The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 83: Texas Tech
Coach: Tommy Tuberville (13-12 third season, 110-60 in 14 seasons)
2011 record: 5-7 (2-7 in Big 12 Conference, seventh in Big 12)
Look back: All signs pointed to a positive season for the Red Raiders, especially after opening the 2011 campaign with four straight victories, however that wasn’t going to be the case for this team. Back-to-back home losses to Texas A&M and Kansas State brought the team back to Earth. A stunning 41-38 win over then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 22 at Norman was the season’s really only highlight as the team followed that game up with five straight losses to finish at 5-7, its worst season since 1992.
Offensive starters lost/returning: 2/9
Defensive starters lost/returning: 2/9
Key losses: OL Lonnie Edwards, C Justin Keown, DE Scott Smith, DT Donald Langley
Top returnees: QB Seth Doege, S Cody Davis, RB Eric Stephens, WR Eric Ward, WR Alex Torres
Strengths: While not as explosive as in past seasons, the offense did make strides in 2011. Quarterback Seth Doege threw for 4,004 yards and connected on 398-of-581 passes while throwing 28 touchdowns as a junior last season. That was good enough for the Red Raiders to finish fourth in the league in passing offense behind schools like Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Baylor. Eric Ward returns to lead the receiving unit. Ward had 84 catches for 800 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Joining Ward are Alex Torres (51/616/4) and Darrin Moore (47/571/8).
Weaknesses: Defense has to be a concern for Texas Tech. As a unit, the defense finished ranked eighth out of 10 teams in total defense in the Big 12 forcing Tuberville to go out and hire veteran defensive coordinator Art Kaufman. Kaufman becomes the fourth defensive coordinator in the past four seasons at the school. His first task was installing a basic 4-3 defense and helping him run that will be junior college transfer Will Smith, who steps into the role as starting middle linebacker. .. Running back could be a concern with incumbent Eric Stephens hobbled by a knee injury. His backup, DeAndre Washington was also injured this spring and that could be cause for concern for a unit that was ranked dead last rushing offense in the Big 12 last season.
Outlook: Injuries took their toll on this team last season and exposed the team’s lack of depth. With 18 starters returning to this year’s team, the Red Raiders should have squashed some of those concerns. However, the running back situation could become an issue going into fall camp. If Eric Stephens can’t return to full strength, the team will need to find someone to step up. Once again, this team can jump out to a quick start but with games against Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU and Kansas State, October could be a rough month. Texas Tech will need to finish strong in November against Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor if it wants to avoid its second straight losing season. Something this program hasn’t seen since the mid-1980s.
Sept. 1 Northwestern State
Sept. 8 at Texas State
Sept. 15 New Mexico
Sept. 29 at Iowa State
Oct. 6 Oklahoma
Oct. 13 West Virginia
Oct. 20 at TCU