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2021 Texas Tech college football preview: Matt Wells needs to reach a bowl game

The Red Raiders haven’t won a bowl game since 2013, and haven’t even gotten close to the Big 12 title since Michael Crabtree left. It’s time to show improvement.

Defensive lineman Jaylon Hutchings of the Texas Tech Red Raiders warms up before the college football game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Jones AT&T Stadium on December 05, 2020 in Lubbock, Texas. Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

It’s Year 3 for head coach Matt Wells with the Texas Tech Red Raiders after replacing the fired alumni Kliff Kingsbury. And after two seasons of 4-8 and 4-6, it’s time to show some improvement.

But the issue might be there isn’t much talent to mold into a winning team. The 2020 Lubbock Boys were 49th in 247Sports Team Talent ranking. In 2021? 72nd. That’s going the wrong direction and in a hurry. Could this key season have already been lost on the recruiting trail?

While they added a valued transfer quarterback in Oregon’s Tyler Shough, they’ll need more players to step in right away to at least become bowl eligible. And with a tricky game against old Southwest Conference rival Houston to open the season in the Texans NRG Stadium, it could start bad and get worse if they start on the wrong foot.

2020 Season Review

  • 4-6, 3-6 Big 12 (8th), no bowl game
  • Finished season beating Baylor and Kansas, while losing just 50-44 to Oklahoma State.

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 74th
ESPN Returning Production: 69% overall (69th): 63% offense (82nd), 74% defense (53rd)
Returning Talent Index: Negative, 9th in Big 12
Returning starters: 7/11 offense, 8/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Tyler Shough (Grad Transfer)

Shough graduated early at Oregon, and that means he’ll have three years of eligibility in Lubbock. The four-star pro-style QB played 11 games in Eugene, completing 64.8% of his passes for 1703 career with a 9.4 yards per pass average. He also had 16 touchdowns and six interceptions, and likely would have been in the incumbent starter if he chose

He’ll work with former TCU coach Sonny Cumbie, a former Red Raider that was hired in December as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Offense (non-QB): RB SaRodorick Thompson (Junior)

Was the Red Raiders leading receiver last year with 109 carries for 610 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground, and added 124 yards receiving as well. Four starters on his offensive line return as well, so there’s a chance for marked improvement in 2021.

Defense: LB Krishon Merriweather (Senior)

The All-Big 12 Honorable Mention racked up 75 tackles last season, his first in Lubbock. With two years of eligibility remaining, there’s a chance for him to improve even more. He had 6.5 TFL’s last season as well.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 77th overall: 59th offense, 82nd defense, 112th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 60th overall: 46th offense, 74th defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +75000
To win Big 12: +5000
Win total: 4.5 (Over -152, Under +120)

2020 Against The Spread: 4-6
2020 Point Total: Over 4-6

2021 Texas Tech Schedule

2021 Texas Tech Red Raiders

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 vs. Houston (NRG Stadium) 7:00 p.m./ESPN N/A
Saturday, Sep. 11 vs. Stephen F Austin 7:00 p.m./ESPN+ N/A
Saturday, Sep. 18 vs. FIU 7:00 p.m./ESPN+ N/A
Saturday, Sep. 25 at Texas TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 2 at West Virginia TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 vs. TCU TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 16 at Kansas TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 23 vs. Kansas State TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 at Oklahoma TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 6 BYE TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 13 vs. Iowa State TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 20 vs. Oklahoma STate TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 27 at Baylor TBA N/A