Monday, the first Associated Press Top 25 was released for 2023 and the Texas Tech football team was nowhere to be found. While the Red Raiders were in the “others receiving votes” category, their omission from the media’s ranking is a stark reminder that this will almost always be a program that has to earn every bit of respect it receives.
If you don’t think that the Red Raiders deserved to be ranked in the AP poll, ask yourself, how many programs coming off of an 8-win season that ended with a four-game winning streak and a thorough bowl game beating of an S.E.C. opponent would be left out of a preseason poll.
What’s more, consider how high a name-brand program would be ranked to begin a season in which it returned 18 starters off of an 8-win team from the previous season. What if U.C.L.A. or Miami had that same scenario heading into 2023? Those programs likely would find themselves in the top 20 or even the top 15 of the first poll.
That’s not the case for the Red Raiders this year. Not that the snub is all that shocking.
After all, the Red Raiders don’t have a big-name head coach who automatically earns the benefit of the doubt from national voters. In fact, many around the country still likely don’t respect the terrific job Joey McGuire has done in turning his program into a legitimate Big 12 contender in less than two years in charge.
Rather, for some reason, he’s still viewed with a skeptical eye by many who choose not to pay close enough attention to the Big 12 or Texas Tech to be properly informed on what is happening in Lubbock under McGuire’s leadership. Also, until McGuire wins big or is on the job for several years, many are going to still look at him as a glorified high school coach who doesn’t have legitimate college coaching chops.
Another reason some might not be giving the Red Raiders as much love as they should is that this is a roster lacking star power. Of course, in the game of football, star power begins at the QB spot. That’s why Tech doesn’t get the type of hype that Texas, Oklahoma, or even Kansas State are getting this summer.
While those who watch the Big 12 with a keen eye know that Tyler Shough is a very good player, he simply doesn’t have the resume to warrant preseason media hype given all the games he’s missed due to injury the past two seasons.
Maybe it would help if Shough were a celebrity QB like Texas’ Quinn Ewers who is being considered a Heisman candidate despite completing fewer than 59% of his passes last year and throwing for only 2,177 yards in 10 games. Because Ewers was a five-star recruit who set the N.I.L. world on fire by signing a seven-figure deal before ever playing a college game and skipping his senior year of high school to enroll early at Ohio State, he garnered national attention and has been a fascination for college football media members for three years now.
That’s not Shough. Nor are there any other national stars on this team even the likes of 2022 Red Raider defensive end Tyree Wilson.
Rather, this is a team that will rely on its depth and experience to be its strength. That’s not usually sexy enough to garner national attention in the preseason.
Meanwhile, consider how teams such as Oklahoma and Ole Miss are perceived nationally. Because one is a blue-blood in the sport and because one is an S.E.C. program (albeit a middling one at best) both find themselves in the AP poll to begin the year.
The Sooners don’t belong in the poll after going just 6-7 last year and having the No. 99 defense in the nation warranting a change at defenisve coordinator after just one year. Plus, if any Big 12 head coach deserves to be viewed with a skeptical eye, it should be OU’s Brent Venables, who (like McGuire) is a first-time head coach in his second year. But unlike McGuire, Venables was a disaster in 2022 taking the college football version of an Aston Martin and diving it straight into a tree on the way to a 3-6 conference record.
Meanwhile, Ole Miss ended the 2022 season just 1-5 after a 7-0 start. How Kliff Kingsbury 2013 of them. The Rebels have a new defensive coordinator, and on offense, they are seriously considering giving the QB1 job to Oklahoma State castoff, Spencer Sanders, who is a walking turnover machine. They also lost their top two wide receivers and running back Zach Evans to the NFL.
Yet, the name of head coach Lane Kiffin and his brash personality keeps the Rebels top of mind in the sport. Never mind the fact that he’s just 14-11 in conference play with Ole Miss.
The point is that Texas Tech was reminded once again on Monday that the college football world isn’t ever going to give the Red Raiders the benefit of the doubt. Everything that comes their way will have to be earned on the field once again in 2023. Then again, that’s probably for the best because nothing might be more frightening than a Joey McGuire team playing with an extra chip on its shoulder.