AMES — Texas Tech kicks off the back half of Iowa State’s backloaded schedule.
While the back half of the schedule has Kansas and Kansas State, it also has traditional Big 12 powers Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas nestled in there.
Additionally, the back half of the schedule has Texas Tech, which will be a bona fide unknown to begin 2019.
The Red Raiders fired Kliff Kingsbury in the offseason — who then became the Arizona Cardinals head coach — and hired Utah State’s Matt Wells.
Unlike West Virginia, this isn’t a complete program turnover. Texas Tech still has quarterback Alan Bowman, who is coming off a stellar offensive campaign as a freshman. He passed for 2,638 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 69 percent passing in just eight games.
The offense seems like it’ll still be the focus in Lubbock, Texas. Wells’ 2018 Utah State team averaged the second-most points per game in the country last season (behind only Oklahoma) with 47.5 points per game. It also gained 497.4 yards per game.
The key difference between Wells and Kingsbury seems to be defense. While Kingsbury couldn’t figure that side of the ball out, Wells’ Utah State team gave up 22.2 points per game.
That would’ve been the best in the Big 12 last season, but it was fifth-best in the Mountain West and the Mountain West doesn’t have the offenses that the Big 12 has. So it’ll be interesting to see how it holds up when it faces the likes of Jalen Hurts, Sam Ehlinger, Charlie Brewer and Brock Purdy.
One thing Utah State’s defense hung its hat on was turnovers and turnover margin — two stats Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell loves. Utah State’s defense had 22 interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. Meanwhile, the offense gave up 12 fumbles and threw six interceptions, so Utah State had a turnover margin of plus-14, the best in the Mountain West.
Wells did bring over both his offensive coordinator, David Yost, and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson to coach with him at Texas Tech.
While Bowman should be “the guy” in Lubbock, backup quarterback Jett Duffey provides an added element to Texas Tech. Duffey also played in eight games last season and passed for 1,221 yards, eight touchdowns and six interceptions on 67 percent passing. He was also Texas Tech’s leading rusher with 369 yards and four touchdowns on 79 attempts.
The Red Raiders also return two running backs who saw significant playing time in Da’Leon Ward and Ta’Zhawn Henry. Both rushed for 341 yards and Ward rushed for three touchdowns while Henry ran for eight.
Texas Tech has to replace its top-two receiving targets, but it does return 6-foot-6 T.J. Vasher, who will undoubtedly torment smaller defensive backs. Vasher caught 54 passes for 687 yards and seven touchdowns last season as a sophomore.
Way-too-early prediction: Campbell has never lost to Texas Tech — including a 66-10 beatdown of Patrick Mahomes’ team in Campbell’s first year when the Cyclones went 3-9.
Texas Tech just missed out on bowl eligibility last season, going 5-7. I don’t think it’s going to be worse, but I’m not sure it will be much better, either. In the Big 12 media preseason poll, Texas Tech was picked to finish seventh, which would put it in that 5-7 range.
I don’t think Iowa State will be one of those five wins for Texas Tech. Matt Campbell will remain undefeated against the Red Raiders and improve Iowa State’s record to 6-1 right before the gauntlet of Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas.
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