Texas Tech Red Raiders
Head Coach: Kliff Kingsbury
2014 Record: 4-8 overall, 2-7 Big 12
2014 Bowl Result: None
2014 Returning Starters: 8 offense, 7 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship Game: 275/1
Odds to Win 2015 Big 12 Championship: 40/1
Regular Season Wins: over 5 -135 / under 5 +105
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Last season, the Texas Tech Red Raiders began the season 2-0. However, they would win only two more games for the rest of the season against Big 12 bottom feeders Iowa State and Kansas. For the most part it was ugly, but there were near upsets of West Virginia and Baylor. The Baylor game was memorable because Texas Tech almost rallied from a 25 point deficit before failing to convert for the game tying two point conversion with less than two minutes left. The Bears would hold on for the wild 48-46 victory.
Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders should improve in 2015 with 15 starters back including 8 on offense. Whether they can sneak into a bowl is another question though in the rugged Big 12. Let’s take a deeper look at Texas Tech.
As usual offense isn’t a problem in Lubbock with the patented “Air Raid” offense. Last year under coordinator Eric Morris, the Red Raiders averaged over 504 yards per game including 351 passing yards. Tech was in the top ten nationally in both categories. However, it didn’t automatically translate to points on the scoreboard as the Red Raiders averaged less than 31 points per game. This is mainly because the Red Raiders had 28 turnovers last season. That needs to decrease or it will be another long season.
Davis Webb began the season as the starter last year but was shelved with 4 games left because of a shoulder injury. True freshman Patrick Mahomes II came in as his replacement. Webb completed 61.2% of his passes for 2,539 yards with 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and also rushed for a touchdown before the injury. Mahomes completed 56.8% of his passes for 1,547 yards with 16 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, and also rushed for 104 yards on 46 carries. Both Mahomes and Webb are back, but unless something drastic happens in fall camp, the starting job is expected to be Mahomes’ to lose.
Senior running back DeAndre Washington is back after rushing for 1,103 yards on 188 carries with 2 touchdowns last year, to go with 30 catches for 328 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sophomore Justin Stockton also returns after he had 48 carries for 396 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 12 catches and a touchdown. Mahomes is a bigger running threat than Webb so he will get some carries as well.
Senior receiver Jakeem Grant is back after making 67 catches for 938 yards and 7 touchdowns. Texas Tech must replace Bradley Marquez and his 65 catches for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. Marquez is now with the St. Louis Rams. Devin Lauderdale is back after making 31 catches for 589 yards and 7 touchdowns. Ian Sadler had 23 catches for 336 yards and 2 touchdowns. Reginald Davis had 29 catches for 318 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The offensive line returns four starters led by all-conference left tackle Le’Raven Clark. The line allowed only 13 sacks all season last year and was one of the bright spots in a forgettable 2014.
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There is no way to sugarcoat how truly awful the defense was last season. If you give up 513 yards and 41 points per game you will not be successful. The lowest point was giving up 82 points and 785 yards to TCU. Former Houston defensive coordinator David Gibbs is tasked with overhauling the defense as he was hired for the same position in Lubbock. Just like the offense wants to cut down on turnovers, the defense wants to force more turnovers after creating only 15 last season.
Seven starters are back in 2015. Three of the four starters are back on the offensive line. The ends are Pete Robertson who led the Big 12 in sacks with 12 in 2014 and Branden Jackson. There is less certainty at the tackles though as former JUCO transfers Rika Levi and Keland McElrath need to improve. They both did well in spring practice.
The linebackers must replace all three starters. Senior Micah Awe will provide veteran leadership. There is some good young talent including freshman Dakota Allen and sophomore Mike Mitchell, a transfer from Ohio State.
The secondary returns five players with starting experience and should be improved in 2015. Corner Nigel Bethel and safety Keenon Ward arte probably the best of the five players.
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Clayton Hatfield and Taylor Symmank will compete for the starting kicker job, but Hatfield has a leg up so to speak. Symmank is expected to be the punter though. Grant will return kicks again and punt returner Cameron Batson is also back. Neither was spectacular last year and looks to show improvement in 2015.
Texas Tech opens with home games against Sam Houston State and UTEP before traveling to Arkansas. The Red Raiders close out September with the conference opener at home against TCU. October brings home games against Baylor, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, plus trips to Kansas and Oklahoma. In November, Texas Tech travels to West Virginia, then hosts Kansas State, before traveling to Texas to close out the season on Thanksgiving night.
Although Texas Tech should show improvement in 2015, the schedule is almost identical to last year. I can’t see more than four or five wins. It would take some upsets in the Big 12 to get this team to six wins and bowl eligibility. Maybe they beat a rebuilding Kansas State in Lubbock but I can’t see any other wins other than Kansas or Iowa State on the schedule besides Sam Houston and UTEP.
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