Schedule analysis: Texas Tech

With the 2014 season arriving in the not too distant future, we're breaking down every Big 12 team's complete schedule.

We continue this series with the Texas Tech Red Raiders:

Nonconference opponents (with 2013 record)

Aug. 30: Central Arkansas (7-5)

Sept. 6: UTEP (2-10)

Sept. 13: Arkansas (3-9)

Big 12 home games

Oct. 11: West Virginia

Oct. 18: Kansas

Nov. 1: Texas

Nov. 15: Oklahoma

Big 12 road games

Sept. 25: at Oklahoma State

Oct. 4: at Kansas State

Oct. 25: at TCU

Nov. 22: at Iowa State

Big 12 neutral site games

Nov. 29: Baylor (Arlington, Texas)

Gut-check time: The Red Raiders have lost five straight to Oklahoma State, by an average margin of 28 points. If Tech is to have the breakout season it hopes to, it has to get over the hump in its fourth game against the Cowboys, who will be in retooling/rebuilding mode after losing several key veterans from last season. Yet just because Oklahoma State will be young doesn't mean it won't be dangerous. Under coach Mike Gundy, the Cowboys have been one of the most consistent teams in college football the past five years, and have the talent to overcome the inexperience. Boone Pickens Stadium will be boisterous for the Thursday night, national ESPN audience. This will be a golden opportunity for Tech to send a message that it is for real.

Trap game: Once again, Tech has a challenging November schedule that includes Texas, Oklahoma and Baylor. But in between playing Big 12 co-favorites Oklahoma and Baylor, the Red Raiders must travel to Ames for a late-season tilt at Iowa State. The weather will be cold and probably worse, which will hardly be conducive to Tech's passing offense. Iowa State has always been a dangerous team at Jack Trice Stadium. And the Red Raiders will be coming off the emotional decline of playing Texas and Oklahoma in back-to-back games. But Tech can't afford to be suffering from a mental hangover, or be looking ahead to its regular-season finale against Baylor in Jerry's World. If the Red Raiders do, they will likely lose.

Snoozer: While Tech's November schedule could provide great theater, its first two games hardly move the needle. Central Arkansas is a middling FCS program, and UTEP is a bottom-of-the-pack Conference USA club. The first two games should give Davis Webb plenty of opportunity to build confidence -- and pad his passing stats.

Telltale stretch: With a little luck, Tech could start out the season 7-0 for the second consecutive year (at the very least, no worse than 5-2). But the three-game tilt against TCU, Texas and Oklahoma will determine whether the Red Raiders are truly ready to contend in Kliff Kingsbury's second season. Tech edged TCU in Lubbock last year, but it was hardly an act of beauty. The Red Raiders will have to be much sharper offensively to defeat what should be a much-improved TCU club in Fort Worth. Meanwhile, Texas clobbered the Red Raiders last season, notably in the trenches. Tech has beaten Texas just once since 2002, and needed a Michael Crabtree miracle just to pull off that one win. After that, the Red Raiders cap the stretch against the Sooners, who will open in the top five of the preseason polls. This three-game stretch presents an opportunity for the Red Raiders to prove their mettle. But it also presents an opportunity for yet another late-season collapse.

Final analysis: The schedule really could not set up any better for Tech. The Red Raiders have a noteworthy, but manageable nonconference bout against Arkansas. They catch Oklahoma State early in the year, when the young Cowboys will still be trying to find their way. Tech also doesn't have to go on the road to Texas, Oklahoma or Baylor. Trips to Kansas State and TCU won't exactly be easy. But if Webb makes a jump in his second year and the reinforcements along the lines pan out, eight or nine regular-season wins seem at the least reasonably attainable.