Texas Tech Week 12: Fourth Down Survival Against Iowa State

Texas Tech Week 12: Fourth Down Survival Against Iowa State

This Texas Tech week 12 matchup brings the Red Raiders face-to-face with the single-most challenging unit they have faced all year. Head coach Joey McGuire has his team knocking on the door of bowl eligibility. But in order to do so, they must win at a place they haven’t won since 2014. What is the one area of the game Texas Tech need to excel at to clinch their sixth victory of the 2022 season?

Quarterback Update

No position has been more of a story this year than the quarterback for Texas Tech. Most recently, after an ankle injury kept Behren Morton out against Kansas, week one starter Tyler Shough led the team to a win over Kansas. It also appears it will be Shough’s job for the remainder of the season. McGuire said in his press conference on Monday that Shough was going to be the guy leading the offense on Saturday. This was also confirmed by Texas Tech offensive coordinator Zach Kittley. Kittley stated that they only intended to use Morton in an “emergency-type situation.” Regardless of the quarterback taking snaps, this offense is going against the best defense it has seen all season. 

Elite Cyclone Defense

Iowa State has one of the best defenses in all of college football. No matter how we slice it, this team possesses a monster defensive unit. Here are a few incredible stats about this defensive unit. Iowa State is first in the Big 12 and top 15 nationally in scoring, points per drive, yards per play, run defense and pass defense. But wait, there’s more (as Ron Popeil smiles down on us all). Iowa State gets off the field when teams get past second down. They only allow third-down conversions 29% of the time and have only allowed six fourth-down conversions all year. Also, teams have a hard time just getting drives started. Iowa State ranks fifth nationally in three-and-out percentage (46.5%) against FBS opponents.

Another stat demonstrating their prowess is their stop rate. This is a statistic that The Athletic has been keeping in-house for the last five years. According to their website, “It’s..the percentage of a defense’s drives that end in punts, turnovers or a turnover on downs.” How good is this statistic at highlighting the quality of a team? Again, from Max Olson, “In the five years, we’ve been tracking this stat, the combined record of teams that finished among the top 10 in stop rate is 497-130 (.793).

Of these 50 teams, 31 won 10-plus games and 23 played for conference titles. Over those five seasons, only one of the 50 teams did not finish with a winning record.” And to no one’s surprise, that came during the COVID-shortened season of 2020. With only two games remaining, Matt Campbell’s Cyclones rank No. 6 in stop rate. They’ve never been below 15 all season. So where is the key to a Texas Tech week 12 victory against such a formidable unit?

Fourth Down For The Win

Texas Tech has made it abundantly clear they intend to use four downs to get a first down. McGuire has never backed down this season from what “the book” says in terms of dictating a fourth down attempt. “The Book” is in reference to the “CAI Game Book” produced by a company called Championship Analytics, Inc. They produce these books for over 100 teams across the NFL and college football. It breaks down any shred of data that would go into making the optimal decisions for varying fourth-down situations.

The staff has the book on game day and on each drive, there are constant conversations occurring about the potential to use all four downs. Texas Tech ranks 33rd nationally in 4th down conversion percentage at 59.1%. But they rank first in overall 4th down attempts with 44 on the season. The next closet team is Northwestern, which has attempted 35 fourth down conversions (with only a 48.6% conversion rate).

It will be tough sledding for this offense, just like it has been for any Iowa State opponent this year. That’s why Texas Tech’s most aggressive trait has to be dialed in if they want to win this game. The Red Raiders will need to convert 4th down at a higher percentage than their current 59% on the season. If they are able to do so, it will put new stress on a defense not used to having to stop very many long-sustaining drives this season.

Texas Tech Week 12 Prediction

Last season, Texas Tech snapped a four-game losing streak against Iowa State in dramatic fashion. How frequently can any team, NFL or college, say they win a game on a 62-yard field goal at the buzzer? A night game in Ames will be tricky for the Red Raiders to navigate. Iowa State has been too good defensively and in too many close games to only win one Big 12 game. They are only one of two Power 5 teams to have lost five one-score games this season. The other is the floundering Texas A&M Aggies.

The loss of Tyree Wilson defensively for the Red Raiders will be a big blow for this unit. And while Iowa State’s struggles offensively are well-documented, this defense can be scored on. The Red Raiders have only held two power five teams under 28 points this season. In a bit of payback, the Cyclones drill a last-second field goal to win a rock fight on Senior night in Ames.

Iowa State 24, Texas Tech 21