If the 2020 Texas Tech football team could add these former Red Raiders to the roster, it would make Matt Wells’ team much more formidable.
The extended college sports offseason of 2020 has given us all more downtime than we ever expected or wanted to have. Therefore, it’s a great chance for Texas Tech football fans to reflect on bygone years, especially since the only options we have to quench our sports thirst are replays of classic games.
Of course, for most of the last decade, pining for the days of yore has been a huge past time for Red Raider fans. With ten years now having passed since the last time Texas Tech football was relevant on the national scene, the glory days of the program continue to dim with each passing day.
In the decade of the 2000s, the Red Raiders amassed an overall record of 85-43. Since then, the program has gone just 60-65.
In the 2000s, we saw Tech win at least eight games in a season in every year except the first two of the decade. Meanwhile, that modest platform has not been reached in the Hub City since 2013, one of only three seasons of eight wins in the last decade.
One reason is that since 2011, Big 12 teams have had to play nine conference games, one more than the teams of the 2000s had to play. That is important because it means that Tech has lost the benefit of being able to schedule one extra patsy in order to guarantee a fourth win on the season.
Of course, we say “guarantee” a fourth win because, for most of the 2000s, Tech did not play a major conference opponent in the non-conference portion of the schedule. In fact, in only two of those seasons did the Red Raiders play regular-season games against teams from what was then known as a Bowl Championship Series conference. In 2002, Tech faced Ohio State, Ole Miss, and NC State with the latter two of those games coming at home. A year later, return trips to Ole Miss and NC State ensued.
After that though, head coach Mike Leach did not again schedule a non-conference opponent from a major conference. It must be noted, however, that he did play a home-and-home with TCU (then in the Mountain West Conference) in 2004 and 2006.
That has changed in recent years as the program has played a Power 5 conference foe in the regular season every year since 2014 (particularly at the encouragement of the Big 12, which wants all of its teams to play at least one Power 5 opponent in the non-conference). In those games, Tech has gone just 2-4.
Consider how impactful it would have been if in 2016 and 2018, both seasons that saw Tech go 5-7 and miss out on a bowl game, the possibility existed of scheduling a third creampuff instead of Arizona State and Ole Miss as was the case. If Kliff Kingsbury would have had the benefit of an extra gimme on the schedule in those two seasons, it’s almost certain that he would still be the head coach in Lubbock to this day.
But he is not and the task of returning Red Raider football to the postseason and the upper echelon of the Big 12 is now at the feet of Matt Wells. And in 2020, he had better win at least six games to take the program to its first bowl since 2017 or the tide will significantly turn against him when it comes to the Red Raider fandom. But like so many mid-level Power 5 teams, he enters the year with several holes to fill on the roster.
So let’s go back to the better days of the Mike Leach era to see which former Red Raiders that we wish we could add to this year’s team. (Note: For the sake of interest, we are leaving off all-time greats like Michael Crabtree, Wes Welker or Graham Harrell. While they would be no-brainer additions to any team, it is more fun to think about and remember players who weren’t necessarily legendary but who were significant contributors in their own right.)