So let’s look at what Texas Tech needs to do to accomplish that difficult task.