I have to admit that my excitement level for the Texas Tech football team's appearance in this year's Independence Bowl is about as low as it has been for any Red Raider postseason game that I can remember. After all, this season was supposed to be so much more promising than climaxing with just a mid-December meeting between two 6-6 teams in a bowl game no one is talking about.
This isn't the first time that Tech has played in a bowl game that didn't move the needle much. That's unfortunate but true.
In 2017, the Red Raiders were sent to the not-so-legendary Birmingham Bowl in what almost felt like a punishment. Playing on a soggy day in a stadium that was at only 40% capacity, the Red Raiders fell to Southern Florida 38-34. If you don't remember that bowl game, the last of the Kliff Kingsbury era, no one will blame you. It's one of the most forgettable bowl games in program history given the lack of prestige of the bowl and the unintriguing opponent.
That day, Tech and USF actually played a compelling game. Unfortunately, it was the Red Raider defense that faltered in the 4th quarter giving up 21 points in the final frame to fall 38-34.
Speaking of empty stadiums, how about the 2011 Ticket City Bowl that Tech had to play in. Kicking off at noon on New Year's Day in Dallas, the game played at the legendary Cotton Bowl Stadium drew only 40,000 fans to the massive venue with Tech fans outnumbering Northwestern fans significantly.
In front of thousands of hung-over diehards, Tech would jump out to a 31-9 third-quarter lead and hang on for a 45-38 win. That would deny the Wildcats their first bowl win since 1949.
That was actually the second time in two calendar years that Tech had played its bowl game in that stadium following the 2009 Cotton Bowl. In a way, that game, which came after the legendary 2008 season, was also a disappointing matchup for Red Raider fans.
Sure, playing in the Cotton Bowl has always been exciting for Texas Tech football. However, given that Tech was ranked as high as No. 2 in the polls just weeks prior, a matchup with an 8-4 Ole Miss team that was ranked just No. 25 in the nation was far from the BCS appearance that Red Raider fans had been dreaming of.
That day, the players also seemed uninterested in the game on their way to dropping a 47-34 decision. However, in-game injuries to receiver Michael Crabtree and safety Darcel McBath didn't help matters either.
I guess it's time I get over my disappointment with this season, though, and get my mind right with tonight's game. In fact, in a way, this game should be seen as a blessing.
Imagine if the 57-7 beating that Tech sustained at the hands of Texas in the regular-season finale was to be the final taste we had in our mouths until September. That would be a rather bitter offseason pill to swallow.
As far as Tech's options for bowl opponents this year, Cal is about as good as we could have hoped for. It is a Power-5 program and one that is riding a three-game winning streak. What's more, it is a team that invokes some serious memories for Tech fans who still think fondly of the 2004 Holiday Bowl when the Red Raiders upset No. 4 Cal and some guy named Aaron Rogers.
So let's go inside this matchup to see what Tech must do to come out on top. We'll start by looking at an intangible factor that almost always determines how a bowl game plays out and one that was in play back in 2004 in San Diego.