Quarterback Baker Mayfield’s transfer from Texas Tech to Oklahoma following the 2013 season actually worked out well for both sides. After sitting out the 2014 season, Mayfield won the starting job at OU last season and helped lead the Sooners to a conference title. Meanwhile, dynamic talent Patrick Mahomes, who likely would have beaten out Mayfield at Tech, took over the starting role for the Red Raiders in ‘14 and hasn’t looked back.
That won’t take the focus off the reigning Big 12 Player of the Year on Saturday night when Mayfield makes his return to Lubbock. Even though Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury appears to have moved on from the squabble over Mayfield’s transfer, the patrons in the stands at Jones AT&T Stadium are unlikely to be so forgiving.
Upsetting the favored Sooners would give the fans something to cheer about in a season that has seen the Red Raiders’ longtime defensive woes continue unabated.
Oklahoma at Texas Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 22 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Oklahoma -14
1. Keeping Mayfield Calm
Oklahoma’s star signal-caller is an embrace-the-hate type who uses perceived slights as motivation. He also tends to get a little overly enthusiastic at times. He seemed to let his adrenaline get the better of him earlier this season against Houston and Ohio State, and it cost the Sooners badly.
In a charged environment like the one expected in Lubbock on Saturday night, OU head coach Bob Stoops and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley will need to work to get Mayfield on an even keel.
2. Help for Tech’s Befuddled Run Defense
The Red Raiders play some of the softest run defense in the country, giving up 5.2 yards per rushing attempt (119th nationally). They got some good news this week, though, when Stoops announced that a leg injury will keep bruising running back Samaje Perine out of the lineup.
Aside from being the kind of physical ball carrier who often steamrolls Tech defenders, Perine is adept as a blocker in the backfield. His absence will put more carries in the hands of Joe Mixon and more burden on freshman runner Abdul Adams to contribute.
3. Taking Aim at Jordan Parker
In the last two contests, Texas and Kansas State declined to go after Oklahoma’s freshman cornerback. It was an odd development, considering All-American candidate Jordan Thomas is patrolling the other side of the field.
Parker can’t hide forever. Texas Tech’s Air Raid is an ideal scheme for isolating receivers one-on-one in favorable matchups. Kingsbury will assuredly instruct his team to test the freshman early and – if Patrick Mahomes and his receivers have success – often.
Texas Tech last beat Oklahoma in 2011 on a rainy night in Norman when the Sooners were ranked No. 1 in the nation. Times have changed for both programs, but the results have gone OU’s way since then.
That string of success for OU has a lot to do with the ongoing defensive ineptitude of the Red Raiders. The same question as always faces them heading into this next game: Can Tech generate stops against Mayfield and Co. on a consistent basis?
Samaje Perine’s injury should help in that regard, as it will keep the Sooners from grinding away on Tech’s overmatched front. In the end, the running back’s absence probably won’t be enough for Tech to pull off the upset. The likelihood of a shootout does raise the possibility of a wild finish, though.
Prediction: Oklahoma 48, Texas Tech 38
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.