Schedule analysis: Texas Tech

One of the biggest challenges for Kliff Kingsbury and Texas Tech is an eight-game conference stretch without a bye following its Big 12 opener against Kansas in late September. Michael C. Johnson/USA TODAY Sports

The countdown to college football is well underway.

Preseason magazines have hit the newsstands and newcomers are arriving at campuses across the conference. With the season just over the horizon, we’ll be reviewing the schedules of each Big 12 team.

We continue the series with Texas Tech.

Nonconference opponents (with 2015 record)

Sept. 3: Stephen F. Austin (4-7)

Sept. 10: at Arizona State (6-7)

Sept. 17: Louisiana Tech (9-4)

Big 12 home games

Sept. 29: Kansas

Oct. 15: West Virginia

Oct. 22: Oklahoma

Nov. 5: Texas

Big 12 road games

Oct. 8: Kansas State

Oct. 29: TCU

Nov. 12: Oklahoma State

Nov. 19: Iowa State

Big 12 neutral-site game

Nov. 25: Baylor (in Arlington, Texas)

Gut-check time: Late October could be a scary time for Texas Tech. Or it could be the time when the Red Raiders affirm plans to be the Big 12's surprise squad. Kliff Kingsbury’s team hosts West Virginia on Oct. 15 and Oklahoma on Oct. 22 then heads to TCU on Oct. 29. The Mountaineers are talented and have won two straight over the Red Raiders. The Sooners are the clear favorites to win the conference for the second straight season. And TCU’s defense will provide a major challenge for the Red Raiders’ attack. If the Red Raiders can win all three games or at least two of them, it would be another step forward for Tech under Kingsbury.

Trap game: It is the classic trap game when the Red Raiders travel to Iowa State on Nov. 19, six days before their Black Friday meeting with Baylor. With Mike Warren and Allen Lazard, Iowa State has the skill-position talent to scare the Red Raiders, especially at Jack Trice Stadium. Texas Tech escaped with a three-point win during its last trip to Iowa State, making this game far from a sure thing, even with Patrick Mahomes triggering the Red Raiders' attack.

Snoozer: The Red Raiders' season opener against Stephen F. Austin doesn’t come with much intrigue. Texas Tech should win fairly comfortably with Mahomes running the offense, and we won’t learn much about the Red Raiders' defense against a team that will be overmatched physically. The excitement of a new season will make everyone tune in to watch the Red Raiders for the first time in 2016, but there probably won’t be any reason to tune in after halftime. And if there is, the Red Raiders' chances of being the Big 12’s surprise team will plummet.

Final analysis: Texas Tech has a tough but relatively balanced schedule. One of the biggest challenges is an eight-game conference stretch without a bye following its Big 12 opener against Kansas in late September. And the Red Raiders play four of their final five games away from Lubbock, including trips to Oklahoma State and TCU. Yet Texas Tech’s toughest game will be at home with Oklahoma visiting Jones AT&T Stadium. Kingsbury’s squad will be tested by this schedule but it doesn’t feature any aspects that will be impossible to overcome.