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Nothing was all that surprising about Texas Tech last year. Under Kliff Kingsbury, the Red Raiders have been all offense and little defense. But reaching seven wins and playing in the Texas Bowl (loss to LSU) was much better than a year ago for this group. They'll try and do the same thing again, but as usual face an uphill battle on the defensive side, which will ultimately halt their chances to challenge for the Big 12.
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One of the best returning quarterbacks in the country leads the Red Raiders in Patrick Mahomes, who tossed 36 touchdowns last year, including four in the bowl loss. He also had 15 interceptions, but that's the kind of thing that happens when playing from behind. The good news is that Mahomes decided to give up baseball in the spring, so it wouldn't be surprising if the junior improves a bit. His receivers won't be as good with Jakeem Grant gone, but Ian Sadler (596 yards, 3 TDs) and Reginald Davis (536 yards, 8 TDs) return, while transfer Derrick Willies is expected to step right into the group. There is also some hope that suspended WR Devin Lauderdale (639 yards, 4 TDs) can come back to the team at some point.
The backfield took a hit with DeAndre Washington moving onto the NFL, but Justin Stockton (708 yards, 11 TDs) got plenty of experience in last season. The offensive line has some new faces, which won't help Stockton much, but having center Tony Morales back is huge and senior left tackle Baylen Brown will help Mahomes as well.
Getting to the defensive side, Texas Tech has the second-least amount of career starts returning their team. That may be a blessing in disguise as the Red Raiders were terrible on the defensive side, giving up the second-most yards per game (547.7) in the country.
Tech needs some transfers to step in and be effective immediately along the line, while sophomore tackle Breiden Fehoko has to build on his successful freshman campaign. The linebackers have experience and could be a solid unit with big things expected from sophomores Dakota Allen and D'Vonta Hinton.
The secondary is the best part of Tech's defense after they had 15 interceptions a season ago. Sophomore safety Jah'Shawn Johnson has turned into one of the better players on the defense, while every other spot in the unit looks to be filled by seniors.
The Red Raiders went undefeated in non-conference play last year and would like to do so again, but a road game at Arizona State stands in the way. Expect a ton of points in that meeting with Mahomes aiming for another five-touchdown effort. The beginning of Tech's Big 12 slate also presents winnable games with only one road game (at Kansas State) in their first four. Of course, that doesn't matter unless they can find a way to beat either West Virginia or Oklahoma at home. It doesn't remain as favorable later in the year for the Red Raiders as they'll travel to TCU and OK State, as well as face Baylor at AT&T Stadium.
Fighting for the Big 12 crown will likely be out of reach for Texas Tech, but Mahomes will keep them in plenty of games, much like a season ago. But if the defense gives up 50, 60 or even 70 points to the Big 12's best, then that won't matter all that much, unless Mahomes plans on this offense averaging 60 points per game.
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2016 Texas Tech Red Raiders Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Stephen F. Austin
Sept. 10 at Arizona State
Sept. 17 vs. Louisiana Tech
Oct. 1 vs. Kansas
Oct. 8 at Kansas State
Oct. 15 vs. West Virginia
Oct. 22 vs. Oklahoma
Oct. 29 at TCU
Nov. 5 vs. Texas
Nov. 12 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 19 at Iowa State
Nov. 25 vs. Baylor (AT&T Stadium)
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