The Texas Tech Red Raiders and the #15 Oklahoma State Cowboys open their Big 12 schedule in Stillwater. The Cowboys are off to a great start to the season coming off a big win at home over then-ranked #17 Boise State last Saturday by a score of 44-21. Meanwhile, Texas Tech surprised some people around the conference by beating Houston in Lubbock 63-49.
Both programs are playing better than their Big 12 preseason rankings indicated. Texas Tech was picked to finish eighth, but have found an offense behind freshman quarterback Alan Bowman. However, questions still surround what was surprisingly projected to be this team’s strength: the defense. Oklahoma State, voted to end the season at fifth in the conference, is playing like a legit Big 12 title contender.
The Red Raiders can make a statement with a win in Stillwater that they belong in the top half of the conference. On the other hand, Oklahoma State needs to continue to show improvement if they want a chance at the Big 12 Title at the end of the season.
Texas Tech (2-1, 0-0)
Texas Tech lost their season opener to Ole Miss, but since then they have won two straight and are averaging 70 points during that span. The offense putting up video game numbers is nothing unusual for the Red Raiders, especially in the passing game.
Bowman struggled in his first appearance versus Ole Miss, nevertheless, he is 65-84 (73.9%) for 887 yards in the last two games, including a 605-yard performance against Houston last week, setting a new Big 12 freshman passing record.
It seems to be the same story every year in Lubbock. They have a high-octane offense but the defense can’t stop anybody, and that story line is coming into fruition again this season despite shutting out FCS opponent Lamar. They’re giving up an average of 32 points per game, while allowing 454.3 total yards of offense. That’s not great.
Oklahoma State (3-0, 0-0)
The Cowboys have opened some people’s eyes around the conference early in the season. It’s not astonishing the Pokes are 3-0, however, its how well they’ve played to start their 2018 campaign that’s got people’s attention.
The defense has played well through the first three games. They’re holding their opponents to 297 yards a game. It looks good till you see they have yet to play a member of any of the power five conferences, nonetheless, they held a Boise State offense that was coming off a 400-yard rushing performance to just 34 yards on the ground.
Offensively, they have leaned on the ground game by averaging 257 yards per outing. Justice Hill leads the rushing attack with 8.1 yards per carry, and it’s taken some of the pressure off quarterback Taylor Cornelius. Speaking of Cornelius, his accuracy has not been consistent at times, and that’s a concern. However, he has managed the offense well, has sneaky athleticism, and has shown to be a good decision-maker.
Texas Tech Keys To The Game
Speed Up The Game – Texas Tech needs to speed this game up and score in bunches. Oklahoma State typically runs an up-tempo offense, but they have slowed it down this year due to new personnel. They can make the Cowboys uncomfortable by forcing their first year starting quarterback to play out of his comfort zone.
Stop OSU’s Run Game – The Red Raiders will no doubt score, but they’ll need to make some stops against a physical offense and it starts with the Cowboys running game. Texas Tech needs to crowd the line of scrimmage and force Cornelius to make throws. Make them throw more than they run.
Special Teams – Conference road wins are tough to come by. Especially against a team that for some reason you can’t seem to beat. They need to find an edge in often over-looked areas of the game. Texas Tech will have to play sound on all three sides of the ball if they want to pull the upset, and they can make it a reality with good special teams play. A block punt or field goal can turn the momentum in their favor and steal a possession.
Oklahoma State Keys To The Game
Pressure Alan Bowman – Bowman is just a freshman, but if he’s comfortable in the pocket he’ll pick apart your defense. Defensive end Jordan Brailford has four sacks on the season already and as a team they have 16 sacks. You won’t get many coverage sacks against a Texas Tech team, so disguising blitzes and bringing the pressure could make it a long day for the Red Raiders.
Balance – Texas Tech will score and at times score quickly. It will be important for the Cowboys to just run their offense and even lean a little more on the running game. The Red Raider defense will give up big plays. Take what the defense gives you, don’t force anything.
Win Turnover Margin – Oklahoma State is -1 in turnover ration margin on the year, while Texas Tech is +3. Typically, teams that win the turnover battle win the game, and that will most likely ring true in this game. As good as the Red Raider offense is, you don’t want to give them any field position or extra possessions. Take care of the ball to avoid the upset.
This is going to be a shootout. Texas Tech’s offense is hard to stop. However, their defense hasn’t proven they can stop anyone at the FBS level. As a result, the game will be sped up naturally.
Texas Tech won’t be able to establish a rushing attack and will have to continue to throw in the air. They will give opportunities for that Cowboy defensive line to tee off on the freshman quarterback.
The OSU defense will start fast and end strong as Oklahoma State goes 1-0 in conference play.