Texas Tech kicks off its 2017 season at home against FCS opponent Eastern Washington on September 2. Kliff Kingsbury enters his fifth season as head coach of his alma mater and is undoubtedly on the hot seat. All indications are if Tech fails to at the very least make it to a bowl game, Kingsbury will not return for 2018.
So it’s more important than ever for Kingsbury and the Red Raiders to get off to a good start to the season to regain some confidence and give the fan base some optimism. Eastern Washington will be playing its first season with Aaron Best, also an alumnus of the school he coaches, at the helm.
The Eagles found outstanding success at the FCS level over the past few years. Since 2010, EWU has won five Big Sky Conference championships and reached the semifinals of the FCS playoffs four times, including a national championship appearance.
So in terms of an FCS opponent, Eastern Washington should not be taken lightly. In fact, just last season they knocked off Washington State in Pullman. As Texas Tech enters a season of uncertainty after a disappointing 5-7 2016 campaign, EWU should provide a benchmark for where Tech is as a team unlike most FCS schools on Power 5 schedules. If the Red Raiders fall victim to an upset, they could be in for a very long season.
All that said, Texas Tech should still be considered the favorite, and that may not be the case for most of their games in 2017. Barring injuries during fall camp, the Red Raiders will be fired up and ready to go for their season opener at home and will know better than to underestimate their opponent. Plus, coaching your first game thousands of miles from home against a Power 5 team is a tall task for Aaron Best.
Ultimately Nic Shimonek will impress in his collegiate start and Texas Tech’s abundance of riches at wide receiver will overpower Eastern Washington’s defense, which consistently surrendered more than 30 points to FCS opponents a season ago.
The number one thing to look for here is how improved the Texas Tech defense looks, if it looks improved at all. While it’s never wise to jump to conclusions based on performance against an inferior opponent, Eastern Washington isn’t your run of the mill FCS team. That, and Texas Tech couldn’t stop a nosebleed last year, so if they can even impress against an FCS squad it would likely qualify as some amount of improvement.
Final score: Texas Tech 41, Eastern Washington 30
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