EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the 13th in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
If you think West Virginia's drop after a fast start last season was agonizing, try doing it two years in a row. In 2011, Texas Tech started 4-0 and then lost seven of its last eight. In 2012, a 6-1 start was followed by a 1-4 finish before winning a bowl game. Tommy Tuberville left for Cincinnati on his own, but few were sad to see him go.
Enter Kliff Kingsbury, who was instrumental in Tech's Air Raid offenses under Mike Leach (and Dana Holgorsen, Art Briles, etc.) as one of the school's all-time great quarterbacks. He's back now as the wet-behind-the-ears head coach and wants to return the Red Raiders to their point-scoring glory days.
Can he? Well, he has some holes to fill, including at quarterback, where Seth Doege is gone along with leading receiver Darrin Moore. But figure on Kingsbury, who coached Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel last year at Texas A&M, molding sophomore Michael Brewer into a good quarterback. No. 2 receiver Eric Ward caught 82 passes for over 1,000 yards and 12 scores, and tight end/slot receiver Jace Amaro was a monster (five catches, 156 yards against WVU) before being injured.
Leading rusher Kenny Williams (824 yards, 5.8 per carry) is back, but the offensive line is a work in progress so the running game is a question mark. That's significant because the Air Raid, while often pass-heavy, isn't much good without a running game to go along with it.
Defense is where the real mystery is with Tech. Last year the Red Raiders were among the best in the country early in the season, including that complete 14-point shutdown of a WVU team that had scored 118 the previous two games against Baylor and Texas. But over the second half that same defense fell apart, largely because while Tech's pass defense was great it couldn't even think about stopping the run. That might be just the opposite this season because Tech returns most of the front seven, but the back end has to be rebuilt and the corners are tiny.
At 33, Kingsbury is the youngest head coach at a BCS school and the second youngest (behind Toledo's Matt Campbell) in FBS. He's only been coaching since 2008, when Dana Holgorsen got him a job as a quality control coach at Houston. He was in that job only a year before Holgorsen went to Oklahoma State and Kingsbury replaced him as co-offensive coordinator at UH, then went with Kevin Sumlin to Texas A&M, where he coached Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.