Living a Life of Illusion?

Not so very long ago the Texas Tech Red Raiders were undefeated and ranked in the nation's top 10. Tech was considered one of college football's great rags-to-riches stories. But the Red Raiders are no longer 7-0 and ranked in the top 10. They are no longer contenders for the Big 12 championship, and it is almost certain that they will drop out of the top 25.

Not so very long ago the Texas Tech Red Raiders were undefeated and ranked in the nation's top 10. Tech was considered one of college football's great rags-to-riches stories, and wunderkind coach Kliff Kingsbury was being touted as a strong contender for national Coach of the Year honors. The team itself, meanwhile, was poised to make a run for the Big 12 title and the BCS Bowl berth that would come with it.

But amid the glow and glory of a tremendous start there were those who whispered that the Red Raiders, at 7-0, had yet to play anybody. There were college football observers who said Tech's spotless record was more a function of the nobodies the Red Raiders had feasted upon than the team's intrinsic merit. What they were saying was that Tech was overrated. That their ranking and record was a house of cards.

Naturally, Red Raider fans were insulted by this assessment. And it is likely that Tech players and coaches were, too.

But the Red Raiders are no longer 7-0 and ranked in the top 10. They are no longer contenders for the Big 12 championship, and it is almost certain that they will drop out of the top 25.

Instead, following a gallant loss at Oklahoma, and a sobering home pounding at the hands of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, Tech is 7-2, and just like that, is off of the national radar. A fanbase that was recently giddy with excitement is now forced to confront the distinct possibility that they naysayers were right—the Red Raiders were not as good as their record and ranking.

Now the loss to Oklahoma was palatable. The Red Raiders played a good Sooner team off their feet in one of the nation's toughest environments. They battled and fought the whole way through and had a legitimate shot at winning almost up to their final possession. That defeat could almost be described as a "good" loss, and it allowed Tech supporters to maintain the belief that the Red Raiders were still an excellent football team.

The same cannot be said after the OSU drubbing.

Tech had everything to play for against the Cowboys. They had every motivation to play their best and then some. The winner of the Tech-Oklahoma State game would not only remain in the thick of the Big 12 title hunt, but would also eliminate the loser from contention, thus narrowing the field.

What's more, the Red Raiders were sowing a personal grudge. Tech had fallen to OSU four straight times, including a 38-point loss to the Cowboys last year, and a 66-6 pulverization in Jones Stadium two years ago. And if that wasn't enough, the Red Raiders were playing before a school record home crowd of nearly 62,000 people and a bevy of talented recruits who were in town to see what Tech was all about.

Yet despite all of these powerful motivations, the Red Raiders weren't even close. They fell behind 21-0 before finally awakening. To their credit, the team rallied and trailed by only four points at halftime. But rather than finish the deal, Tech spit the bit in a third quarter that saw the Cowboys score 21 points and put the Red Raiders down for the count.

Any reasonable person who saw the Texas Tech-Oklahoma State game could only conclude that the Cowboys were clearly the superior team. While one could argue that the Red Raiders and Sooners were evenly matched, nobody could say the same for Tech and OSU. The Cowboys were just that much better than the Red Raiders.

And this leads us full circle. We are once again confronted with the distinct possibility that Tech's 7-0 start was an illusion. But there is yet another, more ominous reality that lies ahead. Hence, with three extremely difficult foes in Kansas State, Baylor and Texas waiting in the wings, it is possible, perhaps even probable that the Red Raiders will finish the regular season on a five-game losing skid. What was once a miracle season could easily turn into a nightmare.

To avoid that terrible fate, Tech simply must beat Kansas State next week. If they don't, the off season will be a long and cold one.

Raider Power Top Stories