Texas Tech football: Ranking the 2023 road games by difficulty

Texas Tech football: Ranking the 2023 road games by difficulty
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Nov. 19, 2022; Ames, Iowa, USA;

Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Baylor Cup (88) catches the ball for a game-winning touchdown around Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Tayvonn Kyle (13) during the third quarter in the senior day Big-12 showdown at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune-USA TODAY Network
Ncaa Football Texas Tech At Iowa State

For all of the good vibes that the 2022 Texas Tech football team left us with, there was one glaring issue that Joey McGuire’s team struggled with practically all season.  Winning on the road.

In fact, Tech came within about six minutes of going winless away from Jones Stadium in the regular season last fall.  It wasn’t until Tyler Shough connected on a TD pass to Baylor Cupp with 6:10 to play in Tech’s 14-10 road win over Iowa State that the Red Raiders were able to secure a victory away from home in what was the last road game of the season.

That win proved to be massive because it secured bowl eligibility for Tech in McGuire’s first year while taking all the pressure off of the regular-season finale against Oklahoma a week later in Lubbock.  It was also important for the program to secure at least one road win in the first year of the new coaching staff’s tenure to help prevent road woes from being a storyline that carried through the offseason.

Still, the Red Raiders simply were not good in enemy territory a season ago.  Of course, there were reasons for those struggles.

First, the road took the Red Raiders to the home of four ranked teams; No. 16 N.C. State, No. 25 Kansas State, No. 7 Oklahoma State, and No. 7 TCU.  In fact, the trip to Ames was the only time Tech didn’t face a top-25 team on the road in 2022.

Next, injuries were a problem in road games.  It is hard to argue that the gruesome leg injury sustained by linebacker Bryce Ramirez early in the N.C. State game didn’t have an emotional impact on his teammates as they had to see him taken immediately to the hospital after breaking his leg.

Against Oklahoma State, Tech was leading in Stillwater until QB Behren Morton suffered an ankle sprain.  Though he did play through the injury, after that play he was far from the type of player  that he had shown to be to begin the game when his mobility and ability to make plays outside of the pocket gave the Cowboys fits.

That injury was still a problem three games later when Tech traveled to Fort Worth.  In fact, Morton was unable to finish that game due to his gimpy ankle.  It was a game Tech led into the 4th quarter but with Morton and fellow QB Donovan Smith out of commission late in that game, Shough had to see emergency duty, his first action since returning from a week-one broken collar bone, and the offense could not keep pace with the high-powered Horned Frogs.

For whatever reason though, Tech was not a good road team a season ago.  Each of the four road defeats the Red Raiders suffered came by nine points or more as all of those games slipped away late.

In 2023, the road is going to have to be kinder to McGuire and Co. if this season is going to see Tech take another step toward climbing the ranks of the Big 12 hierarchy.  With one more road game on the schedule this year and this being the year that the nine-game conference schedule gives takes Tech on the road for an extra game, winning away from Jones Stadium will be imperative.

So let’s take a look at each of the road tests by ranking them in order of difficulty from the easiest to the toughest.  As we begin, it will become obvious that none of the away games this season will be lay-ups.

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That has changed in recent years though since Baylor has become a formidable foe in the last decade.u00a0 In fact, Tech has dropped its last two contests on the road against the Bears.

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This yearu2019s trip to McLane Stadium on October 7 will be a toss-up.u00a0 Of course, if the Red Raiders hope to win a Big 12 title, thatu2019s a fish that they had better get into the boat.

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Last year, the Bears were arguably the biggest disappointment in the conference.u00a0 Picked first in the preseason poll, they would wind up just 6-7 overall and 4-5 in the league.

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Now, the Bears enter the season with a new defensive coordinator after giving up nearly 27 points a game last year.u00a0 They also have no definitive answer at QB with incumbent Blake Shapen in a camp battle with Mississippi State transfer and Lubbock native Sawyer Robertson, a redshirt sophomore who saw limited playing time in 2022.

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What could tilt this game in Techu2019s favor this year is the schedule.u00a0 Tech will arrive in Waco after games against the two teams picked to finish at the bottom of the standings in the conference, West Virginia and Houston.

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Meanwhile, Baylor will face preseason conference favorite Texas and a tough UCF team in the two weeks before hosting the Red Raiders.u00a0 That could be a boost to the Red Raiders.

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On the other hand, Tech has yet to prevail at McLane Stadium.u00a0 Itu2019s proven to be a tough place to play overall, though the Bears were just 3-3 there in 2022.

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Of course, Tech was robbed of a win in Waco in 2019 by a blown call by the Big 12 officials in overtime.u00a0 The Red Raiders must figure out a way to keep the incompetence of the referees from robbing them again this year and leave nothing to chance in Waco.u00a0 That will be imperative if a special season is going to be in the cards.

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Sep 18, 2021; Provo, Utah, USA; A general overall view of LaVell Edwards Stadium during the game between the BYU Cougars and the Arizona State Sun Devils. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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No. 2: @ BYU

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The Big 12 didn’t do the Red Raiders any favors this year when it came to the four new additions to the conference.  Aside from not getting to play a Cincy team that is expected to be one of the worst in the league, Tech will have to travel to Provo, Utah to take on a scrappy BYU program in one of the tougher places to play in the NCAA.

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With a capacity of over 63,000 people and sitting at an elevation of 4,649 feet, LaVell Edwards Stadium is a difficult place for opponents to traverse.  That’s why the October 21 trip that the Texas Tech football team will take there is going to be one of the season’s biggest challenges.

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What will also make this game a real landmine is that it lies in between two home games against Kansas State and TCU, the two Big 12 Championship Game participants from 2022.  Each of those games will be emotionally charged for the Red Raiders and having a trip to a new stadium against a team that is usually hell to handle on the road will make this three-game stretch one that defines the season.

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Last year, when Baylor was ranked 9th in the nation, the Bears went to Provo and fell 26-20 in overtime.  However, later in the season, unranked Arkansas did waltz into town and hand the Cougars a thorough 52-35 beating.

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Still, in recent years, BYU has scored road wins over No. 21 Utah and No. 19 Arizona State (in 2021) and No. 24 USC (in 2019).  All of those wins came under the watch of the current BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, who has turned his program into one of the toughest blue-collar programs in the game.

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The Cougars hit the portal hard this offseason to reinforce an offense that scored over 31 points per game last fall but also sustained some significant losses.  Most notable is QB Kedon Slovis who has previous stops at Pitt and USC on his ledger.

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To remake a defense that was one of the worst in the country, Sitake essentially brought in an entirely new coaching staff on that side of the ball.  Will those changes make a huge difference in just a year’s time?  That will be the key to BYU’s season.

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Regardless, expect this mid-season tilt to be a tough one for the Red Raiders.  The atmosphere in Provo is always charged and the altitude helps play a factor for the home team.  So keep this game on your radar because it looks like it could be a potential roadblock to a Big 12 title game appearance for the Red Raiders.

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Sep 10, 2022; Austin, TX, USA; Fans celebrate after UT kicker Bert Auburn made a field goal late in the fourth quarter against Alabama at Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium on Saturday September 10, 2022. Mandatory Credit: Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman-USA TODAY NETWORK

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No. 1: @ Texas

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No one hates to give the Longhorns their due more than me.  But if I’m going to be honest, I have to admit that they look to have a stacked roster this year.  That’s why the regular-season finale in Austin will be the Texas Tech football team’s toughest road test in 2023.

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First of all, playing in Austin usually doesn’t go well for the Red Raiders.  The program has only secured two wins at Royal-Memorial Stadium since 1997.

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Also, this game will be the final Big 12 game ever played in Austin.  That should draw a large crowd from a fan base that typically doesn’t show well on Thanksgiving weekend.  Of course, playing an in-state program for that final Big 12 game will also help bolster fan interest on the 40 Acres.

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There’s also the possibility that this game will have massive conference implications.  It isn’t hard to envision a scenario where one or both of these teams could be trying to secure a place in the league title game with a win in the regular-season finale.  After all, Texas was voted tops in the preseason conference poll and Tech was voted 4th.

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However, many fans around the conference are justifiably skeptical about both programs’ ability to live up to the preseason hype.  While Tech has not been a title contender since 2008, the Horns are annually the Big 12’s biggest underachievers.

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UT will enter this game after back-to-back road games against TCU and Iowa State.  What’s more, before that, they will host K-State.  That trio of games could derail the Horns’ season if they can’t beat the two purple teams.  Such a scenario might play well for Tech, especially given that the Horns have a tendency to fold up shop when adversity hits.

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Regardless, the season’s final road trip will be its toughest.  But how sweet would it be if Tech were to be able to send UT out of the Big 12 will its tail between its legs?

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