Football

What if Texas Tech had beaten TCU in 2015?

I apologize for the abrupt delay in this offseason “what if?” series. Simply stated, life and work got in the way. But we’re back now and hoping to keep you entertained with hypotheticals during this sports hiatus.

Let’s turn to one of the potentially more gut-wrenching “what ifs” in recent Texas Tech history; the 2015 game against TCU. For those who may have forgotten the context of this game, allow me to set the stage.

It’s September of 2015 with a 3:45 p.m. kickoff, just cold enough for fans to smuggle in frozen water bottles to throw at TCU head coach Gary Patterson.

Texas Tech is coming off a dismal 4-8 campaign in 2014, by far its worst season since the turn of the century. TCU, on the other hand, is coming off arguably a College Football Playoff snub from the previous season and are ranked No. 3 in the country. To Texas Tech’s credit, they enter this contest 3-0 with a win over Arkansas on the road.

Long story short, both offenses had a field day in 2015. The teams combined for 1,357 total yards, 70 first downs, and the final score was 55-52. TCU scored on 4th and goal with 23 seconds left on a tipped pass (I can’t bring myself to share a link to the clip with all of you). Texas Tech reached TCU’s 10 yard line as time expired after completing multiple laterals but fell just short.

A win would have catapulted Texas Tech to a top 20 ranking and a 4-0 record. It would have given fans a much more recent memory of their beloved Red Raiders winning a big home game, which would have gone a long way towards future attendance. What would a win have done long term for Texas Tech?

The following week, Texas Tech ran into a buzzsaw of a Baylor team coached by Art Briles. They lost 63-35 and looked like they didn’t have a prayer of stopping Baylor’s offense. I think even with the momentum of a win against TCU, Tech loses this game. But how about after that?

A loss to the No. 5 ranked Bears probably wouldn’t have knocked Texas Tech out of the rankings at 4-1 with wins over Arkansas and TCU. The next two games were easy wins against Iowa State and Kansas, which would have brought the season record to 6-1 and probably a top 15 ranking.

In reality, Texas Tech lost some serious momentum at this point in the season. They dropped three straight @ Oklahoma, vs. Oklahoma State, and @ West Virginia. I think even in a best case scenario, the game against Oklahoma is still a loss. But the next two were very winnable, and I wonder what might have happened if the team had more confidence and momentum.

Against the Cowboys, Texas Tech held a trio of 17-point first half leads as the two teams went back and forth and led by 10 at halftime. By the end of the third quarter, Texas Tech trailed and the wheels fell completely off by the end of the fourth quarter, ultimately falling 70-53. You’re not going to win many games giving up 70 points, but this game was winnable.

The following week in Morgantown, a dejected Red Raider offense couldn’t get going and they fell 31-26. Another very winnable game.

Sitting at 5-5, I think it’s not a stretch to think Texas Tech could have been 8-2 at this point in the season and firmly in the top 15. In reality, Texas Tech closed out the season with regular season wins over Kansas State and Texas so let’s assume those results hold.

That puts Texas Tech at 10-2 and in second place in the Big 12 along with likely a top 10 ranking. And this is where things get very interesting.

Oklahoma won the Big 12 and earned a spot in the College Football Playoff. That opened up a spot for a second Big 12 team in a New Year’s Six bowl game. Oklahoma State earned that spot in 2015 and got blown out by Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl.

But if Texas Tech goes 10-2 and finished second in the Big 12, they’re playing in that game instead. Part of me thinks the Red Raiders get housed just like Oklahoma State did. After all, Ole Miss did hand eventual champion Alabama its only loss of that season. On the other hand, Ole Miss lost to the same Arkansas team that Texas Tech handled pretty well in 2015.

Regardless of a win or loss, it would be Texas Tech’s first appearance in a BCS or NY6 bowl game. That’s a significant milestone for any program, and a win would have been even more impressive. In fact, with a win in that game I think there’s a case to be made that the 2015 Texas Tech team would be the best in the school’s history.

But I also realize flipping the outcome of three regular season games and a bowl game is a huge “what if?” The reality is that Texas Tech defense ranked in the triple digits nationally in almost every relevant defensive category. That’s not sustainable, even with a great offense.

But a 10-2 season would have achieved three things long term. First, Kingsbury would have earned a ton of equity rather than being on the hot seat from 2016 onward. Second, that probably rolls into some strong recruiting classes for 2016 and 2017, regardless of future on-the-field outcomes. And third, fan interest is restored to 2008 levels.

Again, a lot of dominoes need to fall just right after pulling off a win against TCU in 2015, but it’s not too difficult to see how that single game may have caused a huge swing in momentum for the entire Texas Tech program. Some guy named Patrick Mahomes seems to think so, anyway.

What do you think could have happened with a win over TCU in 2015?

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