For a lot of NCAA Division - 1A football programs getting into a bowl and having a winning season is a successful season. While this is the case for lower-tier and inconsistent BCS conference teams and leading mid-major conference teams, still others have to step up their goals. Texas Tech is a perfect example of this, as Red Raider football has had twelve straight winning seasons and even better yet has won five of the last six bowl games it has appeared in.
It is time to step up the expectation of what these Red Raiders can do. Here's an early outlook on next season.
With 10 returning on the offensive side of the ball, including Graham Harrell (leading passer in the nation) and Michael Crabtree, redshirt freshman phenomenon (leading receiver in the nation and winner of the Bietnokiff Award), this group needs to mainly focus on not making mental mistakes. Before the Gator Bowl, Graham Harrell has shown his vulnerability against ranked opponents throwing 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in a miserable 1-6 record the last two seasons. Next season he will need to be more patient and mistake-free when throwing the football in these types of games. Texas Tech wide receivers had numerous drops in the 2008 Gator Bowl, but what was most important is that Harrell did not make many mistakes with his throws, excluding one pass that could have been picked off in the second half. The entire offensive line returns next season, but Left Tackle Rylan Reed will need to recover fully from his recent broken ankle in the Gator Bowl.
DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS
On defense 8 starters return and numerous others such as Brian Duncan, linebacker, will need to step up and fill in voids. The most important aspect of a successful season next year will be the ability to stop, or at least contain, the run because not many other Big 12 teams will be able to pass like the Tech offense. Texas Tech will need to find a replacement kicker for senior Alex Trlica, who went his entire career without missing an extra point. This likely may be found in junior kicker Cory Fowler.
As any Texas Tech fan will tell you, it's not too easy to recruit good football players to come to Lubbock when they can go down to College Station or Austin. Even so, the number two recruit in the nation, wide receiver Julio Jones (1,181 yards and 16 TD as senior), is still considering Tech as well as other top receivers. Overall so far Texas Tech has 11 committed players from the class of 2008, including 7 defensive players - 3 of which are junior college transfers that figure to make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. Harrison Jeffers, a running back from Oklahoma ranked 11th nationally, also figures to get a chance to make a name for himself in the coming years as a Red Raider.
2008 is definitely the year that Texas Tech football needs to make a statement in the Big 12 conference, or else it might be time for a change. It will be a long offseason for the Red Raiders, but come this fall it is BCS or bust!