After a 4-0 (1-0) start and a Top 25 ranking, things couldn’t be more interesting in Lubbock. The schedule, however, only gets harder from here, and the Red Raiders won’t catch a break till just before Thanksgiving.
Kansas Jayhawks, Oct. 5, Lawrence, Kan.
The Jayhawks (2-1) squeezed past La. Tech last week with a last-second field goal. Since then, La. Tech (1-4) lost to Army (2-3) 35-16 on Saturday. In fact, La. Tech hasn’t beaten any FBS teams this year in games against NC State, Tulane, Kansas and Army. Not exactly murder’s row. Kansas is still Kansas, though the Jayhawks nearly beat the Red Raiders last season in Lubbock, and they seem to have an improved defense this year. Prediction/record: Win/5-0 (2-0).
Iowa State Cyclones, Oct. 12, Lubbock, Texas
The Cyclones (1-2) were a tough win last year, even though the ‘Clones only won six games. This year they look like the Big 12’s worst team, even with a solid win over a weak Tulsa team. Iowa State found a running back in Aaron Wimberly, who carried the ball 19 times for 137 yards Thursday night, but the passing game is still anemic. The Cyclones make Tech bowl eligible, a top-15 team and take some pressure off the next few games. Prediction/record: Win/6-0 (3-0).
West Virginia Mountaineers, Oct. 19, Morgantown, W.V.
This game got a little more interesting after the hot-cold Mountaineers (3-2, 1-1) beat the conference favorite Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-1, 0-1) on Saturday 30-21. That victory came on the heals of an embarrassing West Virginia loss to Maryland the week before by a score of 37-0, which had most questioning the Mountaineer’s bowl game chances. Now, no one really nows what to think about the ‘Eers. They have well documented quarterback troubles, but their defense seems better than last season, and the running game really improved with the addition of Charles Sims (388 rushing yards, three touchdowns). Tech can only hope the ‘Eers defense gets embarrassed and demoralized in Waco the week before. The edge in this game will be WVU’s home-field advantage (3-0 at home this year), coupled with a memory of the butt whipping Tech gave the No. 5 ‘Eers last year. Prediction/record: Loss/6-1 (3-1).
Oklahoma Sooners, Oct. 26, Norman, Okla.
The Sooners haven’t had any trouble from anyone this season except West Virginia (part of what worries me about that game). Saturday’s 35-21 win over No. 22 Notre Dame put an explanation point on decently tough non-conference schedule that Oklahoma rolled through. 2011’s upset notwithstanding, Texas Tech just doesn’t win games in Norman, especially if the Sooners have a good defense like this year. Prediction: Loss/6-2 (3-2).
Oklahoma State Cowboys, Nov. 2, Lubbock, Texas
Despite the loss to West Virginia, I think the Cowboys are better this year than last, and last year’s team slaughtered our Red Raiders in Stillwater. Oklahoma State is just a better football team these days, and the last three years they’ve beaten Tech by a combined 159-44. They score points better than every other team in the Big 12 except Baylor, and they probably have a better defense than everyone except TCU. That being said, Mississippi State and West Virginia showed us what happens when the ‘Pokes run into a good defense. The question is, can Tech’s offense score enough points? Prediction/record: Loss/6-3 (3-3).
Kansas State Wildcats, Nov. 9, Lubbock, Texas
The Fighting Bill Snyders lost to an FCS team at home and Texas (2-2, 1-0) a week after the Longhorns lost two straight to BYU and Ole Miss. Their only wins are against UMass (0-4) and Louisiana Lafayette (barely beat Akron). After losing the last two contests with Kansas State, Tech gets it done at home this time. Prediction/record: Win/7-3 (4-3).
Baylor Bears, Nov. 16, Arlington, Texas
They haven’t played anybody yet, but the Bears sure look like a great team. Offense is Baylor’s calling card in recent years, but this season they appear to be playing something called “defense” as well. Whatever that is, they’re doing a great job, and if they can keep it up they may not lose a game till their meeting with the Red Raider in Arlington. The Bears are first in the county in points scored (69.7) and second in points against (7.7), and as much as I’d love to hand Baylor a loss the way they did against Kansas State last year, I just don’t see it happening. Prediction/record: Loss/7-4 (4-4).
Texas Longhorns, Nov. 28, Austin, Texas
Despite an improved defense, Kingsbury hits par for the course in his first season with seven wins – same record as his predecessor last year, with arguably less talent. Job well done, coach, we’re all proud of you. But, something tells me Kliff won’t be satisfied after losing four of his last five games, falling out of the conference championship race and exiting the Top 25, just like the last coach. Unlike Tuberville, Kingsbury knows how it feels to beat Texas, something these fifth-year seniors have never done. Texas has it’s worst defense in years, despite having their most experienced team since 2009. Orange-clad fans won’t show after another disappointing season, and I’m counting on the Longhorns overlooking little ole Tech at home on Thanksgiving. Prediction/record: Win/8-4 (5-4).
Beat Texas, take care of business in bowl season and the Red Raiders will end 2013 ranked in the Top 25 and riding all kinds of momentum into next year when I think they’ll be an even better team.