Some things are simple.
Oklahoma State has won nine straight games against Texas Tech and finished ahead of the Red Raiders in the Big 12 standings every time.
Before that, the Red Raiders had a big advantage in the all-time series between the two schools, leading 21-12-3. Texas Tech was 9-4 against the Cowboys through the first 13 seasons of the Big 12 Conference. But starting in 2009, the final year of the Mike Leach era at Texas Tech, Mike Gundy’s Cowboys pulled ahead of the Red Raiders.
Preseason prognosticators definitely expected that to continue this season, as do Las Vegas oddsmakers this week. Oklahoma State, which hosts Texas Tech on Saturday night, opened as a double-digit favorite.
The Cowboys (3-0) moved up nine spots to the No. 15 national ranking this week on the strength of their 44-21 victory over Boise State on Saturday.
Oklahoma State began this season facing the task of replacing three-year starter Mason Rudolph, who passed for more than 13,000 yards. But Cowboys senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius has made it a smooth transition.
Cornelius has passed for 971 yards with seven TDs and three interceptions. He threw for one touchdown and 243 yards in the win over Boise State.
“A month ago I said (Cornelius) was on the tee box or the driving range, and we didn’t know what he would do on the tee box on No. 1,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said during his Monday press conference. “But he’s done pretty well on the first two or three holes. He’s getting into a different part of the course now, and hopefully he’ll continue to play well. I think he’s developing into being a pretty good college quarterback.”
The Cowboys will also try to get junior running back Justice Hill going. Hill, who has two 100-yard rushing games already this season, has been a problem for the Red Raiders in the past. Hill piled up 290 rushing yards and a TD in two career games versus Texas Tech.
“(Hill is) as good as anybody in the country, I think, as far as a total back,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “(He) can catch the ball, finishes runs. Very, very fast. He just has gotten better and better as we’ve seen him. He’s going to be as good a back as we’ll play all year.”
Texas Tech (2-1) had a rough start to the season in a 47-27 loss to Mississippi at NRG Stadium in Houston. Red Raiders starting quarterback McLane Carter left the game with a sprained ankle, opening the door for freshman Alan Bowman to make his debut.
Bowman has passed for 1,160 yards in nine quarters of action (he played the final three quarters versus Ole Miss, then went for just the first half in a blowout of Lamar).
“This league will be disappointed to see him for the next three or four years, or however long it’ll be,” Gundy said. “He seems to understand their system and looks like he gets it. They’re moving the ball and scoring lots of points.”
Bowman graduated from Grapevine (Texas) High School last December and enrolled at Texas Tech in time to go through spring practice. That was vital, Kingsbury said, to his fast start.
“He wouldn’t have a chance to play at the level he’s played the last couple of weeks without having that semester to learn the offense, grow through some growing pains, get around his teammates, prove to the coaching staff what he can do,” Kingsbury said. “If you just come in in the summer, you don’t get those reps that he was able to get. So he took advantage of them and he works really hard at his craft.”
Although Oklahoma State has a nine-game winning streak in the series, the matchup has produced some quality shootouts recently. The Cowboys edged Texas Tech 45-44 in Stillwater in 2016 and escaped Lubbock with a 41-34 victory a year ago.
The Red Raiders have to like the trend of close games after losing to Oklahoma State by an average of 38 points during the Tommy Tuberville era at Texas Tech.
“Last year we had our chances, so we feel like we’ve closed the gap some compared to when we first got here,” Kingsbury said. “They’ve had it rolling now for a while. You’ve got to take your hat off to Coach Gundy for the job he’s done.”