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Schedule analysis: Texas Tech Red Raiders

This week and last, we’ve been previewing the upcoming schedules for each Big 12 team.

The series continues with Texas Tech.

Nonconference games (with 2016 record)

Sept. 2: Eastern Washington (12-2)

Sept. 16: Arizona State (5-7)

Sept. 23: at Houston (9-4)

Big 12 home games

Sept. 30: Oklahoma State (10-3)

Oct. 21: Iowa State (3-9)

Nov. 4: Kansas State (9-4)

Nov. 18: TCU (6-7)

Big 12 road games

Oct. 7: at Kansas (2-10)

Oct. 14: at West Virginia (10-3)

Oct. 28: at Oklahoma (11-2)

Nov. 11: vs. Baylor (7-6) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

Nov. 24: at Texas (5-7)

Gut-check time: It gets real right away for the Red Raiders, who made a mistake in scheduling Eastern Washington to open the season. Even if Tech wins -- and it should win -- what’s the upside? The downside is significant. Eastern Washington returns dangerous QB Gage Gubrud from a team that won the Big Sky last year and lost to Youngstown State by two points in the FCS semifinals. Its other loss came early to perennial FCS power North Dakota State in overtime. Tech, with a new quarterback in Nic Shimonek, can’t afford a disastrous start to the season with that daunting September schedule after Week 1.

Trap game: For five years now, the bottom of the Big 12 standings has changed only in the order of finish by Iowa State and Kansas. Both programs appear on the upswing, vying to escape that pairing in the cellar. They won’t get out together, but one might -- and Iowa State is the most likely candidate. So which program are the Cyclones in position to jump? Hmm, if only last year provided a hint. Oh, yes, Iowa State beat Texas Tech 66-10 a year ago. The Red Raiders may, in fact, be so hyped to return the favor in Week 8 that it works against Tech. On Iowa State’s quest to finish higher than ninth in the standings and ultimately to attain bowl eligibility, Oct. 21 rates as an important day.

Snoozer: The Red Raiders don’t appear to fall on the right side of any snoozers this year. Not sitting here in June, at least. Not against Eastern Washington. Not on the road against Kansas. So look to Oct. 28 as Tech plays at Oklahoma as a possible snoozer -- for the Sooners. Look, Baker Mayfield loves to beat Texas Tech. Mercifully, he won’t get another crack at his former school after this year. But this is just the start for OU coach Lincoln Riley, the former Tech walk-on QB and assistant coach. His first game as head coach against his the Red Raiders may provide the only dose of Week 9 drama in Norman.

Final analysis: It doesn’t look great this fall for Kliff Kingsbury and Tech’s leaky secondary. Tech made QB Manny Wilkins and running back Kalen Ballage look like a pair of Heisman candidates at Arizona State last year. Imagine the havoc that Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver could cause in Week 3. And that’s all before Tech opens Big 12 play with Oklahoma State. This schedule is front-loaded to the point that when Tech opens its November stretch against rivals Baylor, TCU and Texas, it may be too late to salvage more than in-state bragging rights.