Money is a truth serum.
You can learn a great deal about a person by how they spend their cash. It reveals what’s important to them. If someone says they live a healthy, active lifestyle, but you look at their bank statement and find copious McDonald’s charges, Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, and a $1,500 recliner, you’re inclined to believe otherwise.
In Las Vegas, the executives that set odds, lines and win totals have the same goal as any other company - to make money. They just do it by determining projected win totals, which makes their biggest challenge balancing public perception of a team plus the actual quality of that team to set a line so half of the gamblers bet the over and the other half takes the under.
It requires a tremendous amount of research, watching film, and talking with football geniuses to set a proper line. Vegas has to tell the truth about their findings, because if they say a team is worse than it actually is, they could lose millions by smart gamblers who bet the team will win more games than Vegas predicted.
So when the Vegas executives set Texas Tech’s 2017–2018 win total at 4.5, we can assume that number is pretty dang accurate. Concisely stated, the Red Raiders are almost certainly going to have a losing record this year.
The last time Tech had three losing seasons in a four-year span was from 1982-1985, under the leadership of Jerry Moore, who, as some of you Red Raider scholars already know, was fired after his fifth year. To refresh everyone’s memory, Kliff Kingsbury is entering his fifth season in 2017.
Needless to say, this is a pivotal season for the entire program. If Vegas is right, and it normally is, Tech will almost undoubtedly relieve Kingsbury of his position and find someone a replacement. The athletic department will once again have to go in reboot mode and rebuild the football program again from the ground up.
But if Vegas is wrong—if Kingsbury somehow empowers this team to perform better than the talent it possesses, this could be the turning point in a much bigger picture. So, what can Kingsbury do now to escape the fate Vegas prescribed to him?
1. Slow it down
My qualm with the up-tempo Air Raid offense is that it puts too much pressure on your defense. Tech has gone three-and-out with as little as 12 seconds coming off the game clock. Now your defense, which is already exhausted from giving up an 80-yard touchdown drive before your offense took over, has to come out and do it all again. And people wonder why Tech defenders look sluggish, can’t wrap up and get beat down the field. My rule is to only go hurry-up after you’ve picked up two first downs and have momentum going. Otherwise, work the clock, give your defense a breather, run the football and put some pressure on the opposing team’s defense instead of your own.
2. Abandon the “bend-but-don’t-break” defensive philosophy
I’ve never understood why or how this became an accepted mindset in football. Encouraging your defense to bend is encouraging them to give up yards. You know what happens when you give up yards? You get first downs. You know what happens when you pick up a string of first downs? You get into scoring territory. And once you hit the red zone, your odds of coming away with points are monumental. Enough is enough. How about we change the motto to “Push opponents backwards” or “No first downs.” It’s like the old saying, shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. Let’s see Tech shoot for three-and-outs or turnovers every possession. Maybe if they miss, they’ll only surrender a couple first downs and a punt.
3. Win the games you’re supposed to win
To an unsuspecting outsider, this sounds easier than it really is. Tech has been known in the past to lose games it was heavily favored to win, and upset teams it had no business beating. That’s not how good teams operate. The Red Raiders have five games on their schedule they should win if they play anywhere near to their full potential: vs. Eastern Washington, vs. Arizona State, at Kansas, vs. Iowa State and vs. Kansas State. There’s also four games I’d consider to be a toss-up: at Baylor (neutral site), at Houston, at West Virginia, and vs. TCU. If Tech wins all the games it’s supposed to win, then it would only need to win one of those toss-up games to become bowl-eligible. The Red Raiders making a bowl game would do wonders for the tenure of Kingsbury and the revival of this program.