When Kliff Kingsbury returned to Texas Tech he was hailed as the hometown hero returning to lead the team to glory. TTU had fallen on some bad times. An ugly divorce with Mike Leach ushered in the Tommy Tuberville era. Leach was an offensive guru, Tuberville was an offensive guy, too, but also had some defensive cred coming from the SEC. That era ended in a bizarre manner with Tuberville bolting to Cincinnati; mid recruiting dinner. But, there was Kliff. One of the best gunslingers during the Leach era rising through the coaching ranks as a wunderkind and coordinating some of the most potent offenses in the country. Tech jumped on the chance to bring him in giving him a large contract with a large buyout and hoping to bring some stability and the air raid back to the plains.
Now, the shine has worn off a little. Kingsbury’s teams have had some amazing offenses. He has recruited players that are some of the best offensive players in the country. Imagine if Patrick Mahomes II was on a team that won 9+ games? He would have been in the Heisman conversation. But, Texas Tech only won five games with the one of the best quarterbacks in the country. The defense has been holding this team back, and until it improves, defense will continue to hold this team back.
2017 Football Schedule
SEP 2 – Eastern Washington
SEP 16 – Arizona State
SEP 23 – at Houston
SEP 30 – Oklahoma State
OCT 7 – at Kansas
OCT 14 – at West Virginia
OCT 21 – Iowa State
OCT 28 – at Oklahoma
NOV 4 – Kansas State
NOV 11 – at Baylor
NOV 18 – TCU
NOV 24 – at Texas
Texas Tech has been on a slightly downward trend the last few seasons. Which is making Kingsbury’s seat a little warm. But a large buyout on a 10-year contract has kept it from heating up too much. However, another year like last year and it might be the last on the plains for Coach Bro. Kingsbury knows it too. He is making changes and is backing off overseeing the offense in order to concentrate on being a better overall head coach.
Kingsbury and the Red Raiders need to win in 2017, but will they? Yes, they must improve on defense. Especially after losing Patrick Mahomes to the NFL. Will their schedule do them any favors, though? Let’s break it down into three categories: should wins, 50/50-ish, and probable losses.
In the “should win” category is Eastern Washington, Kansas, and Baylor. Yes, the Red Raiders “should win” just three games. That’s probably shocking to those fond of Lubbock, but it is the reality for a team that is trending down and who just lost their biggest weapon. And while Kansas and Baylor are probable wins, they aren’t guaranteed. It took Mahomes going out against Kansas to spark the Tech offense last year.
The Baylor rivalry is aptly named, “The Shootout”. Last year Baylor refused to just give up, but TTU still won handedly. The Raiders get the Bears towards the end of the year, and the natural attrition that happens during a season should give Texas Tech the advantage.
There is a team noticeably absent from the should win category, and that’s Iowa State. The Cyclones are trending up and can no longer be considered a gimme by a few teams, but especially not by Tech. Not after last year. The Red Raiders get this one at home, but it is still a 50/50 game.
Joining Iowa State in the “50/50” category are the Arizona State, Houston, West Virginia, TCU, and Texas games.
Arizona State was considered a sleeper in the PAC 12 last year (much like TTU) and finished 5-7. As football fans we can only hope this year’s game is as entertaining as the last. West Virginia, and TCU are each dark horse candidates to win the Big 12, but Texas Tech has the personnel to go toe-to-toe with each of them. Houston is somewhat of a wildcard. Tech should have a deeper roster and slightly better athletes. But, the Cougars have Texas sized chip on their shoulder every time they play a Big 12 team. If Tech is locked in, they can win. But, if they falter just a little or take Houston lightly it will go bad for Kingsbury and Co.
That brings us to the “probable losses”, which are the games against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Kansas State.
First, the good news, the Red Raiders get both OSU and K-State in Lubbock. Now the bad news, all three of these teams are conference favorites for a reason. While Tech did almost knock off Oklahoma in a game that had a final score more commonly seen in basketball than football, Oklahoma has Baker Mayfield returning while Mahomes will be lighting up defenses in the NFL this fall. Plus, TTU has to go to Norman for this bout.
Kansas State is returning a very complete team. This match will be a contrast of styles and should be fund to watch.
Oklahoma State should have the most prolific offense in the conference next year, so a shootout should not be what Tech is aiming for. One other silver lining is that Tech gets OSU early. This gives the Raiders a chance to take advantage of a young Cowboy defense that might not be quite up to speed.
Texas Tech has a manageable schedule. Getting 6 or 7 wins should be doable for this squad. But, is a 6 or 7-win season enough to keep Kingsbury in Lubbock? Maybe. To truly cool off his seat an 8+ win season would be ideal. If Tech wins the three winnable games and gets a few lucky bounces, they’ll always have a puncher’s chance.