Desperation time has arrived for both the West Virginia Mountaineers and Texas Tech Red Raiders as they square off against one another this weekend. Kickoff is scheduled for noon EST on Saturday, November 9 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, West Virginia. Fans can catch all of the action on ESPN2.
After opening as a 1.5-point favorite, the Red Raiders are now favored by 2.5 points on the road. The game also has an over/under of 60 points. Click here to check out all of the Week 11 college football odds.
The Red Raiders are approaching rock bottom after losing to traditional Big 12 basement dweller Kansas in their last game. To make things worse, Texas Tech had a bye last week to think about that loss, not to mention the fact that they’ve lost five of their last six games. Tech’s only win during that span came against Oklahoma State, so the potential to beat quality Big 12 teams is there. However, the Red Raiders are running out of time to prove it.
At 3-5, Texas Tech needs to win three of their final four games to avoid missing out on a bowl game for the second straight season. The Red Raiders still have a ranked Kansas State team and in-state rival Texas left on their schedule. That could make this week’s trip to Morgantown a make-or-break game for Matt Wells in his first season at Texas Tech. Not only will the Red Raiders likely miss a bowl game if they don’t win this week, but it would likely mean a last-place finish in the Big 12 this year.
Things aren’t much different in West Virginia. The Mountaineers have lost four in a row after a promising 3-1 start, giving them the same 3-5 record as Texas Tech. Despite playing a sloppy game against Baylor last week, the Mountaineers were in a position to knock off the unbeaten Bears. However, they fell a little short in a 17-14 loss and are now approaching must-win territory.
The Mountaineers have to play two ranked teams in Kansas State and Oklahoma State over the final four weeks of the season. They’ll need to pull off an upset over at least one of them to qualify for a bowl game in Neal Brown’s first season at the helm, and that’s if they hold serve against Texas Tech on Saturday. Without a win this week, West Virginia’s bowl chances will be all but dead and they could end up at the bottom of the Big 12.
On the bright side, the Mountaineers have won five in a row over Texas Tech after the Red Raiders won back-to-back games in West Virginia’s first two seasons in the Big 12. The caveat, of course, is that both teams have been under different head coaches for the last half-dozen years. Nevertheless, the Red Raiders haven’t had a successful trip to Morgantown since 2013.
Texas Tech is getting most of the betting action in this game, and I tend to agree with the masses. Neither of these teams has been particularly reliable on defense this season, meaning this game is likely to become a classic Big 12 shootout. If that’s the case, the Red Raiders have the more explosive offensive, which is why I’m leaning toward Texas Tech to win and cover.
I’ll admit that I though Texas Tech was in trouble quarterback Alan Bowman went down with an injury early in the season. But Jett Duffey has been a more than viable replacement. Even with Bowman slowly working his way back to full health, Duffey may have earned the right to keep the starting job for the rest of the season.
While the Red Raiders have lost three in a row, Duffey and the Tech offense can hardly be to blame. Duffey is averaging well over 300 yards passing over his last four games with nine touchdown passes and just two interceptions over that span. That’s on top of what Duffey adds to the Texas Tech rushing attack, which has been steady throughout the season behind SaRodorick Thompson. Win or lose, the Red Raiders are averaging over 33 points per game over their last four games.
Meanwhile, the West Virginia offense has been stagnant for the last month. The Mountaineers have scored 14 points in three straight games. To be fair, quarterback Austin Kendall missed most of the Iowa State game due to injury. However, he’s completed just 50% of his passes in his two games since returning. In fairness to Kendall, West Virginia’s running game deserves much of the blame for the team’s offensive struggles. The Mountaineers are averaging just 2.6 yards per carry on the season. WVU quarterbacks have only been sacked 12 times in eight games, which means sacks aren’t skewing those numbers. The West Virginia rushing game is simply inept.
Again, neither team has a competent defense, so both teams should be able to move the ball and score points on the other. However, I think the West Virginia offense is more likely to get in its own way and blink first in a shootout. The 2.5-point spread isn’t nearly enough to prevent me from leaning toward Texas Tech as a road favorite over the Mountaineers.