Oct 21, 2023; Provo, Utah, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders wide receiver Myles Price (1) returns a punt against the Brigham Young Cougars in the second quarter at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
With the Texas Tech football team idle this weekend ahead of Thursday’s critical home game against TCU, it is a natural time to look at what remains for Joey McGuire and his team. Unfortunately, the road ahead looks daunting.
Needing to go 3-1 down the stretch to just get to bowl eligibility, the Red Raiders have their work cut out for themselves. Of course, that all begins with next week’s visit from TCU.
The Frogs have had Tech’s number in recent years (but then again, so have a lot of Big 12 programs). TCU has a four-game winning streak in the series and has won its last four games at Jones Stadium.
Then, the Red Raiders travel to Lawrence Kansas to face a KU team that is flying high after stunning No. 6 Oklahoma this week. What’s more, when Tech visits, preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, Jalon Daniels, may be back at QB for the Jayhawks (he has been getting closer and closer to returning from a back injury that has forced him to miss the bulk of the season).
Speaking of dynamic quarterbacks returning from an injury, UCF’s dual-threat QB, John Rhys Plumlee is back at the helm for the Knights after missing several weeks with a knee sprain. Though Saturday’s home loss to West Virginia keeps UCF winless in Big 12 play, Plumlee’s presence will make UCF’s November 18th trip to Lubbock one that the Red Raiders can’t afford to take for granted.
Then, Tech will end the season will a trip to Austin. Given that the Longhorns could be playing for a spot in both the Big 12 Championship game and the College Football Playoff, winning at Royal-Memorial Stadium this year could be as tough of a task as Tech has faced in the state capitol for quite some time.
Of course, last season, Tech was 4-5 before ending the year with three wins to close out the regular season. That winning streak was one of the first times in quite a while that Tech had been able to pick up steam in November.
Maybe this week’s open date is arriving at just the right time to set up another strong final month of the regular season. Tech left Provo, Utah last week beaten up both physically and emotionally, and a week off to recharge could be just what McGuire and Co. needed.
So let’s take a look at some players that might be ready to end the year by playing their best football. If these four Red Raiders can step up for the rest of the way, they could help save what has been a maddening 2023 for the program.
This defense is proving to be solid in terms of points allowed. Giving up just 25.4 per game, Tech ranks a respectable 66th nationally.
However, during a time when the offense could have used a boost in the form of a short field, the Red Raider defense has been unable to deliver. Tech hasn’t taken the ball away from an opponent in the last two games, a time period during which the Red Raiders have given the ball away eight times.
Not being able to generate takeaways was also a problem in the loss to Oregon when Tech lost the turnover battle 4-0. However, that was the first game of the year that Rodriguez was unable to play.
Spraining his foot in the first quarter of the season opener at Wyoming, the Wichita Falls native has missed the last seven games. But in the brief time he has been on the field this year, it was easy to see what he can bring to the table.
In only four series against Wyoming, Rodriguez made two tackles and was credited with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, both of which came on the same play. Unfortunately, that was also the play he was injured on.
Now, he will return to pair with senior Jesiah Pierre and redshirt freshman Ben Roberts to hopefully give the Red Raiders some excellent linebacking play. However, McGuire has hinted that Rodriguez’s snaps may be limited against TCU as the team carefully works him back into the mix.
Rodriguez is one of the most instinctual and active linebackers on the roster and he seems to be the type of player who makes things happen. If he can help bring takeaways back to the Tech defense, it would do wonders for a team that needs its solid defense to start to be a game-changing unit.