Texas Tech football: An embarrassing reality for the Red Raiders

Oct 14, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; A general view of halftime in the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Kansas State Wildcats at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 14, 2023; Lubbock, Texas, USA; A general view of halftime in the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Kansas State Wildcats at Jones AT&T Stadium and Cody Campbell Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports /

Tuesday, the first College Football Playoff rankings were released and at the top, we found some of the usual suspects; Ohio State, Georgia, Michigan, and Florida State in order from No. 1 – No. 4. At the bottom of the 25-team ranking, though, there were some newcomers, including Kansas at No. 21.  That development brought forth an embarrassing reality for Texas Tech football fans to have to come to grips with.

Shortly after the rankings were released, Brett McMurphy of Action Network posted on X a list of the current Power 5 programs that have never been ranked in a College Football Playoff list.  That small group of schools includes Cal, Maryland, Rutgers, Vanderbilt…and Texas Tech.

Let that sink in.  If there were ever to be a group of football programs you don’t want to be associated with, it would be Cal, Maryland, Rutgers, and Vanderbilt.

It is a shame and a flat-out failure for the Texas Tech football program to have never been included in even one College Football Playoff ranking.  We aren’t talking about actually making the playoff, which is rare for a non-blue-blood program, or even being ranked in the top 10.

We are simply asking for this program, at some point, to be good enough in the final month of the season to be included somewhere in the rankings.  That shouldn’t be too much to ask for a program that has had as much monetary support and such a large and passionate fan base as Texas Tech has.

However, in the ten years that the current playoff system has been in place, Tech hasn’t even come close to cracking the playoff rankings.  Unfortunately, the one season over the past 15 years in which the Red Raiders might have included came one year before the advent of the four-team playoff system.

In 2013, the first year of the Kliff Kingsbury era, Tech started the season 7-0 to climb to No. 10 in the national polls.  That record was built by taking advantage of a back-loaded schedule which saw Kingsbury’s team face no Power 5 non-conference opponent and only one ranked team in the first seven games.

Tech didn’t drop its first game that season until October 26th.  That defeat was a hard-fought 38-30 loss to No. 15 Oklahoma on the road, an outcome that was nothing to be ashamed of.

Had the playoff format been in place in 2013, Tech almost certainly would have been ranked in the initial release of the CFP top 25, even after falling at the hands of the Sooners.  However, Tech wouldn’t have stayed ranked for very long as a week later, a 52-34 home loss to No. 18 Oklahoma State would be the second in what would end up being a 5-game losing streak to close out the regular season.

Since that year, Tech has not been anywhere close to being relevant when the calendar has reached the end of October, the time when the first playoff rankings are typically revealed.  In fact, the best Tech has been at the end of October since the 2014 season was 5-3 in 2018, the last year of Kingsbury’s tenure as head coach.

Interestingly, that season was also the last time when Tech faced TCU on a Thursday night.  That year, the Red Raiders secured a 17-14 win in Fort Worth to move to 4-2 overall making it appear that the embattled Kingsbury would likely be able to save his job.

This year, Tech will face TCU on Thursday night (tomorrow) not hoping to save its head coach’s job but trying to find a way to get into serious contention for bowl eligibility after a 3-5 start to the year.  That makes the thought of a playoff ranking seem lightyears away.

However, there should be no excuses for Texas Tech football.  Donors like Dusty Womble and Cody Campbell are pumping money into the program at record rates.

Starting next season, the program will enjoy one of the best and largest football facilities in the country.  Meanwhile, fan support is at an all-time high (though this year’s disappointing outcome has caused that to fall off a bit) as the program sold out its allotment of season tickets prior to the season.

Many thought this would be the year that Tech would join the cool kids club and find its way into the playoff discussion.  Returning the bulk of last year’s 8-5 team, the Red Raiders were a sleeper playoff pick by some and a darkhorse Big 12 title contender pick by many.

However, an inability to win close games, a rash of key injuries, and poor coaching decisions derailed the season long before the first CFP rankings were released.  That’s why the 2023 season has to be one of the most disappointing in program history.

This year, teams such as Kansas, Air Force, and Tulane have worked their way into the CFP rankings while the Red Raiders continue to live in the world of the irrelevant.  Unfortunately, during the College Football Playoff era, Tech has been one of the most insignificant programs in the country and that should drive everyone associated with the program mad given the potential this program possesses and the resources being pumped into Red Raider football on an annual basis.

Hopefully, Tech will soon find its way into a CFP ranking and get off of the awful list McMurphy shared.  That won’t happen in 2023 though as the Red Raiders’ best hope is to just get to a low-level bowl game.  That shouldn’t be good enough for Texas Tech football.  Nor should this program ever be mentioned with the likes of Cal, Maryland, Rutgers, and Vanderbilt.