Saturday night’s contest between the Texas Tech football team and Wyoming will be a classic contrast in styles. What’s more, in 2023, new rules to the game could help the less-talented Cowboys level the playing field.
Texas Tech and Wyoming play vastly different styles of football
One could look at this game as the traditional matchup of the tortoise and the hare. However, the hope is that this time the results of the old fable will be reversed because it will be the Red Raiders trying to go as fast as possible.
Offensive coordinator Zach Kittley wants to run as many plays in a game as he can. In fact, last season, Tech led the country in plays per game at 89.2. That was almost nine full plays more than the No. 2 team, Buffalo, averaged.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys were 129th out of 131 teams. Averaging only 60.3 plays each week, Wyoming was ahead of only Nex Mexico and New Mexico State in that category.
Meanwhile, Tech was also far more committed to the pass in 2022 than their week-one opponent this year. With 53.6% of their plays being passes, the Red Raiders had the 31st-highest passing-play percentage last fall. Wyoming? They were 119th in the nation with only 40.2% of their plays taking to the air.
Thus, the game plan for both teams on Saturday night couldn’t be more different. To make matters more interesting, as well, are some new rules to college football in 2023.
How new rules may impact this contest
In April, the NCAA changed the way the game clock will be operated this season. In the name of safety, the clock is no longer going to be stopped after a team gains a first down unless the game is in the final two minutes of either half.
The rationale is that this will decrease the number of plays in a game and therefore lessen the risk of injuries for players. That plays right into the Cowboys’ hands.
The reality of this matchup is that Tech has too much firepower for Wyoming to handle. If the Red Raiders can run 80 or more plays, it will be nearly impossible for the home team to keep up.
However, if the Cowboys can control the clock and limit the number of possessions there are in the game, they could turn this into a rock fight and give themselves a chance to pull off the upset. That won’t be a new strategy as we’ve seen that tactic deployed against the Red Raiders numerous times during the “Air Raid” era of the program.
One notable time was in the unforgettable 2008 season when the undefeated Red Raiders hosted a woefully undermanned Nebraska team that was a huge underdog. That afternoon, the Huskers limited Tech to only 48 total plays and held the ball for double the amount of time allowing them to take the game to overtime where they would fall 37-31.
That’s the blueprint that Wyoming will try to copy this week. Will the new rules help them in that effort?
It is estimated that games will now see around six to eight fewer plays per game. However, Wyoming’s playing style could trim even more plays off of this game and that could be a problem for Tech.
Remember that passing offenses are all about precision and regardless of how sharp an offense looks in fall camp and regardless of how experienced the offensive players are, week one is always a dicey proposition as teams shake off the rust and face another team for the first time in nine months.
Timing and being on the same page are essential for a passing game to work and those elements sometimes are hard to get a handle on in the season’s first game. On the other hand, running the ball and playing defense are aspects of the game predicated mostly on effort and intensity. Those traits are easier to harness in the early portions of the season.
Ultimately, Wyoming enters this game with a sizeable talent deficit. However, there is a path to springing an upset and that starts by controlling the clock and keeping Tyler Shough and the Red Raider offense off of the field.
The new NCAA rules could help them achieve that goal and could make every possession in this game take on greater significance. So on Saturday night, keep an eye on the pace of play difference because the team that can impose its will is going to be the team that gets a leg up in this intriguing week-one contest.