USA TODAY Sports' Paul Myerberg counts down to the start of the college football season team by team from No. 128 to No. 1.

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People don't always listen when Kliff Kingsbury talks, sadly, because a portion of those listening can't stop staring at his face.

He's handsome. He is blessed with certain physical attributes. He has a certain – how should I put this – friendly and accommodating bone structure. There's normal attractive and there's football-coach attractive; Kingsbury fits into both categories.

Imagine if Uncle Rico actually matched his life goals – and could throw a football over them mountains in the first place. Imagine Benjamin Button as a football coach: Everyone becomes a better coach in time, due to added experience and so forth, but Kingsbury becomes better looking – and scope as evidence that playing-days headshot, bowl cut and all.

Kingsbury is where image and football have met, colliding like two worlds for the benefit of the coach, the team and the program. Texas Tech is cool; Texas Tech has long been weird, unorthodox, but never cool. Image, part of the process elsewhere, is the Red Raiders' defining tool.

Being cool is good: Texas Tech has a leg up on the competition in the living room, where Kingsbury admits to playing to his strengths – "I kind of encourage that a little bit," he said when asked if single moms flirt with him on visits – and on the field, where the Kingsbury-infused sense of confidence led the Red Raiders to an eight-win debut.

Yet this would all be for naught if Kingsbury couldn't coach. He's always been able to lead an offense, as shown at Houston and Texas A&M, both times under Kevin Sumlin, the latter turn as the hand behind Johnny Manziel's run to the Heisman Trophy.

Now he's shown he can lead a program. The Red Raiders stumbled during Big 12 play last fall, dropping five in a row to end the regular season, but rebounded to top Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl – doubling down on momentum and confidence. Consider: If you add substance to style … well, you might be onto something.

LAST YEAR'S PREDICTION:

In all, and while I might be lower on Tech than most, I think this is a six-win team in the regular season that needs patience as a rookie coach and a new cast of characters get on the same page.

2013 RECAP:

In a nutshell: Texas Tech stormed out of the gate with seven wins, none of consequence, and tumbled down the Big 12 pecking order once the calendar revealed the Red Raiders' inherent flaws. A loss to Arizona State would have made that a theme, one Kingsbury and Tech would have faced as the defining storyline of the offseason. That win was big: Tech needed to reverse the slide and did so, clearly making the most of the weeks of bowl preparation to come out firing against one of the top teams from the Pac-12. It ended the streak and began another – the Red Raiders beat a good team, developed more confidence and head into this fall angling for another shot at the Big 12's best.

High point: Beating Arizona State.

Low point: Five losses in a row to end the regular season. It wasn't pretty: Oklahoma only won by eight points, but losses to Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas came by a combined score of 205-110.

Tidbit: Texas Tech has just one losing season in the last 19 years, the fewest of any Football Bowl Subdivision program in Texas. Since 1995 – the start of the Red Raiders' streak, and not counting FBS newcomers Texas State and UTSA – Texas has two losing seasons, TCU and Texas A&M have four, Houston has nine, Rice has 12, SMU has 13, Baylor has 14, North Texas has 15 and UTEP has 16.

ARBITRARY TOP FIVE LIST:

Cliffs

1. Huxtable
2. Lee
3. Clavin
4. Burton
5. Robertson

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Offense: By the time all is said and done – and even if he doesn't last four years – Davis Webb could leave Lubbock as the finest quarterback in program history. He's already among the most physically gifted: Webb looks the part of a first-round pick, with his tall frame, broad shoulders and next-level arm, distancing himself from the many other Tech quarterbacks to ride the pine, shrug on some pads and pace the nation as one-year starters. All that's lacking is experience, truth be told, and Webb adds familiarity and know-how with each passing practice, drill and team meeting. Even last fall, as a true freshman, Webb showed a beyond-his-ears grasp of not just the offense – which is too friendly to fail – but of opposing defenses, an early development that bodes extremely well for his long-term future with the Red Raiders. When it comes to this fall, I absolutely expect Webb to earn all-conference honors and give Bryce Petty a bit of a push among the league rankings – particularly if he does a bit better in stretching the field. Webb's in a perfect spot: Davis, meet Kliff, and let's have a blast.

He'll have a new blind-side protector this fall, it seems. After starring as a rookie at right guard and earning first-team all-league honors last fall, Le'Raven Clark very well could spend his junior season back at right guard, boosting the Raiders' run game. The move was made possible by JUCO transfer Dominique Robertson's strong offseason; he's assumed the job at left tackle heading into the heart of August, though he'll need to continue his solid play to retain the spot. If Robertson can handle the load, Clark's move achieves two feats: one, aiding the ground attack, and two, it allows Tech to get its best starting five into the lineup. Clark's transition would then give Tech three options at the second guard spot: Baylen Brown, Trey Keenan and Alfredo Morales – meaning there's really nice depth. Elsewhere, there's no doubt that senior Reshod Fortenberry handles right tackle and junior Jared Kaster center.

There's no Jace Amaro on the roster, but that's fine: Players of Amaro's ability – and blend of size, speed and grace – coming along once in a generation. Even with the All-American causing havoc, the Raiders' receiver corps is poised to join Webb in leading this passing game another step up the ladder. Technically, Amaro's role will be filled by senior Bradley Marquez (49 receptions for 633 yards), who seems multiple enough to meet the task. But with Amaro and Eric Ward gone, things might change a tough: Tech might be even more willing to spread the wealth than in Kingsbury's first season. So Marquez is going to get his, as will junior Jakeem Grant (65 for 796), Reginald Davis (15 for 200), Jordan Davis (28 for 243), D.J. Polite-Bray, Brent Mitchum, Dominique Wheeler, Shawn Corker, JUCO transfer Devin Lauderdale and as many as three or four true freshmen – Ian Sadler, for instance. Depth: Texas Tech has it. Webb reaps the benefits.

Defense: JUCO transfers abound along the defensive line, which must replace three of the leading members of last year's rotation. Four JUCO transfers, to be precise: Brandon Thorpe at end, Rike Levi on the nose and Marcus Smith and Keland McElrath at tackle. All could start; none could start; all will be huge factors. Take Levi, for one, and how his 380-pound frame can be a huge tool in small doses – probably as an early-down contributor. Levi could be a beautiful complement to junior Jackson Richards, a four-game starter last fall with the quickness to penetrate on the nose or at tackle. Thorpe will likely be used as Branden Jackson's backup at end, with Jackson the line's lone returning starter, while Smith and McElrath will immediately join the tackle rotation with junior Demetrius Alston. Smith, like Richards, could provide snaps both inside and out. It's a gambling act, true, but give credit to this staff for locating immediate-impact performers on the JUCO trail.

Two defenders will determine the nature of the linebacker corps – but if this pair delivers, it's safe to call the second level a clear strength. One is converted running back Kenny Williams, who shifted to the defensive side of the ball in the spring and quickly grabbed hold of a starting role on the outside, though he missed the spring game. He looks like the part: Williams packs speed, power and athleticism into his 225-pound frame, giving him a heat-seeking-missile look coming off the corner. I think he'll do well. The second new face comes in the middle, where former Utah transfer V.J. Fehoko, the Raiders' replacement for the underrated Will Smith. Like Williams, I think Fehoko – a family name quickly familiar to this fan base – is going to have a solid one-year turn with the program; more than anything, he seems motivated to capture his potential. Then there are the sure things: Sam Eguavoen (70 tackles) just gets in done in the middle, to little acclaim, and junior Pete Robertson (60 tackles, 9.0 for loss) seems poised to burst onto the scene in the Big 12.

The staff will need to be patient with this secondary. There's talent here, a good amount of talent, but it's extremely inexperienced: Tech should start four sophomores along the back end, with a number of other underclassmen in reserve, so there will be growing pains while the young core grows accustomed to the rigors of the Big 12. But when it clicks – and it'll click at some point – this group is going to be fantastic. The Raiders will go with sophomores J.J. Gaines (16 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Keenon Ward at free and strong safety, respectively, with Gaines back at full strength after last year's injury; another newcomer, JUCO transfer Josh Keys, stands as the top reserve. One of the benefits of seeing the field last fall – rather than taking a redshirt – is that sophomores Justis Nelson and La'Darius Newbold, the projected starters, are a little ahead of the curve. They'll get the nod to start, perhaps pushed at times by converted running back Tyler Middleton, a potential tool at nickel back, and true freshman Nigel Bethel II. In all, Keys and Middleton are the only juniors perhaps set to contribute – meaning this group is set to develop very nicely during the next two seasons.

Special teams: In a perfect world, Tech would never even attempt a field goal. Kingsbury still has to feel confident in the leg of senior Ryan Bustin, a near-lock on those makeable tries within 35 yards. There's a bit of a competition underway at punter and kickoff specialist between Taylor Symmank and Kramer Fyfe, but both are serviceable. Happily, the Raiders' electricity at wide receiver translates fully to the return game.

POSITION(S) TO WATCH:

Running back: Kenny Williams' move to defense robs Tech of last year's leading rusher and, among a crop of shiftier options, the backfield's lone bruiser. So look for a change in approach: Tech will lean away from Williams' tougher style to a more quick-twitch, frenetic mindset, maintaining a by-committee theme with as many as three or four different rushers. One will be junior DeAndre Washington (450 yards), the clear leader on the two-deep; Washington essentially split carries with Williams a season ago, adding in a nice degree of production in the passing game. While the Red Raiders also return sophomore Quinton White (120 yards), the backup coming out of the spring, it's highly likely that the staff leans on incoming freshmen Demarcus Felton and Justin Stockton for an immediate impact. Basically, the physical makeup of the backfield doesn't necessarily change Tech's commitment to the running game, but merely means more outside looks from the zone-based scheme rather than the Williams-led between-the-tackles approach.

GAME(S) TO WATCH:

Oklahoma State: Conference play begins with back-to-back road games against Oklahoma State and Kansas State; the Red Raiders must win at least one of two to justify this preseason ranking. A split would leave Tech at 6-1 heading into the home stretch: TCU on the road, Texas and Oklahoma at home, Iowa State on the road and Baylor at AT&T Stadium.

SEASON BREAKDOWN & PREDICTION:

In a nutshell: I really think Texas Tech could have a fantastic season. First, however, here's why the Red Raiders seem to be overlooked: Tech has no quarterback depth, moved its leading rusher to defense, lost its two leading receivers, is reliant on JUCO transfers along the defensive line, has two newcomers at linebacker and is dangerously young in the secondary. These are issues, clearly, and they're hard to overlook. Yet there seems to be something happening here, slowly and steadily; there seems to be growth happening, on the field and off, and the confidence that Kingsbury has given this team seems to be taking flight as he enters his second season with the program.

There will be some bumps along the way. The secondary's going to have its moments of brilliance tempered by head-scratching moments of ineptitude, particularly in the early going; it's a good thing, therefore, that Tech eases into the regular season. The defensive line needs to prove itself in the pass rush, while the front seven as a whole needs to develop cohesiveness as a single unit. The offensive line has options with Clark, but in a perfect world he'd be able to remain inside. The receiver corps, lacking a clear-cut leader, must produce with consistency. But if things click before October on defense, if the line and receiver corps don't miss a beat … Texas Tech could be really, really good.

That's my take. The offense is going to be absolutely superb, challenging Baylor for tops in the Big 12. Webb in particular will be a breakout star. In total, a full offseason in Kingsbury's system will pay enormous dividends. Tech has some holes to fill on defense – but this is the Big 12, and you can win nine-plus games with a superb offense and a slightly above-average defense. You can't win the conference altogether, of course, and Tech's not finishing ahead of Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State. You can still make noise, still rattle some cages, still send a message and still create even more momentum. Tech will do all those things, winning at least eight and perhaps nine games during the regular season.

Dream season: Texas Tech goes 10-2, losing to Baylor and OU but finishing tied for second in the Big 12.

Nightmare season: The Red Raiders start strong but lose six of eight to end the year.

UP NEXT:

Who's No. 27? This team's coach has lost six games in his career when his team scored 40 or more points.

GALLERY: Ranking every team in FBS

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