Don Williams at the Lubbock AJ wrote an article on how Texas Tech should strive to replicate TCU's rise to prominence in the Big 12. The article got me wondering how realistic a turnaround of that magnitude would be for Tech this season. I went back and looked at TCU's path from their inaugural Big 12 season to last season to compare it to Tech's path from Kingsbury's first season to 2015. There are definitely some similarities.
In their inaugural Big 12 season of 2012, TCU went 7-5 in the regular season. The Horned Frogs had an up and down season, starting off 4-0 then scattering a few wins between several losses before losing to Michigan State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to end the season with a 7-6 record. The season, while not ideal, was a promising start to their Big 12 career.
The following season (2013) wasn't as kind to the Horned Frogs from a record standpoint. They finished the season 4-8 with wins versus SE Louisana St, SMU, Kansas and Iowa State. However, they played most teams tough including LSU, Tech, Oklahoma and Baylor. Their average loss was by 8.5 points with their only bad loss being a 23-point defeat to Texas. After the season, TCU changed offensive coordinators in order to shift to a spread offense. In doing so they brought on two bright minds in Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie.
Now look at Tech's first two seasons under Kingsbury. The Red Raiders went 7-5 in the 2013 regular season. It was an up and down season for the Red Raiders. Kingsbury's first season started off better than anyone could have imagined as the Red Raiders won their first 7 games. Unfortunately things turned sour quickly with 5 straight losses following the hot start, but they saved their best for last. They beat a highly ranked Arizona State team in the Holiday Bowl to end the season on a high note, finishing a promising first season for the Kingsbury-led Red Raiders with an 8-5 record.
Last season was ugly. The 4-8 season was bad enough, but some of the losses were just inhumane. TCU and Arkansas thumped the Red Raiders. They did play some teams tough in Baylor (2-point loss) and West Virginia (3-point loss) but they lost by an average of almost 21 points per game. After the season, Tech hired a new defensive coordinator in David Gibbs who brings experience in both the NFL and college ranks.
I think there are a few differences in the their paths. First off, TCU was in the game in almost every loss during the 2013 campaign. With Tech's losses last season, they were really only in a few of the games The other difference to me is coaching experience. Patterson was a grad assistant at Kansas State when Kliff was 3-years old. It is very rare to see a young (under 40-years old) Power 5 conference coach have a great deal of success. In 2013, NCAA football coaches under the age of 40 averaged 4.66 wins for the season.
Looking back (and we all know hindsight is 20/20), you could see TCU competing every step along the way so a big jump wasn't completely unfathomable. Several prognosticators mentioned TCU as a dark horse team heading into last season. For Tech, I know there were some very extenuating circumstances last season (DC going MIA / defensive signs being stolen), but it feels like Tech was further from competingt han TCU was heading into the 2014 season. There are also definitely no whispers of Tech being a dark horse team. So I don't think a meteoric rise is possible. However I agree with Don Williams in the sense that if the defensive can improve under Gibbs and the QB play improves specifically in ball security, the team might just surprise some folks.