All the talk at Big 12 media days in Dallas a couple of weeks ago centered on two teams – Baylor and OU. Rightfully so. Both have a lot to build upon for 2014. Baylor won its first-ever Big 12 crown. OU downed mighty Alabama in the Sugar Bowl with a game for the ages from quarterback Trevor Knight.
The Big 12’s mantra has been “One True Champion,” centered around the fact that they are the only “big-5” conference that has a round-robin schedule. That’s all fine and good as long as your conference is chock full of quality teams.
So who might be the best candidate to challenge OU and Baylor for the Big 12 title? Would you believe Texas Tech?
Yep. Don’t believe me? Let me explain.
It’s easy to overlook the Red Raiders. They have no perceived quarterback depth and their leading rusher from last year has moved to defense. Tech is going to rely on JUCO transfers to man the defensive line, while being very young in the secondary. Oh, and their two leading receivers are gone from 2013.
Compelling argument, huh? Those are the warts, and they’re on paper. The games aren’t played on paper. Thank goodness for Tech.
No, the main reason that Texas Tech has the capability to surprise a lot of people this year comes down to one word — confidence.
“It’s about us and not anyone else,” Kingsbury said. “All we are focused on is getting better everyday. This team is focused on that and won’t settle for anything.”
The second reason I like Tech — the schedule. Tech should go 3-0 in the non-conference (including beating a down Arkansas team at home). If the Raiders can then survive an early-season two-game swing to Oklahoma State and Kansas State (I know, a big if), they’re in business. They host West Virginia and Kansas and travel to TCU before hosting back-to-back games in Lubbock vs. the Longhorns and Sooners.
Yes, OU is one of the favorites to win the conference. The thing is – they may not be as good as being touted. Even if they are, winning in Lubbock is no easy chore. Knight has to prove that he is more than a one-hit wonder. That is not a slam-dunk by any means; the Raiders have beaten better OU teams out in West Texas, so a victory here would not be surprising.
I see a possible scenario where Tech splits those two early games on the road and then runs the table all the way to their final game of the season vs. Baylor, a neutral site game in North Texas. If that happens, there’s a good chance the Raiders are playing the Bears for all the marbles.
Tech’s offense has the potential to even challenge Baylor for most productive in the Big 12 this season. Quarterback Davis Webb has the size and build any team would want from a signal-caller, and has gotten glowing accolades on his spring and fall camp thus far. He could be the Big 12 newcomer of the year.
The key is the defense. If Tech can shore up some holes and be halfway decent on that side of the ball, their offense should be enough to outscore many other Big 12 teams. Baylor might be a tad much to overcome in that final game, but a nine or ten-win season in Lubbock would be considered a surprise by many. Except me.