It’s only October, but this has the feeling of a season defining game for both Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
As conference play opened, many had the Sooners on their list as a dark horse for the conference championship. Then the Red River Rivalry game happened.
The Red Raiders should be coming into Norman riding high, having played Iowa State and Kansas back to back. However, the Red Raiders played uninspired last week against Kansas, and returned to their 2014 ways of mental lapses leading to costly penalties, poor tackling, and lack of execution. They came out unprepared to play and escaped Lawrence with a 30-20 ugly win.
Oklahoma got back on track last week against Kansas State and will look to continue that momentum. Texas Tech will need to bring a version of the team that played against TCU and Iowa State and not the one that was on the field with Kansas or it could be a long day in Norman.
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 24, 2:30 CST
LOCATION: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (Norman, OK)
FORECAST: Chance of showers, 70° F
TV: ABC/ESPN2, WatchESPN
BETTING LINE: Oklahoma -14.5
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS 5-2 (2-2)
Texas Tech fans were feeling upbeat after Tech survived the gauntlet of Arkansas, TCU, and Baylor with a win over an SEC team and a near miss against TCU. Tech took care of business against Iowa State, where the offense racked up 776 yards and the defense forced 3 interceptions.
The Red Raiders were hoping to just keep rolling as they faced Kansas in Lawrence, but the ghosts of 2014 appeared and Tech escaped with an ugly 30-20 win. Tech had 6 penalties for 70 yards and allowed 330 yards of passing from a true freshman QB starting his second game. They did not win the turnover battle that David Gibbs harps on and there appeared to be an overall lack of effort on the defensive side of the ball.
On the offensive side, the line allowed 5 sacks of Mahomes. He managed to throw only one interception, but threw many ill-advised throws and the pocket collapsed and he could not escape. Tech will have to right the ship and reduce the self-inflicted damage to give themselves a chance against the Sooners.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR TEXAS TECH
Protect the quarterback – Patrick Mahomes was sacked 5 times against Kansas and was under pressure throughout the game. The offensive line is one of the units the Red Raiders can usually depend on, but they were outmatched by a four man rush that continued to get to Mahomes. The result was a completion rate of 59 percent and one interception. The interception rate would have been higher if Kansas defenders could have held on to the ball. The bottom line is Mahomes clearly did not deal well with the sustained pressure and the offensive line will have to be much improved this week against the OU defensive front.
Run defense – Texas Tech is ranked 123rd in rushing defense and this is an area that continues to be a glaring weakness for David Gibb’s unit. The Red Raiders allowed Iowa State to gouge them for 315 yards and even allowed KU to pick up 145 on the ground. Oh, and they have not forgotten that Samaje Perine galloped for 213 in Lubbock last year. The Red Raiders will have to figure out a way to at least mitigate the run this week to avoid a repeat of last year’s performance.
Win the turnover battle – David Gibbs is well aware of the weaknesses of his defense. He knows they are not going to shut down the Sooners. The mantra all year has been to create turnovers. Tech did this two weeks ago against the Cyclones, forcing three interceptions, and scoring 28 points off of turnovers. The result was a dominating victory. They did not win the turnover battle last week against KU and barely survived. The Red Raiders will need to return to their ball hawking ways to keep things competitive this week.
OKLAHOMA SOONERS 5-1 (2-1)
What to make of Oklahoma? Sooner fans were, to say the least, concerned after OU was stunned in the Red River Rivalry game by a supposedly imploding Texas team. The game after a game like that can be telling about how a team handles adversity though, and did they ever respond. The Sooners bounced back to trounce K-State 55-0, and held the Cats to just 110 total yards.
The Sooners are back on track, and they come into this game with a little extra motivation as well. Well… one Sooner in particular does. Quarterback Baker Mayfield will face his former team for the first time since leaving Texas Tech amidst a little bit of controversy to walk on at Oklahoma. The moment isn’t lost on OU’s new starting QB either.
“It’s human nature to try and get revenge. That’s just how everybody works,” Mayfield said. “But I’ve got to focus on doing my job — and my job only — and that’s executing my stuff and helping our team win.”
Mayfield and Coach Kingsbury both agree that the situation worked out well for both parties, and there doesn’t seem to be any animosity left over on either side. However, both guys are competitors, and you know neither one wants to lost to the other.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR OKLAHOMA
Get the running game going – Texas Tech ranks 123rd in run defense, and Oklahoma has two of the most dynamic backs in the conference in Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Perine alone ran for 213 yards in the 2014 meeting of the two teams in Lubbock and Tech has not found an answer to stopping power running teams. If OU can establish the run early, this will keep the Tech offense off the field, wear down the defense, and open up the passing lanes for Baker Mayfield, who is itching for a big game against his former team.
Pressure Mahomes – Patrick Mahomes has been hyped as an escape artist all year and his ability to extend plays has been impressive, but Kansas proved last week that he is human. They brought pressure early and often and ended up with 5 sacks and one interception. It could have easily been 3 or 4 interceptions as Mahomes did not handle the pressure well and was off target all day. OU will bring the pressure and if they get to him like they did Hubener (6 sacks against K-State), it will be a long day for Mahomes.
Control the clock – Texas Tech’s best chance to win is to score a lot of points. The more OU can keep their offense on the field and wear down het Tech defense, their chances to win go up. OU needs to establish the run, set the pace, and not allow Tech to get into the up tempo, quick strike rhythm.
By The Numbers
|3rd Down Con||52.4%||39.8%|
|Opp 3rd Down Con||49.1%||36.8%|
|Sacks Given Up||7.0||3.2|
|Redzone Scoring %||87.1%||89.7%|
|Field Goal %||80.0%||100.0%|
Oklahoma comes into the contest with the #23 best defense in the country and Texas Tech comes in with the #2 offense. So in theory this should be a high-flying offense versus what is becoming a stifling defense, but college football is not always so much about stats, but trends.
OU is a focused team that is trending in the right direction, with a balanced offense and a stingy defense that shut out K-State last week and is still looking to prove that the UT game was a fluke that is not representative of who they truly are. Texas Tech, on the other hand, appears to be a team showing signs of regression. Penalties, untimely turnovers, and sloppy overall play were all on display in a sloppy win against Kansas last week.
So the game is setting up as a contest against a Tech team that looks to correct the shoddy play from last week and an OU team that appears to be on a mission. Expect Tech to play better than they did a week ago, but Bob Stoops will exploit the weaknesses of the Red Raiders. Oklahoma has too many weapons against an outmanned Tech defensive unit and the OU defensive unit may be the most complete the Red Raiders have seen this season. Oklahoma should win this one by a comfortable margin at home.