We are entering a Big 12 season that looks to be more uncertain than many believe. Despite Oklahoma being favored to win their fifth title in a row, nobody is without their question marks.
I have already broken down Tech’s schedule with my expected 2019 finish, but let’s take a look at the best and worst-case scenarios for the Red Raiders in what could be a wild year.
I will make a few assumptions before jumping in. In both scenarios, we will expect Texas Tech to handle business at home against Montana State and UTEP, and we will not prognosticate any more freak injuries for the conference.
With the Montana State and UTEP games out of the way, the Red Raiders travel to Tucson to face Arizona. Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson’s pressure defense keeps the Pac-12 Wildcats guessing and uneasy all game long, while Bowman picks up where he left off.
Best case scenario, the Red Raiders shut down a once-prolific Khalil Tate, and enter conference play 3-0.
With confidence at a high, Tech takes advantage of their week off to prepare for the trip to Norman. Oklahoma is caught off guard by the physicality of the new-look TTU defense, and projected starter Jalen Hurts struggles to find a rhythm in his new crimson uniform.
Bowman stays healthy the entire game this year and picks apart a still-struggling Sooner defense; erasing all doubt of “what could have been” in 2018 when he left in the first half due to injury. Texas Tech shocks the football world and beats the Big 12 favorites.
Just as the bandwagon begins to gain steam, this is where I see Texas Tech’s first loss, even in the best-case scenario. I expect the usual shootout against Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys wear down a Tech defense.
With the Red Raiders brought back down to earth, they will need to remember how to play in Waco. It has been a decade since Texas Tech has faced Baylor outside of the Dallas Metroplex area. It will not be an easy out, but in this scenario, they pick up where they left off in 2007 by taking care of the Bears on their home turf.
With Texas Tech’s confidence renewed, Iowa State comes into Lubbock in what I expect will be a Top 25 matchup. Unfortunately, given that the rebuild under Matt Wells is just beginning, I don’t see the Red Raiders winning too many of these games against the top of the conference. Even in the best-case scenario. A Cyclone defense has Bowman’s number once again, and they hand the Red Raiders their second conference loss in three weeks.
Texas Tech shouldn’t stay down for long, though. Trips to Lawrence, KS, and Morgantown, WV, should get the Yost-led offense rolling once again.
The Red Raiders enter the home stretch of the season 7-2 before hosting another stingy defense in TCU. The Horned Frogs are just too much for Texas Tech, and the Red Raiders end up on the wrong side in this one.
Up next, the Red Raiders avoid the trap game by taking care of a rebuilding Kansas State on senior night before traveling to Austin for their biggest matchup against Texas since Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree in 2008.
The visiting team has come out victorious the last five times these two teams have met, but Elingher and Texas are not going to let Tech ruin their Big 12 title hopes and pull away late to earn a spot in the conference championship game.
In the best-case scenario, Matt Wells finishes a respectable 8-4 in his first season at the helm and fans are quick to forget about the movie star lookalike now in Arizona.
As much fun as the best-case was to write, this next section was a punch in the gut.
In both teams’ first real test, Khalil Tate puts on a show on the opening drive for Arizona and Red Raider fans instantly have flashbacks to 2016, the last time Texas Tech traveled to the desert. In that game, Kalen Ballage ran for seven touchdowns, resulting in a 68-55 loss to Arizona State. On this trip, it’s more of the same. The defense never finds their footing and Tate send the Red Raiders back to Lubbock with their first loss.
After the bye week, things aren’t looking much better as Tech travels to Norman. Hurts is clicking with the Sooner offense and Alex Grinch leads the most improved defense in the nation to a blowout win.
The following week, there is no rest for Wells and company as Oklahoma State comes into the Jones looking for revenge for last season. The Pokes lead wire to wire in this one and the Cowboys start a new nine-game winning streak against the Red Raiders.
In need of a big win, Texas Tech travels to an unfamiliar stadium to take on the Baylor Bears. Bowman and the offense still can’t get on the same page and Charlie Brewer looks like a Heisman contender against Keith Patterson’s floundering defense, handing Tech their fourth straight loss.
In front of a half-filled stadium, Iowa State’s defense shuts out David Yost’s offense, leaving Red Raider fans holding on to their last thread of hope heading into games against Kansas and West Virginia.
The next two weeks will be remembered for years, just ask Texas about 2016. Tech takes over last place in the conference, queuing an impressive round of “sad Texas Tech fan” memes.
Four different QBs score touchdowns when TCU visits as Gary Patterson looks to get guys playing time in garbage time. At least the Horned Frog pyrotechnic team is thankful for the away game, in another embarrassing home loss for the team from West Texas.
A win against a rebuilding Kansas State team does little to excite players or fans and the majority of the fan base elects to sleep off their turkey coma the day after Thanksgiving, rather than tune in to witness the end of the worst Texas Tech football season in over 50 years.
To add insult to injury, former head coaches Mike Leach and Kliff Kingsbury win their respective conferences (Leach in the PAC 12, Kingsbury in the NFC West), and former Tech transfer Baker Mayfield dethrones Pat Mahomes for the NFL MVP.
Matt Wells leaves an off-season recruiting dinner early, and AD Kirby Hocutt is left scratching his head, recapping the worst 12 months in Texas Tech football history, to figure out where things went so wrong.