What would make 2021 a successful season for Texas Tech football?
Now that the full 2021 football schedule is out, we know a little more about what to expect this coming season. Texas Tech certainly doesn’t get the easiest slate of all time, but opportunity abounds for this team to finally break through and have a successful campaign for the first time in a few years.
Make no mistake, though — coach Matt Wells is firmly on the hot seat after winning only four games in each of his first two years in Lubbock. He did make a necessary change at offensive coordinator, jettisoning serial screen caller David Yost and replacing him with Red Raider great Sonny Cumbie. Watching Cumbie flex his offensive muscles should be fun.
The defense should have plenty of experience after making positive strides under coordinator Keith Patterson in 2020. The offensive line should be improved with the addition of TCU transfer T.J. Storment, and there’s plenty of depth and talent in the backfield. The receiving corps has lost KeSean Carter, Ja’Lynn Polk and T.J. Vasher but returns Eric Ezukanma and several others.
Of course the big question is who will play quarterback, and that will be the competition to watch. Alan Bowman’s departure leaves holdovers Henry Colombi, Donovan Smith and Maverick McIvor to battle heralded incoming freshman Behren Morton for the starting job. For this season to have any chance of being successful, Wells and Cumbie have to pick the right guy to lead this offense.
Assuming they can do that, the unit should certainly be improved over the disappointing effort we saw in 2020. If the defense can match or improve upon its performance and the special teams can at least be competent, Texas Tech could certainly surprise some people. At the bare minimum, the team must make a bowl game in order for Wells to keep his job.
Schedule Ups and Downs
The nonconference slate features three very winnable games — at Houston and then at home against Stephen F. Austin and Florida International. In conference play, Texas Tech also has three winnable home games against TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The toughest home game will be against Iowa State, which has given the Red Raiders fits over the past few years.
Road games against West Virginia, Kansas and Baylor are winnable as well, though the Mountaineers will be tough. That leaves two more games on the schedule — at Texas and at Oklahoma. No one’s going to expect Texas Tech to win either of those matchups, but that’s why we play the games. If a Tommy Tuberville team can win in Norman, anything is possible.
Still, seven or eight wins should be very possible with this team. The ceiling for this group is probably 10 wins, but the floor? Well, I don’t even want to think about the floor. This is a program that lost to Kansas in 2019 and then barely defeated the Jayhawks at home in 2020. Unless and until Wells’ team finally turns a corner, we can’t take anything for granted.
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Enough vs Success
What would be enough for Wells to keep his job? A bowl berth obviously. Anything less and it’ll be hard for Kirby Hocutt to justify keeping him around for a fourth year. But would that necessarily mean a “successful” season? That may depend on what one considers a success, but most everyone agrees that a bowl appearance is the bare minimum.
We also have to be realistic in what we deem a success. A Big 12 title would be amazing, but that’s probably not a realistic expectation at this point. Hopefully that will change in the coming years, but for now we have to recognize that we’re coming off five straight losing seasons, and Texas Tech is just 35-49 over the last seven years. We haven’t won a bowl game since 2013.
So what would be a success? I’d say having our best season since that 2013 campaign would be a real success. The team put up a 7-5 regular season and finished it off with a Holiday Bowl victory that year, so at least matching that total of eight wins would give this program the kind of positive momentum it hasn’t had in several years.
If they can do that with Morton at quarterback, then we’d have every reason to think the program is on the upswing. Wells needs to show significant progress this year, which is why a bowl berth is the bare minimum. But a solid eight-win season would make the fan base feel pretty good about the direction of the Texas Tech football team.