Photo cc: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Looking to curb an eight-game losing streak versus Oklahoma, Texas Tech will try to replicate their successes from a week ago in all aspects.
After finally securing a conference win, the Red Raiders have a weight lifted off their shoulders alongside added confidence. They’ll need every bit of last week’s execution and then some if they wish to beat OU at home for the first time since Mike Leach was calling the shots. Oklahoma comes to town hitting their stride after starting the year 1-2 and not looking like the usual force they are year after year. Spencer Rattler, the signal-caller for the Sooners, started conference play with a 6-4 TD-INT mark. In the two most recent games versus Texas and TCU, the preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the year and Heisman hopeful has settled into the offense posting five touchdowns to just one interception. For the Red Raiders, Henry Colombi made his first start last weekend playing a clean game and making the necessary plays to beat West Virginia. With the firepower of the Oklahoma offense, Colombi will likely need more than the 169 passing yards he put up last week for Tech to keep up with Lincoln Riley’s Big 12 leading offense.
Although not as stingy as the Mountaineer’s, Oklahoma comes in ranked 3rd in the Big 12 in total defense. Where the Sooners have shined the brightest is against the run, allowing only 92 yards per game. The front seven also has 15 sacks on the year and is anchored by a duo of playmaking linebackers in Brian Asamoah and DaShaun White, tallying four sacks and 49 tackles between the two of them. Having success on the ground will be a key for the Red Raiders to stay in the game on Saturday. If Tech becomes one dimensional because of the scoreboard or Oklahoma’s defense, OU will blitz and take advantage of Colombi’s inexperience. However, as he showed last week with 40 rushing yards, Colombi has the ability to keep the defense off-balance with his scrambling ability as the pocket collapses. A successful day for the Red Raider offense this week would involve a balanced attack on the ground and in the air and no turnovers. Don’t be surprised if the offense runs a trick play or two and even possibly a fake punt or field goal in order to extend a possession, none of which can be wasted if Tech wishes to pull the upset.
The direction of the game will likely be decided when Oklahoma is on offense and the Red Raiders are defending. Coming off their most impressive performance of the year in which they outscored the WVU offense during the final quarter of play, Keith Patterson’s defense finally showed signs of life for the first time this season. Highlighted by a game-winning fumble return touchdown in the fourth quarter, Tech’s defense forced five punts and a turnover on downs as well. The biggest area of improvement was in the run game, holding Leddie Brown to a season-low 77 yards and the Mountaineers to 91 yards overall. Now, Texas Tech welcomes in the best offense they’ve seen this far and will likely face the rest of the way. Headlined by Spencer Rattler, the strengths of this offense starts upfront on the offensive line and extends out to the skill positions, having little if any weaknesses across the board. Through five games the Sooners have had four different receiving yards leaders, the most recent being Freshman Marvin Mims who gouged the TCU secondary with 132 yards and two touchdowns on just four grabs. Both touchdowns were over 50 yards apiece and should catch the attention of the Red Raider secondary as chunk plays have been a struggle thus far. It will be interesting to see the approach of the front seven this week against the powerful offensive line of Oklahoma, without consistent pressure, Rattler will likely pick the Tech secondary apart. Whatever the method, if the defense can make him uncomfortable, there’s plenty of evidence showing he is prone to giving the ball away. Tech likely needs a combination of turnovers and red zone stops to stay in this game. Without them, Riley’s offense is capable of making the game out of reach by the fourth quarter.
The timing of this matchup is unfortunate for a Tech team that comes in riding a wave of momentum as they had their best showing yet just last week. Oklahoma’s offense is the most powerful the Red Raiders will see this year and are complemented by a strong defense not far off of what West Virginia presented. With Rattler finally looking more like the young phenom everyone was projecting him as 50 points is not out of reach for the Sooners. Tech will obviously not go down without a fight but are simply out-matched in all key areas for this game.
Prediction: OU 45 – TTU 26