July 8, 2022

First 4 games could make or break Red Raiders 2022 football season

There’s an old adage that says “you can’t win a game in the first quarter but you can sure lose it in the first quarter”. And in 2022, that same logic could be applied to the Texas Tech football season thanks to a potentially brutal first month.

Breaking down the Red Raiders’ upcoming schedule, there’s no way to deny that September is set up to be gauntlet, one that could define Joey McGuire’s first season as a college head coach.

After opening at home against FCS opponent Murray State, McGuire’s team will then face three games that will go a long way towards setting the tone for the fall.  In fact, Tech may find out in the season’s first month just where it stands as a program.

Week two brings Houston to Lubbock for a crucial non-conference showdown.  But just because the Red Raiders are going to be playing at home against a non-Power-5 team, it doesn’t mean that a victory should be taken for granted.

The Cougars are coming off of a 12-win season in 2021 (though one of their two losses on the season was to the Red Raiders in the season opener).  What’s more, they return six starters on offense including QB Clayton Tune and WR Nathaniel Dell.  That duo was arguably the best QB/WR combo in the American Athletic Conference last year and will challenge the Red Raider defense in a huge way.

What’s more, Houston will almost certainly have the Red Raider game circled on their calendar, and not just for payback from last season.  That’s because, if they can come out of Lubbock with a win, they could be set up for another special season given that they don’t face Cincinnati in the regular season.  In fact, the next-best team on their schedule this fall is either UTSA (who they play in week one) or Memphis.  Thus, they will see the week two game at Jones Stadium as a potential springboard to a season that could end in a New Years’ Six bowl.

A week later, Tech will make the first road trip of the Joey McGuire era when they face N.C. State in Raleigh, North Carolina.  That will be a game that Tech will enter as a significant underdog and it will kick off a stretch of three road games in four weeks.

After a 9-3 season in 2021, the Wolfpack believe they are on the cusp of taking the next step and challenging for the ACC title this year.  That hope is bolstered by the return of QB Devin Leary, who surpassed expectations a season ago in his first go-round as a starter.  He finished with 3,433 yards through the air with 35 touchdowns and only five interceptions and he will be one of the marquee passers in his conference this season.

Following that, Tech returns home to face the hated Texas Longhorns.  Of course, that’s a matchup that hasn’t gone the Red Raiders’ way in Lubbock since Harrell to Crabtree in 2008.  While Texas is always hard to figure out early in the season given the fact that they are almost always ranked higher than they should be in the preseason polls, their overall talent, including dynamic running back Bijan Robinson, will make them a tough team for Tech to handle.

What it all means is that Joey McGuire won’t be able to ease his way into his first season as the man in charge in Lubbock.  In fact, his team will have little time to work out any potential kinks that may arise as the roster tries to adjust to new schemes and coaches on both sides of the football.

Stumble out of the blocks and the Red Raiders could be in trouble given that October is not set up to be a layup with trips to K-State and Oklahoma State as well as a visit from Baylor on the docket.  Thus, the Red Raiders’ season could, in a worst-case scenario, be hanging by a thin thread before the halfway mark.

But if Tech can manage to pull off a couple of wins in September, it could set McGuire’s team up for a shot at bowl eligibility, which has to be the goal for 2022.  However, that’s not something that many preseason prognosticators see happening.

Of course, many of those same people saw Tech missing out on a bowl last season as well and Tech managed to get to six wins despite a mid-season head coaching change.  So with stability no longer a problem and a renewed energy brought on by McGuire’s infectious personality, another six-win season has to be the minimum acceptable outcome for the upcoming campaign.  And by the end of September, we should know quite a bit about this year’s team.  Hopefully, what we learn will be indicative of a program that is on the rise.

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