Year one under first year head coach Joey McGuire exceeded any reasonable expectations. Seven wins, including the longest win streak in conference play since Kliff Kingsbury’s first season. Tech would not only make, but dominate their bowl appearance to reach 8 wins since, you guessed it, Kingsbury’s first year.
Tech was competitive in every game, and a few fourth quarter collapses cost them serious Big 12 relevance. All of this adds up to being easily beyond any expectation of what success should look like for a head coach in their first year at a program, let alone their first ever at this level.
But what should Tech fans expect with almost 70% of all production (assumed starters and key depth) projected to return? That and a few key transfers plus the incoming recruits makes this easily the most well setup Tech roster in years.
That is a good question in of itself, but it also begs the question where is the line between rational and irrational expectations for Texas Tech.
Our editor wrote a piece to this theme. His argument is that Tech fans have to find a new standard of a truly great season.
However, I believe the lesson from TCU is the opposite of this sentiment. Yes, Georgia was clearly the best team by a degree in football. But a missed field goal was the difference between a TCU versus Ohio State matchup. An Ohio State team that was thoroughly outmuscled by Michigan.
The lesson to learn from that playoff performance is twofold. Firstly, any individual game is not a predictor of any other potential game. Results in college football are not random, but individual coaching gameplans mean that each matchup is different than the last. Secondly, the difference in talent exists but development of talent matters.
When the playoff expands to 12 teams, the Big 12 champion will be guaranteed a spot. But adding the extra layers means the top teams will be asked to beat more teams, and if you recall Georgia was pushed to the limits by a few teams this year. Yes, the 5 star kings will win the national title most years. Hell, maybe every year. But, is it possible for someone else to get by them? And should we as Tech fans even dream of that possibility?
To think about that we first have to establish how did TCU get to the point they could compete at this level? They got older, it really is that simple. A veteran group of guys got lucky, and played disciplined football. They took advantage of every break, and didn’t beat themselves. That was enough to reach the number two spot in this nation. For all of TCU’s flaws, they lost one game and beat up on a heavily favored Michigan. They looked bigger, tougher, and better coached in that game despite massive talent disparity’s on paper.
Tech will be a much older, very talented team next season. Looking at the Big 12 landscape, even assuming OU and Texas return, Tech looks primed to be a top dog in the conference. Is it wrong to expect that the team could do the thing? Is that a rational expectation?
As a fan, you should not expect to to compete for national titles. Texas Tech could very well make the playoff with an older, more talented roster with an aggressive coaching staff.
However, only a few programs should truly expect to win a national title. But that irrational itch to hope for a title is right there. To think it could happen, and I personally don’t believe it is a far fetched proposition. But even if it is, why would you ever give up that thought?
Rational or not, eliminating yourself from the national title as a fan is a fool’s errand. Yes, Georgia and their friends will likely beat you into next week 99% of the time. But Appalachian State happened. Texas is more talented than almost anyone, and they lose early and often.
Next season Texas Tech will likely be very good at football. And while maybe the dream will always be just a dream, I won’t fault anyone who thinks about Tech lifting that last trophy. I won’t fault fans who get frustrated by the assumed glass ceiling, hoping for the Red Raiders to punch through. Never give that up, because I don’t believe the college football world is hurtling to an NFL G League. I believe the portal is slowly evening the playing field as top recruits leave big programs to find playing time faster.
Shoot for the moon so when you miss you still make it to the sky. Tech should expect to be able to reach NY6 caliber bowls. They should expect to be competitive in this conference, especially once Texas and OU leave opening up the recruiting battle truly. That next step, the belief you can get there, the belief you can win, drives those other goals.
If McGuire hits the glass ceiling and it really becomes the SEC party in the new playoff, then Tech shouldn’t look to move on of course. But each year when we set up the dominos, the program should always want more. And as fans backing that belief, fueling it, being disappointed when it falls short, is really what we should do.