There was a lot of hype around Texas Tech before the season started, and expectations were sky high for the Red Raiders.
On offense, the Raiders returned 10 starters from last year, including the nation's leading passer in Graham Harrell and the 2007 Biletnikoff Award-winning wide receiver, Michael Crabtree. The Red Raiders returned eight starters on a defense that was expected to be vastly improved under the tutelage of the new defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeil.
They were also being touted to make a run at the Big 12 South title and thought to have a chance for the Big 12 championship. There was talk of Harrell passing for 6,000 yards and one sports reporter even picked Tech to play in the national championship game. Amazing!
Tech opened at home with Eastern Washington and played like a team that had an eight-month lay off, winning 49-24. Second game was in Reno against Nevada, and the offense was totally out of sync, but Tech won, 35-19. SMU was in Lubbock for the third game, and Tech won easily, 43-7, even though the offense was still not clicking. Massachusetts was the fourth game, and Tech won, 56-14, at the Jones. Although not entirely in sync on offense, this was the best Tech has played this year.
Last year, when my son’s high school team was making a run for the playoffs, his coach, Mike Burt, stated, “There are two types of teams: Those going forward and improving, and those not improving and going backwards.” Tech is a team going forward and improving each week, and will have two weeks to prepare for conference play.
Is there any reason to lower those sky-high preseason expectations? My answer is "No," and here’s why.
Tech’s defense is indeed better and is showing improvement each game. It's coming up with big plays and stops at the right times and are gaining confidence with each outing.
Tech is running the ball well and the passing game is coming around. I expect the offense to start chewing up the yards and scoring in bunches the next three weeks.
After four games, the Raiders are 4-0 and play three of the weaker Big 12 teams to begin conference play.
Last week, K-State was inconsistent on offense and defensively gave up 577 yards to Louisville. Nebraska will play on the road in Lubbock, and although they have shown improvement this year, they will be hard-pressed to win at the Jones. The Nebraska game is followed by a road trip to Texas A&M. Tech has owned A&M the past couple of years and, yes, Kyle Field is a tough place to play, but the Aggies aren’t exactly a force this year.
The Raiders should be Big 12 battle-hardened by the time they reach the meat of their schedule.
Tech plays at Kansas, a top-20 team, followed by a home game with Texas, a top-10 team. Then it’s Oklahoma State at the Jones and a showdown with a top-ranked Oklahoma team in Norman a week later. Baylor is the last game of the regular season, and it is at the Jones.
This schedule has to be an advantage for Tech—three of the weaker teams first, followed by two strong teams, setting Tech up for the possibility to be undefeated going into the Oklahoma game.
We have yet to see the true character of the 2008 Texas Tech Red Raiders. Tech sailed trough the non-conference part of its schedule and now faces stiffer competition entering Big 12 play. With each game, we will begin to see the Red Raiders' true character emerge.
If the passing offense begins to perform with the precision of a fine Swiss watch, the running game continues to be productive with Woods and Batch running with wild abandon, and the defense continues to build on the successes it had in these first four games, the character of the Texas Tech football team is a sure to be that of champion. Otherwise, Tech slips back into the ranks of the also-rans.
Guns up, ya'll!