Texas Tech and Oklahoma have one thing in common – both teams lost to surprising Iowa State at home. Now the Red Raiders (4-3, 1-3 Big 12) and Sooners (6-1, 3-1) are set to get together in Norman with the former looking to snap their two-game losing streak while the latter is trying to keep pace with the top teams in the Big 12.
There is plenty on the line for both teams in this game, as Texas Tech still needs two wins to become bowl eligible and Oklahoma needs to keep winning to stay in the discussion for a possible College Football Playoff berth. Kilff Kingsbury’s Red Raiders got off to a 4-1 start but have lost their last two games and still have Kansas State, TCU and Texas on the schedule. The Sooners have just that one loss to the aforementioned Cyclones but Bedlam at Oklahoma State and a home date with the Horned Frogs loom after this game.
Oklahoma has beaten Texas Tech five times in a row, including last season’s 66-59 free-for-all in Lubbock that broke the NCAA record for combined offensive yards (1,708).
Texas Tech at Oklahoma
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC or ESPN2
Spread: Oklahoma -20.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Baker Mayfield’s finale vs. former school
Mayfield started his collegiate career as a walk-on with Texas Tech and ended up the Big 12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in 2013. He transferred to Oklahoma after that season and has since established himself as one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in program history. He has a shot at becoming a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist as he’s averaging 335.3 passing yards per game while completing 74 percent of his attempts with 19 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Fair or not, his games against his former school draw extra attention given how things ended, and Mayfield is 2-0 in two starts against the Red Raiders. He also just happened to have his best game of his 2016 campaign against Texas Tech, throwing for 545 yards and seven touchdowns in the Sooners’ 66-59 win in Lubbock. While he may be hard-pressed to put up the same numbers Saturday night, there’s no doubt he wants to get another win against Texas Tech. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said following last week’s win against Kansas State that Mayfield has been dealing with a shoulder injury. Still he managed to throw for 410 yards with two touchdowns and ran for another two scores in the 42-35 victory over the Wildcats. It will take much more than a sore shoulder to keep the senior from facing the Red Raiders.
2. Texas Tech trending in wrong direction
Two weeks ago, the Red Raiders led West Virginia 28-17 at halftime of their game in Morgantown. Since then, however, Texas Tech has scored a total of 20 points over their past six quarters. The Mountaineers scored 29 unanswered to come from behind and beat the Red Raiders 46-35 while Iowa State held them to just two touchdowns in the Cyclones’ 30-13 victory in Lubbock. This is not a good sign for a team getting ready to face one of the nation’s most potent offenses. Oklahoma is second in the FBS in total offense (581.7 yards per game) and tied for seventh in scoring offense (42.0 ppg). Texas Tech is no slouch itself at 514 and 40.3, respectively, but the Red Raiders need to get back to where they were in the first half against West Virginia (four touchdowns in the first five drives) compared to their past six quarters.
3. Nic Shimonek’s time to shine?
From a numbers standpoint, Shimonek (above, right) favors comparably to Mayfield. The two are separated by just six passing yards, a single touchdown pass and their completion rates (73.8 percent for Mayfield, 70.9 for Shimonek) are close too. The biggest differences come in interceptions (2 for Mayfield, 5 for Shimonek) and rushing, as Mayfield has 170 yards and three touchdowns while Shimonek is much more of a pocket passer (-58 rushing yards, TD). There’s also the win column as Oklahoma enters this game at 6-1 and still in position for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game and possibly the College Football Playoff, while Texas Tech is 4-3 and still has work to do to simply qualify for a bowl game.
But first, Shimonek has a prime opportunity to make a name for himself should he lead his Red Raiders to a win in Norman. Texas Tech has lost the past five meetings with Oklahoma so a win Saturday night would be quite the feather in the cap for the first-year starter. Shimonek has had big games against good teams. He had 503 passing yards and six touchdowns earlier this season in a 52-45 win against an Arizona State team that’s in the hunt in the Pac-12 South Division. And he most likely will need similar numbers if the Red Raiders are to beat the Sooners considering Patrick Mahomes had 819 total yards (734 passing) and seven total touchdowns (5 passing, 2 rushing) in last season’s meeting, and it still wasn’t enough.
No need to worry about Baker Mayfield getting up for this game nor Oklahoma for that matter as the Sooners still have dates with Oklahoma State and TCU to follow with their sights still focused on a Big 12 title and return to the College Football Playoff. Texas Tech needs to get back to its winning ways and would love to do so in Norman, but the Red Raiders don’t seem to have enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with Oklahoma. This matchup probably won’t feature near as many offensive fireworks as last year, but don’t expect the defenses to dominate either.