The Big 12 conference title came down to the wire this year as four different teams had legitimate hopes of winning at least a share of a championship on the final weekend of the regular season.
Midway through the season, most fans would have assumed that the Texas Tech Red Raiders would be one of the four contenders. The Red Raiders jumped out to a 7-0 start under first year head coach Kliff Kingsbury and debuted in the initial BCS rankings in the tenth place slot.
But instead of making a run at a championship, the Red Raiders were just trying to stay afloat in a conference that seemed overwhelming by the end of the season. Texas Tech stumbled in five straight losses to close out the season and finished with a 4-5 mark in Big 12 play.
The Red Raiders began the season as one of the nation's best stories, led by a walk-on freshman quarterback who threw for more than 360 yards in three of his first five career starts and a coach known for his fine-tuning of last year's Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.
At one point, the Red Raiders were thinking BCS. Eventually, they were lucky just to earn a slot in a bowl game. What led to Texas Tech's downfall? Let's take a look at their season to date.
Season to Date
The Red Raiders opened the season on the road at Southern Methodist University where they took on June Jones' Mustang squad in what figured to be a pass-happy contest. Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield slung the ball 60 times in his collegiate debut and completed 43 passes en route to a 41-23 victory.
Mayfield threw four touchdowns and no interceptions, and followed that game up with an even more efficient performance. The Red Raiders returned home to host a well-respected FCS program in Stephen F. Austin. Texas Tech rolled over the Lumberjacks in a 61-13 final as Mayfield completed 21 of 30 for three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Entering the third game of the season, Texas Tech stood at 2-0 and faced another home date against Big 12 opponent Texas Christian. The Horned Frogs were expected to be a Big 12 power this year, but the Red Raiders defense stifled them in the 20-10 Texas Tech victory.
After improving to 3-0, Texas Tech's defense turned it on again against in-state foe Texas State in a 33-7 victory. The win proved to be a turning point in the season though, as backup quarterback Davis Webb took over passing duties from Mayfield and tossed for 310 yards in the game.
At 4-0, the Red Raiders headed to Kansas to meet the Jayhawks. Texas Tech skated through the 54-16 victory with ease, but lost Mayfield to a knee injury late in the game.
Webb took over the quarterback duties against Iowa State and led his team to a thrilling 42-35 win over the Cyclones. Webb threw for more than 400 yards and had three touchdown passes in the win that pushed the Red Raiders to 5-0 on the season.
With Mayfield out against West Virginia, Texas Tech's passing offense continued to thrive as Webb threw for a career-high 462 yards in a 37-27 victory.
All was well in Lubbock, but the only issue for the Red Raiders was that they had yet to play a quality opponent. A once-mighty Texas Christian team slumped to a 4-8 finish, and of their first seven opponents, only Texas State would finish at .500 (6-6) on the year.
Webb retained his duties as the starter against Oklahoma, and that's where the first signs of trouble hit the Red Raiders. A perfect season came to an end against the Sooners in a 38-30 loss in Norman.
The following week, things didn't get any easier as the Red Raiders returned home only to be trounced 52-34 by the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The two losses dropped the Red Raiders to the 25th spot in the BCS polls, and that would be their final appearance in the rankings this season.
Mayfield returned from injury to lead the Red Raiders against Kansas State, but he threw two costly interceptions in a 49-26 drubbing in Lubbock.
The woes would only continue for Kliff Kingsbury's squad as they hit the road for a neutral site game to take on the high-flying Baylor Bears the next week. Baylor left a bruise on the Red Raiders defense in a 63-34 victory that saw the Bears rack up 340 yards on the ground and an astounding 335 yards through the air.
At 7-4, the Red Raiders were reeling, and it was the offense that failed to show up in their regular season finale in Austin. Texas Tech dropped a 41-16 decision against the University of Texas as Mayfield mustered just 237 yards passing.
Despite losing their final five regular season games, the Red Raiders still finished fifth in the Big 12 conference and earned an invitation to the Holiday Bowl to face the Sun Devils. Still, the excitement was tempered as Baker Mayfield abruptly announced he was leaving the team and seeking to transfer.
This means that Texas Tech will start freshman Davis Webb against the Sun Devils on Dec. 30 in San Diego in an attempt to right the ship and stay the course during a trying first year under Kliff Kingsubry.
Stay tuned as we'll break down the Texas Tech offense and defense in upcoming articles.