When the Texas Tech head coaching position opened up in 2022, the Red Raider program was lacking energy. The Matt Wells era was uninspired and filled with gut-wrenching losses. Before that, Kliff Kingsbury started the 2013 season 7-0 before finishing the next 5+ seasons with a 28-40 record. He also failed to capitalize on having one of the greatest quarterback talents of all time. By refusing to field anything resembling a college defense for two-and-a-half seasons, fans just got eye-popping numbers and very few wins. So McGuire burst onto the season with high energy and instantly transformed the Red Raider program in year one. Entering the 2023 season, there was potential for a major jump in Lubbock. Texas Tech came well short of the potential of the season, but that didn’t make it a failure. So what grade does Joey McGuire’s second season deserve?
Coming off beating Texas and Oklahoma in the same season for the first time in school history, there was only one real potential for a signature win. That was in week two against the Oregon Ducks. However, that game lost a little bit of steam due to losing an overtime showdown with Wyoming to open the season. But the team that showed up for the first three quarters against the Ducks looked like a team poised to challenge for the Big 12. As the final 15 minutes played out, Red Raider fans saw a scene that unfortunately played out more often than not this season. A two-score lead disappeared into the Lubbock night and Texas Tech started 0-2.
September was not kind to Texas Tech as they fell to West Virginia and sat 1-3 before anyone could even process what happened. To make matters worse, Tyler Shough was lost in the West Virginia game for the season with a leg injury. It was also the first game that the offensive play-calling came into question. Running back Tahj Brooks was one of the best running backs in the country in 2023. But in multiple losses, the offense seemed to forget to give their best player the ball, especially in critical moments in the game. While Zach Kittley does call the offense as the offensive coordinator, it still falls at the feet of McGuire to make the necessary in-game adjustments. The regular season also ended with a thud when they traveled down to Austin and got smacked around by the playoff participant 57-7.
When the calendar turned to November, Texas Tech was 3-5. It had to start games with its third-string quarterback. There were two ranked opponents on the schedule with just four games remaining. A third straight bowl game appeared to be too much to achieve in 2023. But just like last season, McGuire rallied his team for a late-season push. After taking care of TCU on a Thursday night, they traveled up to Lawerence to take on the 19th-ranked Jayhawks. Kansas got to experience playing with its third-string quarterback and the Red Raiders plodded out a 16-13 win. The Texas game at the time (and even more in hindsight) looked like a mountain too high to climb. Texas Tech had to get a win over UCF to secure a bowl appearance. In a game where both teams were 5-5, there was not anything in the stat sheet that separated the two teams. But a missed PAT late by the Knights was enough for the Red Raiders to win 24-23.
Texas Tech bounced back nicely after the Texas loss and trucked Cal in the Independence Bowl by a score of 34-14. In McGuire’s two seasons, his combined record in November and December is 8-2. Where McGuire has truly excelled is on the recruiting trail. With the spring national signing day having just passed, the official 2024 recruiting rankings are locked in. The class finished 24th nationally according to 247 Composite rankings, headlined by inking the program’s first-ever five-star recruit Micah Hudson. The 2023 class finished 28th nationally in the same rankings. It is only the second time in Red Raider history they signed back-to-back top 30 ranked classes.
Joey McGuire’s Second Season Final Grade
If season one and season two are flipped, this season is likely digested by Red Raider fans differently. McGuire has won 15 games in his first two seasons as Texas Tech’s head coach. The last time a Texas Tech coach won 15 or more games in consecutive seasons was 2008-2009. Year two resulted in positive stability and growth but lacked anything noteworthy on the field. It had been decades since a Red Raider team entered the season with lofty expectations. And those came from all corners of the national media.
So the “fall” of a seven-win 2023 season feels much worse in the micro view than it is in the macro view. This team was competitive in 12 of 13 games this season. Three of their five losses were by one score. It is abundantly clear McGuire is building something in Lubbock. However, for a fan base that has been starved for excitement and winning, there was too much meat left on the 2023 bone that got thrown away.
Joey McGuire’s Final Grade: B