On the eve of Halloween, the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (8-0, 5-0) will take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-3, 2-3) in a matchup between two programs moving in opposite directions. For OU, this is a team that controls its own destiny and has all of its goals squarely before it. On the other side, TTU has just fired its head coach while it continues to compete for bowl eligibility. Will Lincoln Riley improve to 7-0 against his alma mater this weekend? Stay tuned.
Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 2:30 p.m. CT on ABC
Line: Oklahoma -19 (as of Friday at 3 p.m. CT)
Matt Wells is out, Sonny Cumbie takes over
After a 13-17 run over two and a half seasons in Lubbock, Matt Wells was fired from his position as Texas Tech’s head coach earlier this week. Offensive coordinator and former Red Raider QB Sonny Cumbie has since taken over on a interim basis, but it remains to be seen how different TTU will play or even look under this new leadership. One thing’s for sure, Alex Grinch better be prepared or else this could turn into an extremely ugly shootout, especially with the miscues that have plagued the Sooners’ defense for the majority of the season.
Will OU’s defense play more aggressively?
Speaking of Grinch and the Oklahoma defense, after last weekend’s embarrassing showing against Kansas, something has to change now. At this point, it’s obvious that these defensive lapses are a lot more than a simple matter of missing certain players due to injury. KU isn’t known for its offensive prowess, not by a long shot, yet the Jayhawks were able to move the ball methodically at will for most of that game. The game plan is out there. Teams are playing keep away by going on long drives and converting on third and fourth down. It’s no secret, and an adjustment has to be made before the competition ramps up in November. The aggressive play ‘Speed D’ is known for must make its return, or these issues will ultimately cost this team an opportunity to play for all the marbles.
I am once again asking Oklahoma to start fast
Something that would help OU’s chances tremendously would be if the offense could actually start fast for once. Another scoreless first half like the one in Lawrence will probably spell doom for this team in any other game the rest of this season. A big part of starting fast will be to actually receive the possession first, which obviously involves a little coin toss luck. If that happens, going ahead early would force Tech to adjust how it plays, and if Cumbie’s plan is to play keep away and control the clock, he might have to scrap that plan real quick. Sure, if the defense still can’t get off the field on third down, then this could easily turn into a shootout, but regardless, it’s always better to be the team dictating the pace of the game.
How do the Sooners enter the bye week?
It’s been a long time — 11 years to be exact — since an FBS team has played through the first nine weeks of a college football season and finished that stretch with a 9-0 record. Shout out to Allen Kenney for that incredible stat. If OU wins this Saturday, they’ll become the first team to accomplish such a feat since 2010. While on one hand that would be extremely impressive in and of itself, on the other it could also speak to some of the seemingly conservative approaches we’ve seen from Lincoln Riley in games and unconventional practice measures as of late (like not holding practice altogether).
With health and rest an increasing concern in the world of sports, Oklahoma would stand to benefit significantly if it can get through this weekend without any more injuries, then go into the off-week focusing on healing up and preparing for the fourth quarter gauntlet of the regular season.
It may have taken me longer than most, but I’ve finally reached the point where I can longer expect this team to handle an opponent how they should (or how Vegas expects them to). The consistent breakdowns on third down and inability to string together negative plays gives me no confidence that this defense will shut down any team with an offensive pulse. That said, I am relatively confident in Caleb Williams and this offense, but unfortunately, if that group is only going to have the ball around nine times per game, I don’t see the scoreboard lighting up any time soon. With all of that said, I do think OU will manage to play with the lead early on against the Red Raiders, and even after giving up several maddening conversions and big plays on defense, they won’t allow the opposition to pull off a major upset sans Matt Wells.
Oklahoma 44, Texas Tech 34
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