Last year, by the time the Texas Tech Red Raiders came to Morgantown, fans were in an uproar about then starting quarterback Austin Kendall. He was struggling and regressing and the NCAA’s ruling that players could play in up to four games and still keep their redshirt was weighing heavily in the air. The Red Raiders represented the start of the last four games in the Mountaineers season if they didn’t make a bowl game, meaning backup Jarret Doege could play and we would get to start the new era.
The Red Raiders, once college football’s most dangerous offense, were a more grounded team in 2019 under new head coach Matt Wells watch. He also focused on defense more than his predecessor did and during the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers, they intercepted Kendall twice and caused a fumble. Those turnovers directly led to the decision to end the Kendall regime and start the Doege era.
“Backup” quarterback Jett Duffey, who has taken over for starter Alan Bowman after injuries once again limited Bowman’s season, is gone after transferring out of the program. Duffey led the team with 2,800 yards passing and he had another 200 rushing.
Running back Ta’Zhawn Henry is gone and while he wasn’t the leading rusher in 2019, he did help spell the running backs and losing an experienced back is never good for an offense. Matt Wells must replace three starters on the offensive line after the group graduates both tackles, Terrence Steel and Travis Bruffy, and guard Madison Akamnonu.
On defense, linebacker Jordyn Brooks is gone after leading the team in tackles with 108 last season. Brooks absence will be huge for Texas Tech as he was only one of six players in the FBS to record 20 tackles-for-loss.
Broderick Washington’s loss on the defensive line will be missed after he recorded 2.5 sacks, knocking down two passes and recovering a fumble. While both Brooks and Washington will be missed, the biggest loss may just be Douglas Coleman III, a defensive back who snagged 8 interceptions and was third on the team with 63 tackles. For a defense that was near the bottom in pass defense last year, losing a playmaker of Coleman’s ability seems to spell disaster.
It all depends on junior quarterback Alan Bowman, who you may remember as the quarterback the Mountaineers put in the hospital after a brutal hit that collapsed a lung in 2018. He was injured again in 2019 after only three games. In 2018, before his injury, Bowman was a breakout star for then head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Despite only playing 11 games in his career, he’s already thrown for over 3,600 yards and 23 touchdowns. When he’s on, he may just be the best passer in the Big 12.
Bowman will have 2019’s leading rusher back, SaRodorick Thompson and his 765 yards rushing. With Bowman in the backfield, Thompson may have more room to run this season.
The really good news for Bowman and the Red Raiders is that TJ Vasher and Erik Ezukanma are back. Ezukanma led the team in receiver yards last year while Vasher is a tall fast vertical threat who if he can put it together has all the skills necessary to be drafted in 2021.
Adrian Frye was a freshman All-American at safety but will move down to cornerback this season after collecting an interception last season. With the departure of Jordyn Brooks, Wells brought in two transfers to help shore up the linebacking unit, Brandon Bouyer-Randle and Krishon Merriweather.
If this game were in Morgantown, I’d have this as an easy victory for the Mountaineers, but the game is in Lubbock, in October, where the winds are crazy. If Alan Bowman is healthy, this looks like a game that is going to be in the high 30s as a minimum and could be even higher. I’m not confident the Mountaineers can win a game where they need to score 42-45 points to win, but I’m also high on the ‘Eers defense. I think it will be close but I’m going to put on old gold ‘n’ blue glasses right now.
Mountaineers 38 - Red Raiders 35