LUBBOCK, Texas – Following an up-and-down six-year ride with former coach Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech has a new head coach in Matt Wells. The former Utah State coach makes his debut Saturday as the Red Raiders open the season by hosting FCS member Montana State.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Southwest. LINE: No Line
Kingsbury, now the head coach of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, posted a 35-40 record in six seasons in Lubbock, but he's been replaced by Wells, who went 45-34 in six seasons at Utah State. Wells' Aggies finished 11-2 a season ago, including a 52-13 rout of North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl – two accomplishments the Red Raiders haven't had in a season since 1973. "The biggest thing for us in Year One is establishing the ‘how' – the physicalness, the toughness, the discipline, mental and physical, and a lot of people say that's culture," Wells said in July at the Big 12 preseason media gathering in Irving, Texas. "That's exactly what it is ... instilling the culture and foundation." Montana State, of the Big Sky Conference, is looking to build on the momentum of its first winning season (8-5) in four years and was picked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the preseason Big Sky coaches' and media polls.
ABOUT MONTANA STATE (2018: 8-5)
The Bobcats return 17 starters from last year's squad which was eliminated by eventual champion North Dakota State in the second round of the FCS playoffs, but fourth-year head coach Jeff Choate will be breaking in a new starting quarterback in redshirt-freshman Casey Bauman. At least, Bauman figures to have a solid supporting cast, including three returning starting wide receivers, four returning starting offensive linemen and tailback Isaiah Ifanse, who rushed for a school freshman record 1,025 yards in 2018. Defensively, Montana State has nine starters back, including a trio of preseason All-Big Sky first-team selections in linebacker Bryce Sterk, cornerback Greg Filer III and safety Braydon Konkol.
ABOUT TEXAS TECH (2018: 5-7)
Sophomore quarterback Alan Bowman returns and reportedly fully healthy after a collapsed lung required a four-night hospital stay and forced the then-freshman to miss the equivalent of five full games last season. Bowman still threw for 2,638 yards and 17 touchdowns but will be adjusting to a new version of the spread offense with a tight end added to the mix. Defensively, senior linebacker Jordyn Brooks (259 career tackles) and preseason All-Big 12 first-team safety Adrian Frye lead a unit which is hoping to improve after surrendering 31.1 points and 448.9 yards per contest last season.
1. Texas Tech has won 19 straight and is 75-17-2 all-time in home openers.
2. Montana State is 0-7 against FBS foes over the last 10 seasons, with its last matchup being a 31-0 loss at Washington State to kick off the 2017 season.
3. Texas Tech is projected to finish seventh in the 10-team Big 12 preseason poll, ahead of only West Virginia, Kansas State and Kansas.
PREDICTION: Texas Tech 45, Montana State 17