It's magazine season for college football. What used to be a platform released in August to fuel the upcoming fire of the pending college football season is now used to help curb the appetite for the gridiron hungry for a few days in the early summer.
The collective projection for Texas Tech in the periodicals is an average of 7.5. Kansas and Iowa State are the only teams unanimously picked below the Red Raiders. Some also believe West Virginia Will fall back behind the pack, but the "experts" are casting their lots that even though the Red Raiders will look the part, shades and all, this will be a learning year for Kliff Kingsbury and his first edition Texas Tech team.
Instead of doing the proverbial and tiresome schedule win-loss analysis, let's look at some of the other factors in play for the 2013 Red Raiders as to why they won't finish 7th in the Big 12.
Talent - This is probably the most talented team that a first year head coach has had at Texas Tech since Spike Dykes took over the Independence Bowl team in 1986. That team featured James Gray, Billy Joe Tolliver and many components of the 1989 All-American Bowl team. Say what you may about Tommy Tuberville, but the 2011 recruiting class should do some growing up this year, and Kliff Kingsbury will be the beneficiary of it. With the exception of cornerback, there are All-Big 12 candidates at every position. Even at offensive line, where the numbers are thin, there is all-conference caliber talent. The cliché goes, it's not the X's and O's, it's the Jimmys & Joes and Tech is on more solid footing than people think.
Speed - With Deandre Washington healthy, Jakeem Grant at H receiver (Does it anger anyone else that he had 0 touches versus Texas last year? Sorry.), and the second line of young receivers, the Red Raiders are more poised to score points quickly and make big plays offensively. On Defense, there is an upgrade in speed at DE/OLB with Jackson Richards moving inside. We're about to see what Branden Jackson can do, and if his game speed doesn't show up, Pete Robertson or Demetrius Alston will be there to step in. Micah Awe can run, and Terrence Bullitt just challenged Sadale Foster in the 40 yard dash on Twitter. There will also be a different kind of speed in the secondary this year. I don't care how fast a DB can run (Remember Vincent Meeks and his 4.19* 40 blowing a coverage against Roy Williams that night in Austin circa 2003? Sorry again.), I care about covering ability and closing speed. We know Porter can cover, ask Tavon Austin. We know Bruce Jones can cover. That helps.
Upgrade at QB - With apologies to Seth Doege, Michael Brewer is an upgrade. I have nothing against Doege, good kid, great Red Raider, hard worker all of that stuff, but if you look at the mistakes he made the first few games as a junior versus his last several games as a senior, they were very similar. Brewer has a quicker release, makes quicker decisions, and has better escapabilty if he gets in trouble. It may also be that Brewer is downright more talented than Doege. I will also acknowledge that Brewer will have more to work with during his tenure at the helm of the Red Raiders than Doege did during his, so the results may be better, and that may not be fair. But an upgrade at QB, albeit younger is a step in the right direction. The only other team who can claim an upgrade at the QB position from a year ago is Kansas with Jake Heaps.
Kliff - Yes, this is a factor. Kliff Kingsbury is a winner, he's hungry and he's going to make sure no one outworks him. This is contagious, and it's spread throughout the team and the coaching staff. Kliff said when he was hiring assistants that this is a young man's game. He's right. It's also a hungry man's game. Bulls get rich, hogs get slaughtered. Kliff's more bull than hog. Kliff was also a part of teams that defied expectation. Coach Leach never finished below where his teams were selected to finish and often exceeded expectation. Something tells me Kliff will, too.