To some, last week might have taken a little air out of this match-up. That would be a mistake. If anything, last week added to the stakes of this game. Texas Tech went through their non-conference slate a perfect 3-0. So did Oklahoma State, but in OSU’s conference opener, TCU came out with the win. For the Cowboys to hold to their preseason aspirations of winning the conference and making the playoffs this is a must win game. For Texas Tech to prove that they are no longer a middle of the conference pack squad they need to capitalize while Oklahoma State is down. This game has all the makings to be the best of the weekend slate.
Date/Time: SAT, SEP 30 at 7:00 PM CT
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX
Forecast: Cloudy, 67 F, wind gusts up to 14 mph
Betting Lines: OSU -10, O/U 82.5
Oklahoma State (0-1, 3-1)
Last we saw the Cowboys they were dropping a shocker to the TCU Horned Frogs in Stillwater. That game was all sorts of weird. It seemed like everything that could go wrong for OSU did (unexplained officiating calls, defensive linemen intercepting screen passes, bad play calling, untimely penalties, etc.). It was a deflating game for the fans and for the team. TCU punished Oklahoma State on the ground, playing keep away. It almost was not enough as in the second half the Cowboy offense woke up and had a chance to take the game over until the strange wide receiver pass play was called. Oklahoma State needs to dust itself off, suck it up, and come out ready to play if it wants to salvage this season.
On offense, the Cowboys have been a force. Until the TCU game, on average, a wide receiver was crossing the goal line just under every 10 drop backs. Mason Rudolph and many of his wide receivers will probably wind up playing football on Sundays.
However, the offensive line is now a question mark after losing depth on the right side. Against TCU, the team only got 101 rushing yards. Part of that is because they were playing from behind. More troubling is that OSU lost the starting right tackle and guard. From then on the right side of the line was worthless in either run blocking or pass protection. The Cowboys have weapons, but Rudolph will need time to get the ball to those weapons.
The defense has been pretty good. But, in the heat against TCU it fell apart. After TCU wore down the defense it was able to convert third down after third down in the first half. After smothering inferior competition it just could not keep up with TCU allowing them to hang 44 on the Cowboys. A solid defensive line was just worn down be a determined offensive attack committed to keeping the ball on the ground as much as possible. For both sides of the ball, last week was the worst outing of the season.
Texas Tech (0-0, 3-0)
Texas Tech is rolling. Kliff Kingsbury came into the season on the hot seat. Entering into the fifth week of the season it has cooled just a bit. Many thought that the Red Raiders would be entering league play a paltry 1-2. Instead, Texas Tech is undefeated with respectable wins over Arizona State and Houston. Texas Tech has not just been winning in offensive shoot-outs like in seasons past. It looks like Kingsbury move of working with the defense more in the offseason is paying off as that side of the ball has been much improved over recent iterations.
On offense Texas Tech scores points. That is just what they do. Kingsbury and his players are masters on capitalizing on the weakness of opposing defenses and finding their way into the end-zone. Whether passing or running they are moving the chains. Shimonek might not be Mahomes, but he has been doing a great job. On 125 attempts he has 11 touchdowns and only one interception. Ball security is important and helps win football games.
The defense has been the darling of this squad. After a turnstile of defensive coordinators David Gibbs has stuck around for three seasons. That commitment is finally seeing positive results as the defense has been much improved. Currently, Texas Tech ranks second in turnover margin and has tallied nine turnovers. That is three a game, not a bad thing to do. The Red Raiders are going to need that continued high level production and play if they want to seriously challenge the top of the conference.
Keys to the Game for OSU
Come Out Focused – Last week Oklahoma state came out flat. By the time the team woke up on both sides of the ball it was too late. The defense could never recover and the offense was not able to see the ball enough. A night game in Lubbock is a challenging thing with out adding to it. OSU needs to be locked in from the before the whistle until they get on the bus for the ride home.
Defend the Short Game – Tech is going to challenge the middle of the defensive line just to keep it honest, but the damage is really going to come from short, high completion rate passes that stretch the defense from side-to-side as it looks to get players in space.
Protect Rudolph – Tech (along with every other team) is going to be attacking the right side of the line. If the defense can get to Rudolph quickly it is going to be a long night for Cowboy fans. If the right side shows that it cannot hold up then the play calling has to adjust to give the offense a chance. This might mean keeping an extra blocker in or rolling plays to the left. Whatever it is, Oklahoma State must keep Rudolph upright so he can get the ball to his NFL talent laden receiving core.
Keys to the Game for TTU
Win 3rd Down – TCU gave a blueprint for defeating Oklahoma State. Keep the ball away from the Cowboy’s powerful offense. The Red Raiders don’t have the same run game, but they need to find a way to stay on the field and that will come down to winning third down. The Raiders are converting just 42 percent of the third downs they face, but the OSU defense is only stopping offenses 48 percent of the time on third down. If Tech can win third down they will have a real shot at pulling off the upset.
Attack the Offensive Line – There is blood in the water. Texas Tech needs to exploit the youth and inexperience on OSU’s offensive line, especially the right side. The Red Raiders are only averaging two sacks a game, but the pass rush doesn’t necessarily need to get home to be effective. If the Red Raiders can get to Mason Rudolph quickly it will force him into quick decisions. A quick decision is the best way to make Rudolph (or any quarterback) make a mistake. That will give this opportunistic defense a chance to pick up a couple of takeaways.
Play Four Quarters of Defense – While the defense has been improved this season it has not been able to put a complete game together. If that patter holds then expect Oklahoma State to light up the scoreboard in the second half. To secure the win, Texas Tech’s defense must show up for the whole game, not just a half.
This game sets up for a lot of points to be scored, as evidenced by the over/under line total. If it is a shootout (of which I think it will be) I like Tech to barely edge out Oklahoma State in the upset. But, if it is a more typical game then OSU will win by a touchdown or more. Regardless of who wins, it should be a one you don’t want to miss.
Tortillas sound tasty
— Mason Rudolph (@Rudolph2Mason) September 16, 2017