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Is 7-0 start realistic? Tech's about to find out

Big 12's perceived doormats next up

Posted: September 30, 2013 - 3:45pm  |  Updated: October 1, 2013 - 12:13am
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Texas Tech's upcoming schedule could lead to a 7-0 start, but recent history suggest the Red Raiders should not overlook Kansas and Iowa State.  (Zach Long)  Zach Long
Zach Long
Texas Tech's upcoming schedule could lead to a 7-0 start, but recent history suggest the Red Raiders should not overlook Kansas and Iowa State. (Zach Long)
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Even before Texas Tech beat a ranked TCU team in week three of the season, talk already had started among Red Raiders fans: Tech could be 7-0 going into its late October game at Oklahoma.

Tech is 4-0 with none of its next three opponents — Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia — perceived to be a contender. They were picked eighth, ninth and 10th in the preseason Big 12 media poll.

West Virginia showed how quickly perceptions can change when the Mountaineers, as 19-point underdogs, upset Big 12 Conference favorite Oklahoma State on Saturday. Nevertheless, the opportunity’s at hand for 20th-ranked Tech to make hay, even if the Red Raiders can’t acknowledge it.

“We attack each and every week. We’re not good enough to look ahead like that,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. “I think you saw with Oklahoma State what can happen with this conference each and every week. We’re just trying to get better each week.”

That’s probably the right approach. In fact, those talking about the possibility of a 7-0 start might need to make a more critical assessment. It’s not as if Tech has soundly beaten Kansas and Iowa State lately, and the Red Raiders have flaws of their own. Playing a freshman quarterback behind an inexperienced line, offense hasn’t been a given, and the defense has to show its improvement can be sustained week in, week out in the Big 12.

“Offensively, we haven’t played very well the last two weeks and we know that,” Kingsbury said. “That is kind of my main issue as the offensive coordinator, and the defense has to keep improving and doing what they’re doing.”

The theory of a 7-0 Tech presupposes the Red Raiders should easily handle Kansas and Iowa State, though Tech did little the last two years to validate a dismissive attitude toward the next two opponents. Two years ago, Iowa State savaged the Red Raiders 41-7 in Lubbock, and Tech had to rally from a 20-0 deficit to get a 45-34 victory at Kansas.

Last year, Tech-ISU was a 14-13 game going to the fourth quarter before Tech won 24-13. And a Kansas team that finished 1-11 rushed for 390 yards and took the Red Raiders to double overtime before losing 41-34 in Lubbock.

No wonder Tech players aren’t publicly pushing the thought of an easy path to 7-0.

“As a player in the Big 12, I’ve always felt like any team can beat anybody on any given day,” defensive tackle Kerry Hyder said. “I don’t feel like we’ve got guaranteed wins anywhere. You’ve got to come out and play your best every week, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The way the schedule unfolds could help the Red Raiders. In the final five weeks, they get No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 21 Oklahoma State and No. 17 Baylor as well as Kansas State and Texas. Between now and then, they might be able to develop a little more at quarterback, solve some problems in the offensive line and reinforce their new — and so far, successful — defensive schemes.

Only three Tech teams — the ones from 1938, 1976 and 2008 — made it through the first seven games unscathed.

“We’re not worried about looking down the road to 7-0 or whatever it may be,” Tech flanker Bradley Marquez said. “We’ve got Kansas this week. That’s all we’re worried about. That’s our main focus. We’ll take that approach each and every week for the following teams.”

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

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The road ahead

Texas Tech’s next three opponents have looked mostly unimpressive this season, at least until West Virginia beat Oklahoma State on Saturday. Here are reasons why the Red Raiders should beat Kansas, Iowa State and West Virginia — and reasons why they might not.

Kansas

When/where: Saturday at Lawrence, Kan.

It’s a slam dunk: Kansas has a 21-game losing streak in Big 12 games. Tech’s on too good a roll to be the Jayhawks’ streak breaker.

Not so fast: James Sims and Tony Pierson are back, right? Last year, Pierson rushed for 202 yards against Tech and Sims for 127. Might want to get that fixed before Saturday.

Iowa State

When/where: Oct. 12 at Lubbock

It’s a slam dunk: Kliff Kingsbury is fast restoring the edge Tech derives from a hostile home crowd. The Red Raiders’ defense in particular seems to be siphoning energy from record student-crowd turnouts.

Not so fast: Paul Rhoads’ teams have beaten a ranked Big 12 opponent on the road each of the last three years — at Texas in 2010, at Tech in 2011 and at TCU in 2012. And because Iowa State plays a Thursday night home game this week, the Cyclones get an extra few days of rest and readiness for Tech.

West Virginia

When/where: Oct. 19 at Morgantown, W. Va.

It’s a slam dunk: That West Virginia offense remains weak, even after a 30-21 upset of then-No. 11 Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers scored only two offensive touchdowns in the game, and Tech’s improved defense should have no trouble keeping them in check.

Not so fast: Remember all those questions the Mountaineers fielded last year about how they’ll handle long trips? Now it gets turned around. The Red Raiders have to make that 1,300-mile flight, play in a setting that’s new to them and catch a West Virginia team that’ll be coming off an open date.

Compiled by Don Williams

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Haven't learned from the past

This team must become consistent first Especially on offense.

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jinx

Yes, the schedule looks promising; but you may have just jinxed it. I mean, why not an 8-0 start? Are you implying that the Oklahoma game is a definite loss? Way to go, AJ!

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No, No, No

If you continually think about being 7-0 it ain't gonna happen. One game at a time is the only chance to get to 7-0. Kansas whipped our butts last year and we lucked out. Jayhawks played better a year ago and they always scare us to death in Lawrence.

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Raiderpower3234

KU isn't in Manhatten, and we've actually done better against them on the road than in Lubbock.

Other than that I agree with you.

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