BIG 12: TEXAS TECH
Texas Tech has not endured the postseason drought others in this column have seen; the Red Raiders played in (and won) the Holiday Bowl in 2013, Kliff Kingsbury’s first year at the helm.
Kingsbury’s second season was disastrous, however.
With wins over FCS Central Arkansas (barely), as well as Big 12 bottom-feeders Kansas and Iowa State, Tech’s marquee victory was a 30-26 decision at UTEP the Red Raiders tried hard to give away at the end.
Growing pains were evident both for Kingsbury and the youngest starting lineup in the Big 12. Tech returns the most veteran lineup in the conference as a result, however, which has ignited optimism in Lubbock.
The lineup’s maturation is obviously important, but Kingsbury growing as a coach is equally vital to Tech’s success. From USA Today:
First we kind of rode with, you know, the ‘cool coaching staff,’ and Coach Kingsbury’s getting all this publicity,” offensive coordinator Eric Morris said. “And after that, he’s changed. You’ve seen him grow as a head coach. He’s tried to throw all that on the back burner and go back to what got him to where he’s at so quickly, and that’s hard work.
Finding upward mobility in a crowded Big 12 midsection could thwart Tech’s bowl game efforts. If Kingsbury and Co. get this team to the postseason amid a challenging conference landscape, it will be the greatest achievement thus far into his young career.
Kansas and Iowa State again feed Texas Tech two gimme-wins in the Big 12. Sam Houston State and UTEP are no slouches out of conference, but the Red Raiders should win those to start 2-0 before an absolutely brutal stretch of Arkansas, TCU and Baylor.
Facing three such games consecutively, early into the planned bounce-back year from a disappointing 4-8 finish, can easily rattle a team’s confidence. We’ll see pretty quickly the collective maturity both of this year’s Texas Tech lineup, and of Kingsbury and his staff.
If 2014’s struggles did indeed harden Kingsbury, the Red Raiders will rebound to score home upsets over Kansas State and Oklahoma State — vital wins to keep Texas Tech in the hunt for a bowl game.
Beyond TCU and Baylor (the latter of which Tech nearly upset late last November), and maybe Oklahoma, there’s little separating the middle of the Big 12. The conference’s “Every Game Matters” mantra will certainly apply to Texas Tech, which I’m BUYING at .500 and barely eeking in.