It's been a waiting game for the Red Raider football players, coaches and fans since the 2011 season ended without a trip to the postseason.
"Shoot, ever since we ended last season, I've been waiting for this game and waiting for this week," Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege said. "It's been a long path to it, and I've worked really hard. I'm excited that it's finally here. I wish we could fast forward it until Saturday, but there is still time for us and things we need to do to improve and get better and ready to play."
Improving is what the Red Raiders needed to do in many areas following a dismal finish to the 2011 season.
Tech finished 13th in the country in total offense averaging 470.58 yards per game, but the most glaring and disturbing number was on the other side of the ball, the Red Raiders defense ranked 114th allowing opponents to average 485.85 yards per game.
When it comes down to fixing those numbers, especially the defensive ones, Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville said this team has a chance to do that because of all the weapons the roster possesses.
"It's all about attitude. It's all about determination. Now the ball's in their court. We've got a chance," he said. "We've got a chance to make some waves, how big of waves, time will only tell in the next few weeks, in the coming months how far we've come. But I think that anybody that's seen us practice can tell there is no doubt we've got more weapons. We've got more depth."
Following the 2011 season where the Red Raiders seemed to lose a player every week, including their leading running back Eric Stephens, who is back, and DeAndre Washington among many others.
Because of all the injury issues last season, Tuberville and his coaching staff went out and got some junior college players, signing nine players in December to come play for the Red Raiders.
With that added depth and the signing class in February, Tuberville had his crop of players with the returners and the newcomers to choose from and now for the first time in his time at Tech, Tuberville said he has a lot of weapons to choose from.
"First year we had some good players, we just didn't have a lot of depth, and last year was even worse because we lost some good seniors," he said. "This year we've been able to have two good recruiting years back‑to‑back. We've got more depth at crucial positions like defense, pass rushers, defensive back, running back, receivers."
With all the new players and the returners coming back, Doege said they are ready to come out in 2012 and prove to everyone this team is nothing like last seasons and they have put in the work in the spring, summer and fall to prepare for the football season.
Doege is on four different awards watch lists entering this season, but there is only one award he wants to be remembered for at the end of his career as the Red Raider gunslinger.
"I just want to be known as a quarterback that led this team to a Big 12 Championship," Doege said. "I have some personal goals, but those don't matter to me as much as winning football games here. And I want to do it for the guys that are my teammates, and I think we deserve it."
Not only is it his goal to lift the Big 12 Conference trophy at the end of the season, but also that of the entire team including senior safety D.J. Johnson.
"Yeah, Big 12 Champions. That is the goal for the entire team and especially for us. It's something that we haven't accomplished here at Tech," he said. "We want to take it, without a doubt. We don't want to leave any doubt. We want everybody to know that we took it, deserved it, and we earned it."
But in the end, especially in the game of football, two players cannot go out and win a Big 12 title by themselves.
It takes entire team efforts, perfect example is Oklahoma State, despite having two first round NFL Draft picks, Brandon Weeden, the starter for the Cleveland Browns, and Justin Blackmon, wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Cowboys depended on many other pieces to go out and take the Big 12 title from teams that were preseason picks to win it.
To accomplish their goal of leaving Tech as the Big 12 Champions in football, Johnson said it will take a team effort and 2012 is a season he believes will surprise a lot of people.
"So overall, it's a matter of everybody going out there and doing their part. Especially the defense based off of what we've done last year," he said. "We have to improve.
"I feel like we have improved and we're going to show and surprise a lot of people."