The Red Raiders didn’t have the best 2014 campaign. However, they ended the year on somewhat of a high note with a ‘moral victory’ against Baylor. The Bears won the game, but the Red Raiders stood toe-to-toe with the back-to-back Big 12 Champs. With new-found momentum and a brand new defensive coordinator, head coach Kliff Kingsbury is hoping Tech can trade in moral victories for actual victories in 2015.
Tech schedule starts with two winnable games again Sam Houston and UTEP before traveling to Fayetteville in week three. It may be too early to call any of the season opening games “trap” games, but with a major program looming September 19th, Coach Kingsbury will have to keep his squad focused and ready to play.
Here’s a look at the Red Raiders’ non-conference slate.
Sam Houston State
The Bearkats begin their 2015 campaign as the reigning Southland Conference champions and are pegged as the early season favorites to repeat in 2015 as they return all but two starters from last years FCS semifinal team.
Junior dual-threat QB Jared Johnson is a constant threat on the offensive side of the ball, and he could provide a good benchmark for how much the Red Raiders defense has improved. Johnson threw for 3,054 yards and 21 TD’s, and produced 999 yards with his legs last season, he would love to add a victory over a Big 12 school to his resume.
Tech should get the win here, but Sam Houston wouldn’t be the FCS first team to embarrass a Big 12 school to kick off the season.
University of Texas at El Paso
2015 is season of rebuilding for Miners out of El Paso. As they look to replace their starting signal caller, they will rely heavily on their stable of running backs and a quality run defense this season.
Tech isn’t exactly known for running the ball though, and as good as the Miners rush defense is, their pass defense is equally as bad. They rank in the bottom 10 in the country at giving up plays over 20 yards, and third worst in pass yards per play. If that trend continues, look for Mahomes to have a big day.
The matchup would seem to heavily favor the Raiders, but keep in mind that Tech only squeaked out a 4 point win against the Miners last season.
Last season in Lubbock Arkansas destroyed the Red Raiders 49-28, an early season highlight that fizzled as they entered into SEC play. They finished just 2-6 in the conference. Thanks to four non-conference games though, the two wins were enough to salvage a winning season by downing Texas in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl. The Hogs hope the win against the Longhorns can get them back on track in 2015.
A major question mark for Arkansas though, is how will the defense perform with loss of several key playmakers. Tech has the ability to put up points in a hurry if the Hogs provide them easy opportunities with a young back seven.
It will be up to new defensive coordinator David Gibbs to get the ball back into the hands of the offense. Arkansas will look to dominate the line of scrimmage and limit the number of possessions.
Is Texas Tech the team many project to finish near the bottom, or are they being underrated? We won’t have to wait long to find out.