The 2021 season produced two new title contenders in the Big 12 Conference as Baylor and Oklahoma State faced off in the Big 12 Championship Game. The conference announced plans to replace Texas and Oklahoma in 2025 by adding Houston, UCF, Cincinnati and BYU in 2023. The 2022 season will be the last season of the Big 12 Conference as it’s been known for the last decade.
There will inevitably be more seismic shifts this season after UCLA and USC announced intentions to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten Conference. Whether the Big 12 adds more schools or has more members poached by other conferences remains to be seen, but this will be the last year with just 10 member institutions in the conference. Next up in the Big 12 preseason power rankings is the Texas Tech Red Raiders. You can read previous installments of this series below.
No. 9 Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech set its program back by several years when it hired Matt Wells away from Utah State in 2018. Wells failed to recruit Big 12 level talent to Lubbock and couldn’t develop what he had at a high enough level to sustain success. Ironically enough, Texas Tech’s best season under Wells came in the year he was fired halfway through the season. That tells me all I need to know about what the athletic department thought about Wells.
It is far too early to tell if the Joey McGuire hire will end up being successful or not. I wrote at length why I think Joey McGuire will succeed, and this hire is already paying dividends on the recruiting trail. Texas Tech’s 2023 recruiting class currently ranks 16th nationally with 23 commitments.
McGuire’s exceptional people skills, thick rolodex of high school coaches across the state of Texas and philosophy of “building a fence” around west Texas has all played a role in his ability to build one of the best recruiting classes Texas Tech has had in recent memory, despite McGuire having never coached a game at TTU.
At the same time, on-field results may vary in year one. McGuire is still largely working with a roster constructed by Wells. He was able to sign a handful of impact recruits in the class of 2022 as a result of being hired on Nov. 8 instead of having to wait until the end of the season to start recruiting. McGuire also brought in some impact transfers.
Texas Tech also recently announced a $200 million gift to help with facility upgrades for the football program. Between hiring McGuire and significantly upgrading the football facilities, the future of Texas Tech football is bright. Check out the architecture on the new south endzone.
Texas Tech Football has unveiled a $200 million facilities project — the largest football program investment in school history— Front Office Sports (@FOS) July 12, 2022
➖ 300,000 combined sq. ft.
➖ New Womble Football Center
➖ New Jones AT&T Stadium South Endzone
Pending approval, it's set to be done by 2024. pic.twitter.com/W98IxUCH4X
Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, the coaching and talent could improve significantly from last year and it might not be reflected in the win-loss column. Texas Tech opens its season with home games against Murray State and Houston before a road showdown with North Carolina State. McGuire should get his first win out of the way early against the Racers, but there may not be too many wins after that in year one.
Who will start at quarterback for the Red Raiders against Murray State? I would assume Tyler Shough has the advantage. The Oregon transfer only played in four games for Texas Tech last year before an injury ended his season prematurely. TTU turned to Donovan Smith the rest of the way and true freshman Behren Morton appeared briefly in two games last season.
McGuire brought in Zach Kittley from Western Kentucky to run the offense. Kittley’s offense at Western Kentucky was predicated on pushing the ball downfield and, as a result, Bailey Zappe led the nation in passing yards and touchdowns last season. According to The Athletic’s Sam Khan Jr., Kittley is excited about all three of his quarterbacks.
I would think Shough ends up winning the job, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Morton get a chance if Shough doesn’t perform. All three QB’s could play in week one against Murray State, or Kittley could opt to try to get one guy into a rhythm with tough opponents to follow.
There isn’t much question about what will happen at running back this season. Sa’Roderick Thompson and Tahj Brooks are both back to lead the Red Raiders in the backfield. Both should get plenty of carries.
The receiving corps is young, but features a leader in junior Myles Price. Trey Cleveland and Loic Fouonji should also get plenty of targets. I would expect to see Texas Tech stick with an air raid offense based on Kittley’s pedigree. There are a couple of exciting young receivers in Lubbock in Jerand Bradley and Brady Boyd. Bradley redshirted as a freshman last year and Boyd transferred into the program from Minnesota after starting at Southlake Carroll (TX) in high school.
That’s not to mention true freshman Coy Eakin from Stephenville (TX) High School. Eakin led the nation in receiving yards at Stephenville and was named MVP of the 4A DI State Championship Game.
Touchdown Stephenville! @RyderLambert2 finds @CoyEakin in the back of the end zone for the touchdown! Eakin’s one handed grab gives @SvilleYJFB a 7-0 lead over Austin LBJ with 5:58 remaining in the 1st quarter! #txhsfb #ihss pic.twitter.com/0gnZYAB9Is— DFW Inside High School Sports (@ihss_dfw) December 17, 2021
I got to see Eakin play in that 4A DI State Championship Game in which he finished with 187 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. He also turned an interception into a touchdown with an incredible effort play to flip momentum early in the third quarter.
Touchdown Stephenville! You have to see it to believe it! @CoyEakin forces a fumble after an interception and @SvilleYJFB recovers and scores! Stephenville leads Austin LBJ 31-7 with 10:54 remaining in the 3rd quarter! #UILState #ihss pic.twitter.com/HZ9qXiuizl— DFW Inside High School Sports (@ihss_dfw) December 17, 2021
Texas Tech also landed Texas A&M transfer Baylor Cupp at tight end. Cupp spent most of his time in College Station injured, but the Red Raiders hope he can still produce at a high level. There is talent in the receiving corps in Lubbock, but questions remain about who will step up at each position and produce.
Caleb Rogers returns at left tackle after starting every game there last season. TTU brought in a couple impact transfers that will compete for starting jobs in Ty Buchanan from USC and Monroe Mills from Oklahoma State. Weston Wright will be a fourth year starter for Texas Tech and Dennis Wilburn and Cade Briggs also transferred into the program. Texas Tech has a good mix of returning experience with impact transfers.
The Athletic’s Sam Khan Jr. reported that McGuire wants to keep a similar defensive game plan to the one he used at Baylor. That means Red Raider fans can expect to see a 3-3-5 look in the Jones this season. For that formation to work, the front six need to get pressure on the quarterback.
Tyree Wilson will be the star up front for the Red Raiders. Wilson finished last season with 13.5 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks. Wilson looks like a man amongst boys and he will need to have a productive season to help Texas Tech remain competitive.
Jesiah Pierre will also be expected to contribute on the defensive line at the other edge rusher spot. Tony Bradford, Jaylon Hutchings and Philip Blidi will also get a significant number of snaps. Depth along the defensive line could become an issue late in the season if other playmakers don’t emerge.
The linebacking corps also doesn’t appear to have much depth. Krishon Merriweather will start alongside Dimitri Moore. Kosi Eldridge could get some reps at linebacker as well. Texas Tech will need to find some additional playmakers at linebacker by the end of the season.
The 3-3-5 scheme works particularly well because Texas Tech’s deepest position group on the defensive side of the football is the secondary. This scheme should help the Red Raiders keep their 11 best defenders on the field. Rayshad Williams and Adrian Frye return at cornerback and Malik Dunlap could start at cornerback as well. Marquis Waters figures to be the guy who starts at the “star” spot, according to Sam Khan Jr.
Reggie Pearson Jr. returns with plenty of experience at safety, along with Dadrion Taylor- Demerson. Texas transfer Tyler Owens and Wyoming transfer Keyon Blakenbaker both figure to rotate in for a fair amount of snaps each game as well.
It’s no surprise McGuire focused on recruiting the defensive side of the football immediately after being hired. He sought to upgrade the defense by adding linebackers Ty Kana and Ben Roberts, while also taking a trio of defenders from the school he won two state championships at, Cedar Hill, in Syncere Massey, Harvey Dyson and Jalon Peoples. He also signed defensive lineman Joseph Adedire from Mansfield Summit.
The Red Raiders still have a long way to go to upgrade the roster. Texas Tech didn’t have a player selected to the preseason Big 12 team, however, there is enough talent for TTU to compete in this conference. There is a lot of young talent in particular. The schedule does that young talent no favors with two tough non-conference opponents followed by a date at home against Texas to open Big 12 play.
Texas Tech should be looking to match its record from last season to make a bowl game. That will be hard with only two teams on the schedule that are definitively worse than the Red Raiders. Texas Tech should focus on competing with and beating West Virginia and Iowa State, while separating itself from Kansas. I was close to ranking TTU ahead of West Virginia and it wouldn’t surprise me if Texas Tech had a better season than West Virginia.
Texas Tech Red Raiders Schedule 2022
|September 3||Murray State||W|
|September 17||@ N.C. State||L|
|October 1||@ Kansas State||L|
|October 8||@ Oklahoma State||L|
|October 22||West Virginia||W|
|November 5||@ TCU||L|
|November 19||@Iowa State||L|
|Overall Record||3-9 (2-7)|
Texas Tech plays a tougher non-conference and the Big 12 is a deeper conference this year. Baylor and Oklahoma State figure to compete for the title again while Oklahoma and Texas have the talent to compete. Kansas State is also a team to watch out for. Winning in Ames is never easy and TTU gets the Cyclones up in Iowa this year. Texas Tech needs to beat Murray State, Kansas, West Virginia, TCU and Iowa State and find one more win on the schedule to make a bowl game this year. Those are all winnable games, but how many of those games will Texas Tech actually win? That will be the determining factor on how year one of the McGuire administration plays out.
Disclaimer: I will be posting my picks weekly on Tallysight once again this year. This is just my best guess as of July and these picks are subject to change once I see what actually ends up playing out on the field.