The Juice: Ten bold predictions
For the fifth year in a row, I present my bold predictions for the upcoming football season.
1. Oklahoma will beat Kansas State in the Big 12’s rebooted title game.
Lincoln Riley's debut season as Oklahoma's head coach won't end with a College Football Playoff bid - losses to Ohio State and Oklahoma State will ensure that - but the Sooners will capture the Big 12 title by topping Kansas State in the league's rebooted championship game.
2. Sell Texas, buy Baylor.
Tom Herman won't have quite the same first-year success as his counterpart north of the Red River. The early excitement from a 2-0 start will sour after a blowout loss to USC, and from there the Longhorns will limp to a six-win finish. Matt Rhule's Baylor squad will start slow - facing Oklahoma, Kansas State and Oklahoma State in consecutive games will do that - but ride a favorable back-end of the schedule to an eight-win season.
3. Shimonek will throw for 4,200 yards, 35 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
4. For the first time since 2003, the Red Raiders will feature three 1,000-yard receivers.
Unlike past seasons, Texas Tech's receiving corps won't be dominated by its inside receivers. Derrick Willies will give the Red Raiders their first consistent outside threat of the Kliff Kingsbury era and take some of the pressure off of Keke Coutee. Willies and Cam Batson will all top 1,000 yards.
5. Texas Tech’s run game will be marginally more productive than it was in 2016.
Last season's Texas Tech squad posted the program's worst yards per carry average since 2007 (3.1). While it won't be by much, the 2017 Red Raider run game will be marginally improved. Demarcus Felton will be the team's most productive running back, but Desmond Nisby will emerge as a fan favorite due to a handful of truck stick plays.
6. The Red Raiders will finish the season ranked in the top four of the Big 12 in turnover margin.
The Red Raiders ranked fifth in the Big 12 in turnover margin in 2015 but there was a significant gap between them and fourth-place Oklahoma. Thanks largely to David Gibbs' revamped secondary, Texas Tech will post its highest turnover margin since 2008 and finish inside the top four in the Big 12.
7. Texas Tech’s defense will improve its scoring defense average by at least 10 points per game.
By many metrics, Texas Tech's defense this season will still qualify as bad. It will still rank in the bottom half of the Big 12, to say nothing of the entire FBS, in most statistical categories and it will still give up 50 points in at least two games. But the Red Raider defense will be undeniably improved and finish the season allowing fewer than 33.5 points per game.
8. Dakota Allen will win Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year.
Dakota Allen was Texas Tech's second-leading tackler in 2015. Two seasons later, following a stint at East Mississippi Community College, Allen will lead the Big 12 in tackles and finish as the Big 12's Defensive Newcomer of the Year.
9. Texas Tech will go 7-5.
The Red Raiders won't bounce-back from 5-7 with a dream nine- or 10-win season, but Texas Tech will win seven games and return to the postseason. Optimism will abound after the team routs Arizona State and races out to a 3-0 start, but a 4-5 finish will leave some fans grumbling as November comes to a close.
10. Kliff Kingsbury will return in 2018 for his sixth season as Texas Tech’s head coach.
Despite a so-so finish to the season, Kingsbury's body of work from Dec. 2016 to Dec. 2017 will be widely viewed as more than sufficient for him to remain at the helm of the Texas Tech football program. He will have engineered a top 25 offense despite a suspect offensive line and running back stable, and his team's defense will have finally turned a corner.