Texas Tech and Oklahoma enter their game Saturday coming off of starkly different performances. The Sooners could do no wrong in their 55-0 shellacking of Kansas State. Meanwhile, the Red Raiders squeaked by the worst Power 5 team in America, Kansas, in a showing that even head coach Kliff Kingsbury admitted was a “lucky” win.
Still, spirits in Lubbock have to be high following the Red Raiders’ 5-2 start. Tech already has more wins than it did last season and only needs one more to secure a bowl bid. The oddsmakers say it’s unlikely to come on Saturday, installing OU as a 14-point favorite.
The Sooners, however, have shown that they’re vulnerable to spread offenses in the mold of Texas Tech’s Air Raid scheme. Tulsa, for example, rolled up 600 yards of offense in a visit to Norman last month, averaging 6.6 yards per play.
If the Sooners can’t slow down Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes, running back DeAndre Washington and the rest of the Red Raiders’ dangerous arsenal of offensive weapons, this could turn into an upset along the lines of Tech’s stunning win in Norman in 2011.
College Football Podcast: Week 8 Preview
Texas Tech at Oklahoma
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Oklahoma -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Le’Raven Clark’s health
In Clark, Tech has possibly the best offensive lineman in the entire Big 12 and a major contributor to the team’s prolific offense. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, an injury to the veteran tackle has left his status for Saturday’s contest up in the air. Tech needs Clark at somewhere close to full strength to stave off OU’s imposing pass rush.
2. Ball security
Tech ranks 17th nationally in turnover margin thanks in large part to defensive coordinator David Gibbs’ ballhawks. The Red Raiders have snagged eight interceptions and recovered seven of their opponents’ fumbles through seven games. If the dicey weather forecast for Saturday afternoon in Norman comes to pass, Tech will have an even better shot than usual to knock some balls loose.
3. OU’s secondary versus Tech’s receivers
Tulsa QB Dane Evans and his productive receiving corps strafed OU’s defense for 427 yards and four touchdowns through the air earlier this year. It provided a stark reminder for OU fans of all the big passing plays given up a year earlier. Otherwise, though, opponents have actually found flying the Sooner skies pretty unfriendly this year. Mahomes and his receivers will provide the toughest test yet in 2015 for OU’s secondary.
OU’s pass defense has tightened up significantly since the Tulsa game, raising some legitimate doubts about the capability of Tech’s offense to score often enough to hang with the Sooners on their home turf. However, Mahomes has taken steps forward this year in terms of making better decisions, and he still has the same rocket arm and elusiveness in the backfield.
For the Red Raiders to have a crack at winning this game, Kingsbury needs to keep OU’s D honest by utilizing Washington on the ground and spreading the ball around the field with the pass. When Mahomes delivers the ball to his receivers, Tech will need greater consistency than it has been getting from the likes of Jakeem Grant and Devin Lauderdale when it comes to securing catches.
Ultimately, OU probably has too much offensive firepower for a Tech defense that is outgunned against Big 12 attacks. The Sooners’ offensive line showed signs of greater cohesion last week against Kansas State, which hints at the sputtering running game getting a jolt in the near future. This could be the week that Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon finally start fulfilling their potential out of the backfield.
Whatever the case may be, look for the Sooners to overwhelm a beleaguered Tech defense in the second half and pull away towards a comfortable win.
Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Texas Tech 28
— 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.