Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NCAA. Each week, we send out questions to the most plugged in Texas Tech Red Raiders fans, and fans across the country. Sign up here to join Reacts.
Hello. Red Raider Football is back THIS WEEK. This week, people! Tonight we’ve got BYU and Navy (PSA, never schedule a service academy) white-knuckling it for the coveted one-will-bowl-eligibility in 2020, and tomorrow have a cold front that will sink Lubbock into the fall season. We’ll talk a little more about Texas Tech specifically after analyzing recent polling data from around the country.
Most college football fans don’t expect to take anything resembling a break from watching the game this year. According to the most recent SB Nation Reacts survey, two-thirds of college football fans said they would watch at least the same amount of football this year compared to previous years, if not more. For now, those games don’t include the Pac-12 or the Big Ten - who continues to drag their feet about making a real decision. While nothing has materialized just yet, there is no doubt an appetite across the board for those markets to come into the fold.
That brings us into the next discussion point. Should bowl scheduling change if the Big Ten starts? With their commissioner talking through starting in November, December, or even January that creates a whole new issue for scheduling with respect to their updated season. Sure, as a Big 12/SEC/ACC team it’s not necessarily a turn off to get some 8-10 weeks to prepare for a bowl game (the insanity of it!), but that doesn’t mean the rest of the country is willing to wait around. In fact the polling showed that 60% were not interested in changing the bowl schedules no matter what the Big Ten decided - the other 40% are probably either 1) Big Ten fans, and/or 2) optimistic about the logistics of all that scheduling/rescheduling... *shudders*
Fortunately for us as Texas Tech fans we’re not at the disadvantage. In five days we will have our season kickoff against Houston Baptist. Probably a surprise to no one: the polling shows a clean 3/4 split between those of us who believe Tech is headed in the right direction under Matt Wells and those of us who believe the opposite. If you haven’t been listening to the Air Raid Podcast’s preview of the various positions there’s plenty of optimism to be garnered from this year’s squad. catch up here:
Let’s be clear, on the preview podcast (which comes out Thursday) we sprinkle plenty of salt over our optimism. One of the heaviest linchpins of the 2020 season, as illustrated by the 2019 season, is the health of our quarterback play. It’s the thing that limits our playbook, that allows us to flip the script on going 0-4 in games decided by 3 points, and that unfortunately remains the first line of defense against media bias.
“Now, as far as where Tech can finish depends a on the health of quarterback Alan Bowman. I have Texas Tech finishing seventh in the Big 12 and I will be honest with you, I do not see a scenario where they win five Big 12 games. I think three Big 12 wins is more realistic for Tech. Sorry to burst your bubble of hope.” - Derek Duke, Heartland College Sports
Derek isn’t alone. Most, if not all, pundits look at this year’s Texas Tech squad and see a quarterback prone to injury, an untested backup (who is fighting for his spot against a transfer from Utah State), and a slim playbook from last year. None of it an encouragement for the Red Raiders in 2020 - at least not when you frame it that way. However, Bowman has had every opportunity to walk away from Texas Tech and football in general but remains QB No.1 this Saturday. And while he has had his dance with obscure injury there’s a real chance his second offseason in this new scheme bears some fruit.
Even if Bowman gets injured or loses his starting spot, then something we have this year that we didn’t last year is depth. McIvor, who sat our last year post-surgery, and Utah State transfer Henry Colombi are both capable quarterbacks that can keep this machine running. Speaking of running: SaRodorick Thompson proved last year that it doesn’t matter who is handing him the ball... he’s going to do a lot with it. Among the Big 12 RBs returning this year, ranking the backs by the percentage of rushes that gained a first down or TD looks like:
SaRodorick Thompson (TTU): 39.1%
Chuba Hubbard (OSU): 34.5%
Breece Hall (ISU): 34.4%
Keaontay Ingram (UT): 31.2%
Pooka Williams (KU): 25.5%
Leddie Brown (WVU) / James Gilbert (KSU): 24.2%
Credit to @TechHoopsGuy, a criminally under-followed analyst on Twitter, for these numbers.
So in accordance with Wells’ desire to balance out the offensive attack there’s not as much pressure on the quarterbacks to make it all happen - a foreign concept for fans and external observers alike. The fact that we’ve got Thompson bearing the other portion of that responsibility is just a massive benefit for the Red Raiders in 2020. Out wide we’re overloaded with talented receivers so I’m not even going to try to digest that here - check out the podcast episode. Where we’re probably seeing the biggest question mark this season is along the offensive line:
The program just released the depth chart for Houston Baptist and we can see that the starters are Ethan Carde (LT), Weston Wright (LG), Dawson Deaton (C), Jack Anderson (RG), and Josh Burger (RT). Outside of the veteran Anderson, we’re putting a lot of stock in the coaching of Steve Farmer to get some of these guys trained up in positions they weren't recruited for. But if there’s one thing that’s going to boost confidence for Bowman it’s going to be that extra second or two in the pocket to make an efficient throw - so, God, please let this be a good year of line work.
The more difficult proposition, all too familiar to Tech fans, is having faith in the defensive unit. This season we’re seeing seven starters come back to the fold, with some high-ceiling transfers making the starting lineup. Keith Patterson plays an aggressive pattern of defense that invites a lot of chaos through turnovers in the mission to stifle opposing offenses - you knew that already. The depth chart as it stands has a couple of standout players who have already proven to be effective at fulfilling that pedagogy, like Eli Howard and Colin Schooler (Arizona transf.)
Each level of defense this year is trying to respond to losing a star player from last season: Broderick Washington along the line, Jordyn Brooks in the middle, and Douglas Coleman sitting over the top. Outside of Schooler (who has all but cashed in on being a high draft pick), our various levels of defense have spread out the talent across the field. This could be advantageous for the defensive scheme!
One discussion that arose on the Air Raid Podcast’s defensive line episode was that our next to horrible pass defense is probably a result of poor defensive line play. In other words, if the defensive line doesn’t apply pressure to the quarterback then they have more time to pick apart the defensive backs. Perhaps the loss of Washington well help apply an even amount of pressure across the line and keep opponents from keying up on the best pass rusher. Likewise having an equally stud mid-level of defense will assist both the run defense as well as the pass defense in 2020.
All of this can better illustrate why SBNation’s poll came up in favor of the football program’s direction, but it certainly isn’t the barometer for success this season. What all of this information does tell us, though, is that this year’s squad has a stronger all around quality to play above the expected no. 9 finish in the Big 12. Should we be clearing the conference championship weekend from our calendars? Absolutely not. Should we maintain optimism for this team and the season ahead? Absolutely we should. No matter what happens... at least we’re going to have some football and boy I am thankful for that.
To vote in these Reacts surveys and have your voice heard each week, sign up here.
What do you think? Is Texas Tech football headed in the right direction?
This poll is closed