The saying goes “Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”. By that definition, Texas Tech is insane. Once again the Red Raiders displayed a historic offense and once again they displayed a historic(ally bad) defense. Texas Tech, led by future NFL draft pick Patrick Mahomes were a top-10 offense, scoring over 41 points per game and averaging nearly 550 yards. The defense once again was near the bottom of most metrics, giving up 45 points per game and 570 yards. All of the offense in the NCAA only led the Red Raiders to a 5-7 season in 2016.
Who did they lose?
Future first-round NFL draft pick Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes broke the 5,000 yard barrier last year and added 41 touchdown passes. Mahomes favorite target, Jonathan Giles elected to transfer. Giles caught 69 passes for over 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns before deciding to end his college career in Baton Rouge with LSU.
Breiden Fehoko and Ondre Pipkins, both former blue-chip prospects graduated. Fehoko and Pipkins anchored the Texas Tech defensive line. Fehoko chose to transfer to LSU and join teammate Johnathan Giles in Baton Rouge. Fehoko started all 25 games for the Red Raiders as a true freshman and sophomore, adding 38 tackles, 7.5 TFL and 2 sacks in 25 games. Pipkins went undrafted and was signed as an UDFA with the Washington Redskins.
Who do they return?
Expected to win the quarterback “competition”, Nic Shimonek. Shimonek appeared in 4 games last year, throwing for 484 yards. Shimonek is the most experienced quarterback on the roster and should give head coach Kliff Kingsbury another top-5 passer.
Despite the loss of Jonathan Giles, the Red Raiders return 3 other players who were targeted at least 80 times. Keke Coutee, Dylan Cantrell and Cameron Batson all return in 2017. Those three combined for 2200 yards and 23 touchdowns on 173 catches. Four other receivers caught at least 10 passes last year also return. At running back, the Red Raiders return leading rusher Da’Leon Ward who rushed for 428 yards on 103 carries (4.2 YPC).
Why should West Virginia be worried?
Texas Tech is going to have a powerful offense once again. 2016 went the way for the Mountaineers but 2014 and 2015 were both nail biters. If TTU defensive coordinator David Gibbs is able to generate turnovers as he wants to do, then the Mountaineers could find themselves forced to go into shoot-out mode with the Red Raiders. Very few teams are equipped to score 60 points to win but the Red Raiders are one of them.
Why should West Virginia not be worried?
Texas Tech has a road game against Houston in late September but does not leave the state of Texas until the October 14 game with the Mountaineers. This will be the first game for Shimonek in Morgantown. WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson has done an amazing job shutting down the Red Raiders high powered offense. In three games against Kliff Kingsbury, Gibson has allowed 25.6 points per game and that number continues to drop.
Key player for Texas Tech
If your offense is going to make the quarterback the key, then the quarterback is going to the be key player. Shimonek offers Kingsbury an experienced signal caller for his offense but the job is not guaranteed. If Shimonek doesn’t win the job, whomever is the quarterback will be asked to shoulder an even heavier burden against a unique 3-3-5 defense that loves to confuse new quarterbacks.
Key player for West Virginia
Can the defensive tackles generate a pass-rush? If so, this game should go for the Mountaineers. If the Mountaineers are unable to move the quarterback off his spot, then Will Grier and Justin Crawford are going to have to put up video game numbers. With the losses of Noble Nwachukwu, Darrien Howard and Christian Brown from last year’s team, this may will be a strong test for newcomers Adam Shuler, Jaleel Fields and Reese Donahue.