EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 12th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
Here's what Texas Tech is up against: The Red Raiders are still able to throw the ball all over the lot - just as in the Mike Leach/Dana Holgorsen days - and last year ranked seventh in the nation in passing yards. But almost everyone in the Big 12 has caught up to them and passed them.
Think about this. Tech ranked seventh in the country in passing, but that was just fifth-best among teams in the Big 12 this season (Oklahoma State, Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia all averaged more). It's no longer enough to have a potent offense and the Red Raiders haven't kept pace everywhere else. Will this year be different?
Well, the offense is likely to still be potent. Senior quarterback Seth Doege would have been hailed as one of the best had he not been in the same league with Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, Landry Jones and Brandon Weeden. As it was, he threw for 4,004 yards, 28 touchdowns and just 10 picks and was barely noticed.
But the rushing offense was just 87th in the country and the rushing defense was dead last. The defense ranked 100th in sacks despite playing in a league where dropbacks come on almost every down. Needless to say, those problems have to be addressed.
Well, the passing game will be good again with Doege and three top-flight receivers. But the top two running backs - mighty mites Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington - are battling injuries and the line needs to be rebuilt.
On defense, there has to be better line play. Much better. But there aren't any obvious studs there. The linebackers are fast, which helps in coverage, but they were also a big problem in that last-ranked run defense. And on the back end, things were so bad last year that 5-foot-9, 197-pound running back Cornelius Douglas was tried at corner and is likely to be an anchor there this season. The safeties are of quality in Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson, but they can't be asked to do everything.
Off-the-wall fact: Texas Tech owns the record for most Sun Bowl losses with eight (1-8). The first of those - in fact, the Red Raiders' first bowl loss (and first bowl) ever - was 7-6 to West Virginia in the Sun Bowl after the 1937 season. . . . Until missing out last year, Texas Tech had been to bowl games in 11 straight seasons and 16 of the previous 18. Prior to that 16-of-18 run, the Red Raiders had been left at home 13 of the previous 15 seasons.