- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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The past week we've been producing dream and nightmare scenarios for every Big 12 team. Of course, reality will fall somewhere in the middle. But imagine a season in which every single possible domino fell into place. And likewise, if all that could go wrong, well, did.
We continue the series with the Texas Tech Red Raiders:
The electric Patrick Mahomes we saw in the season finale against Baylor is the same Mahomes the Red Raiders get in 2015. Flanked by the big-play trio of DeAndre Washington, Jakeem Grant and Devin Lauderdale, Mahomes engineers Tech's most lethal offense since the Graham Harrell-Michael Crabtree days.
As prolific as the offense is, the difference for these Red Raiders is the arrival of defensive stability. New coordinator David Gibbs doesn’t turn Tech into the Monsters of Midland in Year 1. But the arrival of Mike Mitchell and Breiden Fehoko up front coupled with the development of Nigel Bethel and Tevin Madison in the secondary translates into a competent unit.
Tech shows up in Fayetteville a completely different squad from last season, and takes it to the overly confident Razorbacks from the opening snap. The Big 12’s most underrated offensive line paves the way for a 150-yard effort from Washington, and the Red Raiders hold their own in the trenches defensively. A forced fumble in the fourth quarter gives Tech the chance to clinch the upset, and Mahomes delivers with a scoring swing pass to Washington down the sideline, landing the Big 12's most impressive non-conference victory.
Tech hangs tough early against TCU, before succumbing in the second half. But the following week against Baylor in Arlington, the Red Raiders turn the Big 12 race on its head. In the final seconds, Mahomes hooks up with Lauderdale for a touchdown to put Tech an extra point away from overtime. Kliff Kingsbury, however, waves his offense back onto the field to go for the win. Mahomes initially has nobody open and falls into a hopeless backpedal with Shawn Oakman bearing down on him. At the final moment, he flings the ball up for grabs; waiting at the other end of the two-point Hail Mary is Dylan Cantrell, who stabs the ball with his left hand while tiptoeing the back of the end zone with his right foot to give the Red Raiders the improbable comeback win.
On Oct. 24, Tech heads to Norman at 6-1 with a chance to stick in the Big 12 race. The Red Raiders don’t just stick in the race, they stick it to Baker Mayfield, intercepting him five times on the way to a shocking 28-point rout.
Tech hammers Texas, too, to finish the regular season at 9-3 before downing Texas A&M in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl for the program’s second 10-win season since 1976.
Kingsbury is Big 12 Coach of the Year. Kevin Sumlin bolts for the NFL. Josh Abbott gets a Grammy. Wes Welker is Super Bowl LIII MVP. National tortilla sales go up by 20 percent.
Kingsbury comes out of fall camp unsure who his best quarterback is. He decides to play Mahomes and Davis Webb, which prevents either from taking command of the offense. Turnovers and penalties ravage an undisciplined squad once again. Gibbs realizes he'll need a full year before he'll be able to do anything with this defense.
The Red Raiders can't put Sam Houston or UTEP away until the fourth quarter. They head to Arkansas with little confidence and leave with even less, as the Hogs roll up 450 yards on the ground in a five-touchdown blowout. Baylor and TCU hammer the Red Raiders even worse.
Tech climbs back to 4-3, but the wins are about to stop for good. In Norman, the Red Raiders get clobbered by Mayfield, who throws for five touchdowns, and runs for a sixth, after which he delivers a flawless rendition of the whip dance right in front of Kingsbury.
Tech blows a three-touchdown lead at West Virginia, then fails to score an offensive touchdown in Austin to finish 4-8 for the second straight season.
Mayfield is Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Mahomes gives up quarterbacking to focus on baseball full time. The Longhorns win 10 games. Baylor and A&M both make the playoff. Sonny Cumbie flips Tech's two best recruits to TCU. Spanky's takes cheese fries off the menu. A dust storm hits Lubbock.
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11dBrandon Chatmon and Max Olson