How Texas Tech Can Earn A Bowl Bid In 2015

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With the college football season 76 days away, the prognosticators are starting to come out of their winter hibernation. With that said, Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press recently released his 2015-16 bowl projections, which include Texas Tech.

Russo believes that the Red Raiders will face off against Ole’ Miss in the Auto Zone Liberty Bowl in Memphis, TN on January 2, 2016. But for the Red Raiders to earn a bowl bid, they must improve upon their 2014 record by two wins.

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The question is where will those two extra wins come from? The optimist will note that last year, Tech blew a big forth quarter lead at home to West Virginia falling on a last-second 54-yard field goal, and were within a failed two-point conversion from taking No. 5 Baylor to overtime.

The pessimist will note that Tech lost five games by double digits in 2014. This person will also note that the Red Raiders must travel to Austin, Norman, Fayetteville, and Morgantown in 2015.

So what must happen in 2015 in order for Tech to reach at least six wins and qualify for a bowl? Almost all Tech supporters agree that the quarterback, receivers, and the entire defense needs to improve, so instead, lets take a look at the big picture. In other words, lets look at the 2015 schedule to find where the six wins could come from.

If Kingsbury’s squad fails to start the year 2-0 with two home games against FCS member Sam Houston State, and the University of Texas–El Paso, there will be riots on Broadway. Though, keep in mind that Sam Houston State made it to the FCS national title game last year, and quality FCS teams have beaten FBS teams in recent years… we’re are talking to you Kansas State, Oregon State, and Iowa State.

Also, UTEP always plays Tech as if it is the Miner’s Super Bowl. Tech escaped El Paso with only a four-point-win last year and the last time UTEP came to Lubbock, the game was within one score until late in the forth quarter. Still, anything less than 2-0 to start the year will be disastrous.

The next three games could define the 2015 season as Tech runs the gauntlet by going to Arkansas, hosting top 5 TCU, and taking on top 10 Baylor in Arlington, TX. This stretch must yield at least one win for Tech.

This portion of the schedule will be tough because there is no open date for Tech in between non-conference and Big 12 play this season. Tech could be a battered and demoralized team if they lose all three games to fall to 2-3 and 0-2 in the conference. While Tech winning at Arkansas would be a tremendous accomplishment, it would be preferable for them to beat the Frogs or Bears. The most likely win would be versus the Bears, which will be breaking in a new quarterback, and which the Red Raiders know they can beat based on last year’s contest.

No matter how Tech ends the first five games of the season (2-3 or 3-2) they can’t afford a letdown in their next two games. After playing Baylor, the Raiders return to Lubbock to host Iowa State, and the last time the Cyclones came to west Texas, special teams disasters almost cost Tech in their 7-point win. Last year, Tech pulled out a gritty 34-31 win in Ames, which still stands as the only career win for presumed Tech starting quarterback; Pat Mahomes Jr.

Kansas is expected to be one of the worst football teams in America this season under first-year head coach David Beatty. Though this game will be played in Lawrence, Tech should win this game comfortably so long as they play up to their potential.

Whether the Red Raiders leave Kansas 4-3 or 5-2, finding wins down the stretch will be challenging. If Tech has another late season collapse like 2011 and 2013, the 2015 season will be another disappointment.

Finding two wins in the last five games (at Oklahoma, vs. Oklahoma State, at West Virginia, vs. Kansas State, and at Texas) may be imperative to the team’s bowl hopes. It is wise to prepare for losses at Oklahoma and in Austin, though this season, neither team is expected to live up to their program’s reputation.

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The remaining three games are toss-ups. Oklahoma State returns virtually its entire roster from the team that beat Tech by ten last year, and the fighting T. Boones have not lost to Tech since 2008. However, a Red Raider victory in Lubbock this year is not inconceivable.

Traveling to Morgantown is always tough, but the Mountaineers are expected to be in rebuilding mode this year. They lost most of their main offensive leaders from last year including QB Clint Trickett, and WR Kevin White (who dominated Tech in 2014). Tech won its only previous game at West Virginia, so a victory in Appalachia is not out of the question. However, it would be better if Tech could face West Virginia earlier in the year, before the core of new players can gel.

The same can be said of Tech’s final home opponent: the Wildcats of Kansas State. Just like WVU, K-State will be rebuilding this year, but by the end of the season, expect Bill Snyder to have his team playing as well as their talent will allow — likely even better. This game will be a test to see if Tech has learned to value the ball and decrease penalties (both of which, Bill Snyder teams do with regularity). On paper, Tech is the more talented team, but they will have to earn this win.

Ultimately, Tech will have to win two of four swing-games to earn a bowl bid. The games against Baylor, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Kansas State will likely determine whether Ralph D. Russo’s prediction of a Tech bowl bid comes to fruition.