During the six seasons under fan-favorite and offensive-mastermind Kliff Kingsbury, Tech qualified for three bowl games; winning only one. And after an injury-riddled year and a late-season collapse in 2018, athletic director Kirby Hocutt decided to rip off the Band-Aid and start fresh.
Let’s be real for a second. Texas Tech is entering its 10th season since firing former head coach Mike Leach. Since Leach’s departure, the Red Raiders have been unable to top seven regular-season wins nor have they finished above .500 in conference play.
New coach Matt Wells and his staff have their work cut out. Can they do what Kingsbury and Tommy Tubberville were unable to do?
Fortunately for Wells, offensive coordinator David Yost, and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, the Red Raiders return a large portion of 2018 production on both sides of the ball. Additionally, Wells was able to add a handful of JUCO transfers to help with depth at some key positions.
One returning starter that Yost will have at his disposal is sophomore QB Alan Bowman who averaged 330 yards passing in eight games as a true freshman (two of which he was forced to leave in the first half due to a collapsed lung). That would have been good for fourth in the country, two spots ahead of Heisman winner Kyler Murray and second in the Big 12 behind West Virginia QB Will Grier.
With four new head coaches entering the Big 12, the production coming back for 2019 is the main reason Texas Tech was picked to finish seventh in the conference media Preseason Poll, slotted only ahead of the three teams with new coaching staff.
Below we will examine the 2019 Red Raider schedule and I will make my prediction where this team lands when the dust settles in November.
2019 Football Schedule
AUG 31 – Montana State
SEPT 7 – UTEP
SEPT 14 – at Arizona
SEPT 28 – at Oklahoma
OCT 5 – Oklahoma State
OCT 12 – at Baylor
OCT 19 – Iowa State
OCT 26 – at Kansas
NOV 9 – at West Virginia
NOV 16 – TCU
NOV 23 – Kansas State
NOV 29 – at Texas
Unlike some schools looking to bolster their strength of schedule in the non-conference, Tech will open at home against two teams they will likely be able to make some mistakes against without it costing them. The Red Raiders will then close the non-conference against another power five program also looking to rebound from a disappointing season before starting the gauntlet that is Big 12 conference play.
Texas Tech will open at home against an unfamiliar opponent, meeting Montana State only once before in 1938. The Bobcats have question marks under center and will be over-matched in a hostile environment.
Patterson should have the chance to rotate many players into his 3-3-5 defense to get some good game film of his 2 deep rotation. Yost will also be able to share time between the RB and WR positions as well as see who will fill the all-important tight end position, a new addition to the Red Raider offense, in Yost’s 11-personnel scheme.
The second week of the season might feel like deja vu as the Red Raiders will host one of the worst teams in the FBS. Tech fans should be familiar with UTEP as they were part of the non-conference schedule in both 2014 and 2015. However, this UTEP team is not as competitive as the team fielded in those prior meetings.
The Miners finished the last two seasons at 0-12 and 1-11, so this game should be another chance for the coaching staff to focus on getting good film and getting backups some action in the fourth quarter.
The first road trip of the season takes the Red Raiders to Tucson, Arizona in a game that will set the tone for the rest of the season for both schools. No doubt the topic of discussion leading up to this matchup will be Khalil Tate, who lit up the stat sheet in 2017 before having a puzzling season last year after a coaching change. Both teams have returning talent and are attempting to play their way out of the bottom half of their respective conferences. It is likely the winner of this game reaches a bowl game in 2019 and will enter conference play with some confidence.
Texas Tech has the benefit of a bye week following the non-conference schedule, which they must take advantage of as the first four conference games couldn’t be much harder. After finishing 3-6 in conference play the previous three years, Wells and company will likely need to pull an upset in one of these first four games to surpass that mark in 2019.
If the coaching staff could handpick their first conference game, I would imagine traveling to Norman to face the reigning Big 12 champs and 2019 favorites would be close to the bottom of the list, but here we are.
Two potential silver linings to opening against the Sooners are; they had the worst defense in the Big 12 in 2018 and Heisman QB Kyler Murray is now in the NFL. If the Sooner defense doesn’t progress from the prior year and Jalen Hurts struggles to adapt to the OU offense there is a tiny (we are talking microscopic) window for Tech to shock the world and shake up the conference in week five.
The Red Raiders return to west Texas to host one of the most confusing teams in the conference week six. Oklahoma State upset four teams in the top 25 in 2018, but also lost five games they were favored to win. One of those losses included Texas Tech walking into Stillwater and handling the Cowboys 41-17 after losing the previous nine head to head games. The Pokes are a talented team in 2019 and will be coming into the Jones looking for revenge.
For the first time since 2007 Texas Tech will travel to Waco to play the Bears on their home turf. Matt Rhule has Baylor trending in the right direction who were picked to finish 6th in the media’s Preseason Poll, one spot ahead of the Red Raiders. Baylor ended the last hopes Tech had of making a bowl game in 2018 after it was considered nearly a certainty a few weeks prior. The Raiders will be met by a raucous crowd and an improved team for another tough matchup.
Rounding out the first four, Texas Tech hosts an Iowa State team whose defense put the clamps on Bowman and Co. last season. The Cyclones are trying to prove they belong in the conference title discussion in 2019 and I don’t need much convincing. If the defense can lock down teams as it did in 2018 and the offense can take a step forward with a more experienced offensive line, ISU could be dangerous.
Three of the next four games for the Red Raiders are against the bottom of the conference which should allow for some much-needed breathing room. Les Miles inherits a Kansas team that hasn’t finished better than ninth in the Big 12 since 2008 and Neal Brown has his work cut out for him replacing a ton of production in Morgantown.
Tortillas will be flying in the Jones against TCU after Gary Patterson’s media day remarks.
“They throw tortillas at us in the daytime, and they throw frozen water bottles at us at night.”– TCU coach Gary Patterson said during Big 12 Media Days
The Frogs will pose another tough game for Tech before finishing the home season by hosting a Snyder-less Kansas State who are now lead by former North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman. For anyone who has been living under a rock, NDSU has won four FCS national titles in the last five years under Klieman who finished his Bison career with a record of 69-6.
The final game of the regular season will be another test for Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have walked out of Austin victorious on their last two trips to the state capital. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, they will face a Longhorn squad who is getting national recognition and is supposed to compete for the Big 12 title despite the fact that they return just five starters on offense and three on defense. Don’t get me wrong, Texas has the talent to win the conference, and it will be no easy task for Tech to pull off their third win in a row in Darrell K Royal Stadium.
Projected Wins: 6
I really want to get behind the idea that Matt Wells could have immediate success, but history is not on his side. He has the pieces in place to put together a 7-8 win season, but the way the conference season opens and the fact that the offense and defense are completely changing schemes from 2018 makes that a difficult task.
I think the Red Raiders are able to sweep the non-conference but end up dropping their first four conference games to start the season 3-4. I have Texas Tech winning three out of their next four to reach bowl eligibility before falling in the season finale to UT. Most TTU fans would call the first season a success if Wells is able to start his tenure with a bowl appearance.