#14 Oklahoma @ #24 Texas Tech
- Game Time: 2:30
- TV: ABC/ESPN2
- Sirius Channel: 123
- The Spread: Texas Tech +4
The Lowdown: West Virginia's visit to Austin on Saturday is getting most of the hype in the Big 12 this weekend, but don't overlook what's happening in Lubbock on Saturday in what could turn out to the game of the day.
The Sooners have had two weeks to think about and correct what went wrong in Norman during their 24-19 lost to Kansas State. Landry Jones' sack near the end zone and third quarter interception were critical mistakes, no doubt, but where exactly did the OU running game go?
Oklahoma rushed for just 88 yards on 27 carries against the Wildcats. It was expected the OU coaching staff would take the chains off of junior college transfer RB Damien Williams but he received just 10 carries picking up 34 yards against the Wildcats. Oklahoma's coaches have said once again they'd like to get the ball in Williams' hands more often, but we'll have to wait and see Saturday if they actually put their words into actions.
If Williams, Dom Whaley, or Brennan Clay are going to have any success running the ball, Oklahoma's line needs to start making a few more running lanes, something that didn't happen often against K-State.
The Sooners have played only three games so it can be tough to judge, but given their lackluster start against UTEP and their struggles against K-State, it appears they haven't recovered from losing Tyler Evans and Ben Habern to injuries as quickly as they would have liked.
That not only goes for the running game, but keeping Landry Jones backside clean, as well. Jones still looks to be rattled when the pocket closes in and you can bet Texas Tech will try and bring plenty of pressure on Saturday hoping to keep Jones out of his comfort zone.
Speaking of Texas Tech's defense, what a turnaround it's been so far under new defensive coordinator, Art Kaufman. Granted, the competition hasn't been great, but the results certainly have been.
Tech leads the Big 12 in total defense giving up just 167.3 yards per game through four games. In their first semi-real test on the road last weekend in Ames, the Red Raiders made a mess of Iowa State's offense. They picked up four turnovers and held the Cyclones to just 189 total yards (70 passing, 116 rushing).
Even with the stellar results, many still aren't sold on their defense just yet. If they keep OU's offense in check Saturday, however, it's time to start believing.
Texas Tech, Keys to the Game: Said in the most simplistic form possible, stay balanced on offense. Texas Tech's offense has done a reasonably good job of balancing the run and pass early in the season and it will be paramount it continues on Saturday.
Even if the run game is ineffective early, stick with it because it will pay off come the fourth quarter. Oklahoma would love nothing more than to make the Red Raiders one dimensional and if Tech obliges by becoming pass-happy, they'll be playing right into the strength of the OU defense which is their secondary.
Oklahoma had plenty of trouble slowing down Kansas State's ground attack and that was without much of the passing threat Seth Doege will pose on Saturday. If they can establish the run early and not go away from it late, I love their chances on Saturday afternoon. All the tools are there in Tech's offense not only in the ground game, but with their tight end and receivers, as well. Force the Sooners to have to defend all of it.
Oklahoma, Keys to the Game: Start fast. You can bet the crowd at The Jones is going to be revved up to see their Red Raiders knock off OU for the second straight season. What quiets a crowd better than a couple quick touchdowns? Not much. Not to mention, if the Sooners can get up by a couple scores early, it makes it that much harder for the Red Raiders to stick with their offensive game plan outlined above in the Tech keys to the game.
Outside of a fast start, the Sooners offensive line needs to keep the heat from getting to Landry Jones.
Texas Tech's defense has done a nice job of getting pressure from their front four so far this season. If the Oklahoma front can keep Kerry Hyder and company at bay, it'll force the Red Raiders back seven to prove all their early season success is no fluke. I'm not saying it is, and I'm not saying it's not, but they have yet to be tested by an offense with the skill players OU possesses and that becomes a whole lot easier if Jones has time to operate in the pocket.
The Prediction: Oklahoma hasn't gotten off to the start they had hoped for this season and trying to get on track with a road game in Lubbock (where they haven't won since 2003) certainly isn't going to be easy.
Given OU's early struggles, my gut says Texas Tech wins this game while my head says Oklahoma finds some way to leave town with a victory. I'm going with my head here.
Damien Williams will break a long touchdown run and Jones will build on the newfound chemistry with freshman wide receiver Sterling Shepard giving Oklahoma just enough offense while the Sooner defense does the rest.
It'll be close throughout with the Sooners having to sweat it out for four quarters against a much improved Texas Tech squad that comes up a touchdown short. Oklahoma 28 Texas Tech 21.