The past two seasons, Oklahoma has tried to get cute against Texas Tech at the beginning of games. However, the recipe for defeating the Red Raiders is quite simple - just run the ball.
Bob Stoops announced Monday that workhorse back Samaje Perine will be out of two to three weeks with a pulled muscle. But even in his absence, Bob Stoops and Lincoln Riley need to ride the tailbacks to a victory. Joe Mixon is big and powerful enough to get 25-plus carries (even though it’s not ideal), and Abdul Adams has seemed like a capable back in limited action this season.
But the Sooners don’t even need especially talented backs to exploit Tech’s front seven. The Red Raiders are 113th national in yards-per-carry defense, allowing 5.2 yards per attempt. Now that Oklahoma’s offensive line has found somewhat of a groove, I’ll be very disappointed if Oklahoma doesn’t run for at least 275 yards against these guys. West Virginia ran for 332 against them last week, and they only average 216.2 rushing yards per game including that performance.
A big rushing day is something that needs to happen against a team like Texas Tech, as OU would like to see as little of Patrick Mahomes as possible on Saturday. Mahomes leads the nation with 2,579 yards through the air. But Mahomes isn’t just picking up yards, he’s doing it efficiently with a Total QBR of 84.4, good for eighth nationally. As shaky as Oklahoma’s secondary has been this season, Tech’s passing attack needs to stay off the field. The Raiders are going to score some points in this one, but OU can do things offensively to minimize the damage defensively.
For the record, I’m absolutely not saying to neglect the passing game on Saturday. Hell, OU could still light Tech up with the passing game about as efficiently (if not more efficiently) as they could with running game. But I think it’s vital that OU uses the run to set up the pass as opposed to trying to throw the ball 50 times. As weak as Tech’s front is, OU may not have to throw it more than 30 times in this one. The Sooners are, however, going to have guys open deep in this one, especially if they commit to the ground game. I expect Dede Westbrook to have long receptions for the fourth week in a row if all goes to plan.
I know keeping the offense on the ground goes against Lincoln Riley’s urges, but it’s vital that it happens on Saturday. A back who has absolutely annihilated Texas Tech the past two seasons will be sidelined, and it’s much easier to pound the rock when that type of back is at your disposal. However, OU can still have plenty of success against this defensive front without him, so it’s important that Perine’s injury doesn’t deter Riley from doing what needs to be done in this one, even if it won’t be quite as easy.