The Oklahoma Sooners are as sick of answering the “what the heck is happening on offense?” questions as I am of asking them. I get it. Texas Tech is a fine football team. I like what Joey McGuire has done there all season outside of giving the “you will have to bury me in Lubbock” quotes. The defensive line will be a nice test but nothing concerning. The quarterback position has been chaotic all season leading to chaotic outcomes. However they are talented in the backfield if they decide to test Oklahoma’s run defense.
I think the most important factor in this game is that it’s in Lubbock. That this game won’t be in ideal weather. Finally that this game will be in front of one of the more insane fan bases in the Big 12. I don’t know why, maybe for no reason at all, I have always had a ton of respect for that stadium. I am excited to see the tortillas, some possible snow, and the guy ringing the bell.
What to watch for?
- OU’s running game will be key here. Eric Gray and the Oklahoma offensive line have been great this entire run of conference play with the exception of the second half of Bedlam. Frankly, I think they were underutilized against Oklahoma State. I think there stands to be a real chance that the Sooners will lean back into Gray early, allowing him to put them in good second and third down spots. Being behind the chains against Oklahoma State killed them a week ago. This is a chance to correct that.
- Third down offense is the only thing that I think anyone should care about. If they again show that they can’t execute in crucial situations... I am sorry but turn on the sirens and alarm bells. Oklahoma’s offense (and play caller) can’t allow these issues to fester. It is a real concern.
- Jalil Farooq and Marvin Mims are the two most explosive players on the OU offense. They need to look it against Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are not a team I want to play a close football game against, as they execute well in those situations. The Sooners — the more talented team every week — need to flex this the most. Run it up, score quick, be explosive... and no drops.
- Linebacker play will be huge, as Tyler Shough is the guy who is the starter if healthy. I don’t know if he is healthy or not, but with the way he has played this year I think we see Donovan Smith either way. Smith has been much more of a threat in the passing game and the running game. Don’t be baited into your assumptions that Smith has a really fun pop of an arm that keeps linebackers in tough spots. Play the run, get burnt over the top. Play the pass, give up simple four-yard scrambles every snap. Smith makes it tough.
Know your opponent: Texas Tech
- QB carousel has been a SPINNING in Texas Tech. As I just mentioned that Donovan Smith and Tyler Shough are the two likely starters in this one. My expectation, though, frankly means nothing. They started a true freshman against Oklahoma State unexpectedly... and the kid balled. That third kid, Berhen Morton, is the biggest wild card of all. Morton is like most young QBs and has struggled with interceptions and turnovers this year, however. There is no denying that he is the most talented QB on campus. If that is where Texas Tech goes, everything is on the table. An OU runaway forcing multiple turnovers or I am doing a postgame show trying to figure out how Oklahoma just got demolished by a true freshman. The kid can sling it.
- Texas Tech’s biggest strength all year has been their pass rush. After an injury to Tyree Wilson, that does get easier for Oklahoma’s offensive line. However, the Red Raiders play an aggressive style of defense that I do think is going to force Oklahoma to keep in mind that Gabriel has struggled, like most QBs, under pressure this season. Protection schemes will be vital.
- SaRockrick Thompson is still the name to know in the backfield from a meme standpoint, but the leading rusher? That’s Tahj Brooks. Texas Tech’s running game hasn’t been amazing this season, sitting 68th in the country, but Oklahoma’s rushing defense up until last week hasn’t been great either. Joey McGuire, to his credit, has been a coach of taking advantage of weaknesses. I think we see the same here. I assume that Texas Tech will be playing aggressive in the run early, trying to test to see if the improvement is real.
- If I was going to be honest, my favorite part of this team is their receiver room. Now, not because they are as good as last year’s or have some hidden young Michael Crabtree tucked away. It’s because Texas Tech has been a passing first team all season and their pass catching has been coming from everyone. If you looked at their stats page, I don’t know if you could guess the two receivers who will start the game much, less lead the team in yards. That’s fun. Five players over three hundred yards and only one over five hundred, they are deep and hard to predict, but not a superstar among them.
Simply put, I am just going to gamble on the only thing that has been consistent this year... the inconsistency. The Sooners have a chance to show the defensive performance against West Virginia and Oklahoma State can be building blocks. They can show that the offensive struggles are the exception, not the rule, and that they CAN convert two times on a third down. I just want to see it first.
Sooners - 24
Texas Tech - 23
Talk to you knuckleheads on Monday