Monday night’s national championship result was a salient reminder that Texas Tech is lightyears away from winning it all.
And while many Red Raiders eagerly anticipate the playoff expansion to 12 teams, the reality is it’ll only be more difficult to bring a national championship to Lubbock. If you’re lucky enough to make the playoff in its existing format, you can, in theory, do what TCU did against Michigan in the semifinal and replicate that performance in the final. It’s not likely, but at least it’s possible.
A 12-team format virtually guarantees the teams that luck their way into a playoff victory in the first round will be exposed in the second, and the two best teams in the country will ultimately play for the national championship.
Objectively speaking and based solely on the existing roster talent and recent recruiting classes, Tech currently stands no chance at taking home that gold and bronze trophy.
That’s not to say Tech can’t compete for a Big 12 Championship. In fact, with the way Joey McGuire has things trending in Lubbock, there’s no reason the Red Raiders can’t win a conference title next year or the year afterward.
But, as TCU showed 17 million people earlier this week, there is a massive difference between “Big 12 elite” and “national elite.”
This leaves Tech fans in an unfortunate predicament. If truly competing for national championships is outside the realm of possibility, Red Raiders must identify a new threshold of contentment to measure against.
What does a successful football program in Lubbock look like?
Some fans will still say winning a national championship. I have no problem with that. There’s no harm in shooting for the moon, the issue is in this case, we’re trying to get there in a Ford F-150.
Others will say winning an average of 10 games and the occasional conference championship every few years. I’m inclined to join this bunch, and I’ll explain why a little later.
Still others have more arbitrary definitions of success at Tech, like just beating Texas and Oklahoma, or simply sticking to the Air Raid identity regardless of record. I’m not a big fan of this group because I believe winning is more important than styles of play, and I’d rather Tech go 10-2 with losses against Texas and Oklahoma than 2-10 with wins over both.
Why competing for conference championships is enough
We have it so good as Tech fans, especially in the “big 3” sports of football, men’s basketball and baseball.
Just a few years ago, the Red Raiders were playing for a national championship on the hardwood. Think about how difficult that is as a non-blueblood program in a sport thoroughly dominated by bluebloods basically since the inception of college basketball.
And Tech baseball has made as many trips to the College World Series in the last decade as Baker Mayfield has made to the end zone this season.
Now, imagine Mark Adams retools and reloads next offseason and brings Tech back to the Final Four. Imagine if Tim Tadlock finally lifts the baseball team over that last hurdle and wins it all this year.
In this scenario, how disappointed would the average Tech fan be at a nine-win season with a Big 12 championship appearance? At that point, any unhappy Red Raider is complaining just to complain.
Look at the success of Tech athletics through a more holistic lens, and you’ll be a lot happier than if you simply place your emotions on the ability of the football team to win a national championship.