Another annual sign that the college football season is rapidly approaching is the release of the national polls’ first rankings of the season. One of the two major polls, the USA TODAY Sports AFCA football coaches poll, put out its first edition of 2023 on Monday and the Texas Tech football team was included for the first time in ages.
Checking in at No. 24, the Red Raiders are one of five current Big 12 schools to open this season in the top 25. Texas (12th), TCU (16th), Kansas State (17th), and Oklahoma (19th) also represent the conference in the ranking as over a third of the 14 members in the league will start the year ranked.
While those other four programs have spent quite a bit of time in the polls in recent years, Tech has not. In fact, it has been since 2013 that the Red Raiders were ranked in the coaches poll. That was the first year of the Kliff Kingsbury era when Tech began the year 7-0 before dropping the final five games of the regular season.
This year the Red Raiders are opening the season with some expectations thanks to a strong conclusion to 2022 that saw Tech pick up wins in the last four games on the schedule and thanks to a roster loaded with returning veteran talent.
However, some Red Raider fans might have expected our team to begin the year a bit higher in the polls. After all, no team in the Big 12 (perhaps with the exception of Kansas State) returns as much productivity as the Red Raiders.
Despite that, and despite being picked to finish fourth in the conference in the preseason Big 12 media poll, Tech is just the fifth-highest-ranked team in the league this year and sits quite a bit behind OU in the coaches poll, a team the Red Raiders finished ahead of in the conference preseason rankings. Unfortunately, Tech and the Sooners won’t meet on the field this year unless they both find their way to the Big 12 Championship game in December.
Still, the Red Raiders’ inclusion in the first national poll of the season is a welcome sight for people in scarlet and black, even if the ranking is a bit lower than some may have expected. After all, just being able to have high expectations for this program is a nice change of pace from the previous decade.
It’s a testament to what head coach Joey McGuire has been able to accomplish in just a year and a half on the job. Taking over a program that was irrelevant nationally and losing the support of its fan base, the first-time college head coach guided Tech to an 8-5 season in 2022 with wins over Texas, Oklahoma, and Ole Miss to fire up the Red Raider faithful.
Now, With QB Tyler Shough back for his final season and optimism that he will finally be able to stay healthy for a full season, there is reason to think that the program can build on last year’s surprisingly strong start to the McGuire era. That belief is reflected in the fact that Tech will open the upcoming campaign as a ranked team. Of course, the hope is that this will be the lowest that the Red Raiders will be ranked this fall.