Brice Paterik , Texas Tech Blogger
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Matt Wells brings credibility and stability in his first year at Texas Tech. With his new staff, Wells looks to take the Red Raiders over the hump that Kliff Kingsbury never cleared. The Big 12 has four new head coaches, leaving the second tier just behind the established powers up for grabs.
The often overlooked Tech returns a good chunk of talent from last season, when this team showed real promise early before faltering down the stretch after a few key injuries. This new system doesn’t differ heavily from the Kingsbury era, which should lessen the learning curve under Wells and allow the Red Raiders to outperform national expectations.
Year One under Wells sets up a chance for this team to surprise the Big 12, and even the nation. These are my five boldest predictions for the Red Raiders this season.
1. Tech wins 8 or more games for the
first time since Kingsbury’s first year
This prediction hinges heavily on Tech putting up a solid September, but if it’s able to snag a win against Arizona in Tucson, this is almost guaranteed to come true. Looking at the schedule, there’s only one impossible game, and that’s in Norman at the end of September.
A third of the Red Raiders’ conference opponents have new head coaches and more than half are replacing starting quarterbacks from last season. All Tech needs is a win against one of Arizona, Iowa State, Baylor or Texas. Even if it loses all four and wins a bowl game, that still gives this program its best record since Baker Mayfield played for the Red Raiders.
2. Alan Bowman will have the second-most
passing yards in the Big 12
Under David Yost, Utah State put up 292 passing yards per game. Alan Bowman threw for 330 yards per game as a freshman in his eight games. Though Yost’s offense leans more balanced than a traditional Air Raid, Bowman should still excel even with fewer attempts.
Offensively, the Red Raiders return T.J. Vasher, the team’s second-most productive receiver in 2018 from a scoring standpoint (seven touchdowns), and bring in one of the nation’s top JUCO tight ends in Travis Koontz. In recent years, Tech has produced quality receiving corps, as there are six active NFL receivers from this program. This passing attack will put up big numbers if Bowman stays healthy.
3. Red Raiders will rush for
over 160 yards per game
As a freshman, Ta’Zhawn Henry showed his ability to produce big games early in the season before injuries limited him down the stretch. Utah State’s offense under Yost ran more often than it threw last season, but that may not be the case with Tech.
Still, this team is going to run more frequently and with more success than it has since DeAndre Washington’s final season in 2015. True freshman Chux Nwabuko III will be a spark plug for this team as a bit of an offensive wild card. His versatility should bolster what will be a much improved ground game for the Red Raiders.
4. At least two Red Raiders will make
the Big 12 All-Defensive team
Under David Gibbs, this defense finally started to turn from the butt of Big 12 defense jokes to a legitimately disruptive unit. Keith Patterson’s style bears resemblance to Gibbs’ defenses in their emphasis on creating chaos and forcing turnovers.
Adrian Frye made the All-Defensive team last season, as did Dakota Allen, so don’t expect Frye to take a step back in his sophomore campaign. Jordyn Brooks has shown he’s a more-than-capable linebacker since his first year on campus. Look for him to have a big year in an expanded role. If Brooks gets looked over, look to one of Eli Howard or Broderick Washington Jr. to make the the cut on the defensive line.
5. Tech will be ranked by the CFP
committee for the first time
In the last two seasons, the Red Raiders have cracked the AP poll at Nos. 24 or 25, then immediately lost and dropped out of the ranking conversation for the rest of the season. Tech has peaked well before the playoff committee releases its initial rankings around the end of October.
The first rankings come out on Oct. 30 this season, right after Tech plays Kansas. If the Red Raiders are sitting at 7-1 or 6-2, it’s unlikely this team is left out of the initial rankings.
Even if this team is left out at 6-2, it has three consecutive winnable games in November: West Virginia on the road, TCU at home and Kansas State at home. If this team rolls into Austin at 9-2 or 8-3, expect to see a ranked matchup to finish off the regular season.
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