1. The Setting
Good Guys: Texas Tech Red Raiders (4-3, 1-3)
Bad Guys: Oklahoma Sooners (6-1, 3-1)
When: Saturday, October 28th at 7:00 p.m.
Where: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium; Norman, Oklahoma
TV/Stream: ABC or ESPN2 (Watch ESPN)
Radio/Stream: 97.3 FM | Affiliates | TuneIn App
2. Uniform Tracker
Black helmets are 1-1, white helmets are 2-1 and red helmets are 1-1.
3. The Big Storyline
This is the part of the season where it can be really difficult to write the “Big Storyline”. If I try to be hopeful, I think the response of, “Oh, there’s that Seth, being way too positive on things, let’s just skip this part.” And then there’s the other side where if I write about coaching changes or how this game seems insurmountable then the, “Oh, there’s Seth being all negative again, I’ll just skip this part.” Both are probably true because I do try to balance it out a bit. I understand that there are factions out there, both of those factions I believe are absolutely part of this community and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As to the idea that this game is going to be a tough road for Texas Tech, yeah, I think that’s probably right. The recent scores in Norman probably aren’t as bad as you remember: a 63-27 loss in 2015, a 38-30 loss in 2013, a 41-38 loss in 2011, a 45-7 loss in 2010 and the 65-21 loss in 2008. Of those losses, three of them were absolute blowouts, but there was a time in 2013 and 2011 where Texas Tech did keep things relatively close.
And if you’re looking at the Sooner end of things, it’s been since Tulane that the Sooners have just blown the opposing team out of the water. The Sooners won by 8 at Baylor, then lost by 7 to Iowa State at home, then beat Texas by 5 and then beat Kansas State by 7 last week in Manhattan. A win is a win. There’s no doubt about that, but you would have thought that the Sooners would have been much better. In fact, against the spread this year, Oklahoma is 3-4, 2-1 at home ATS and 1-3 on the road ATS. The best part about the Sooners thus far (Iowa State aside) is how they’ve been able to close games. Yeah, that means the Sooners are having to come back, but they are doing it and that’s not an easy thing to do.
4. Keys for Texas Tech
- The offense needs to figure out how to get the ball to their playmakers again. The early season offense that was flying all over the place has been stagnant since the since half of the West Virginia game. Whenever I consider these games, I try to think about where Texas Tech has match-up advantages. Depending on the teams, there are more or less match-up advantages. The one player that I think is always a match-up nightmare for opponents is Keke Coutee. Teams have been able to stop Coutee from really getting in space, where he’s most dangerous and Kingsbury needs to figure out a way to fix that. Maybe it’s running Coutee in motion (but none of that lateral bullshit) or legally picking the receivers (every team does this). That’s Kingsbury’s job. Get the ball in the hands of your best players and that’s Coutee.
- The other significant match-up advantage would be whoever is on cornerback Jordan Thomas, who has been one of the worst cornerbacks in the Big 12 (this is based off of a stat I saw from PFF). That means that Derrick Willies and Dylan Cantrell need to be focused on abusing Thomas wherever he’s at. Again, the pass defense for OU has not been good and the havoc rate for the Sooner defensive backfield ranks 121st in the nation. They typically aren’t making splash plays or interceptions. Let’s take advantage of that.
- Defensively, I think the defense needs to continue to do what they do best. Bill Connelly has these stats on the profile pages of each team and he also has success rate for defensive players. The lower the success rate the better that the player is doing (i.e. offensive players are not successful against that particular defender). One of the more amazing stats is that big Mychealon Thomas who has a success rate of 4.2%. That’s sort of ridiculous how good he’s been and probably way too overlooked and his mate on the line, Broderick Washington, has a success rate of 21%. For comparison purposes, Oklahoma doesn’t have any player in single digits (D.J. Ward is the closest at 11%). The front four has to continue to stand up opposing offenses.
- Texas Tech is probably going to have to give some help to the tackles in some manner. Last week, we saw quite a bit from Tyler Carr at that fullback / tight end position (really more of a fullback or H-back). That’s a 6’4″ and 260 pound defensive lineman lining up there and this really means a few things. This means that Mason Reed hasn’t been healthy in a long time and they’re having to turn to a freshman walk-on to help out at fullback. It also means that the coaching staff knows that they have to help protect Shimonek a bit. Kingsbury said that Carr played basketball in high school and he’s pretty athletic. I didn’t remember seeing anything that bothered me about Carr’s play, but this is somewhat of a whole new stage for Carr.
- The Sooners are 72nd in sack rate, which means that Mayfield likes to hold onto the ball longer than he should and that’s probably going to mean that Kolin Hill and Eli Howard are going to have a very difficult job of trying to pressure Mayfield while trying to contain him. Mayfield is the third leading rusher for the Sooners and he is quite adept, averaging 7 yards a carry, but he’s also prone to get sacked. The biggest advantage for the Sooners has been that they are converting their third downs fairly well, 45% and 26th in the nation. However, the defense needs to force as many third and longs as possible.
- Expect to see a heavy dose of Tre King and Desmond Nisby to a lesser extent. I still can’t figure out why Nisby hasn’t figured things out to be the primary running back. He would have been a pretty terrific compliment against a team like Iowa State that just wanted to sit back and not worry so much about running the ball. I think I/we need to move on a bit and just be happy if and when it happens. With King, he is a good runner, but he’s not very big or very punishing. I’ve written before about how I very much like how King can churn out those 4-6 yard gains rather than gaining 10 one play and then being stuffed at the line of scrimmage the next.
- Shimonek is going to have to take some chances this game despite the logical play being to just take what the defense gives you. The Sooners are 104th in limiting explosive plays on defense, particularly in the passing game (111th in Passing IsoPPP). I’ve already written about how Thomas is supposed to be not a great cornerback, but safety Kahlil Haughton has a 91% success rate (this is terrible) which makes me think that once you get behind him, it’s church for the OU defense. Maybe this is a game where the offense lets guys just fly down the field, rotating every couple of plays and T.J. Vasher and Quan Shorts get as many shots as Willies and Cantrell.
- One clear advantage for the Sooners that the Red Raiders are going to have to plan around is tight end Mark Andrews. He is the Sooners’ leading receiver, catching 30 passes for 520 yards, 3 touchdowns and 17.3 yards per catch. That’s really terrific for a 250 pound tight end, he’s a guy that’s getting down the field and Andrews is a huge part of the success for Mayfield. Mayfield definitely stirs the drink of the offense, but Andrews is right along with him. I have no idea what player or the game plan to stop Andrews (maybe bracket coverage and just take this option away?) but it seems that Gibbs’ M.O. has been to play things pretty evenly. With the Sooners that may be a bit different because these two are so good at what they do.
5. What to Watch
That first play is a doozy and makes you think what could be if Texas Tech can get some decent inside blocking.
Mayfield is really good at finding things over the tp and over the middle. He’s not afraid to take chances and he’ll trust his receivers to make plays even to his detriment. Most of the time they work out.
(That Kansas State quarterback struggles in the passing game).
Don’t underestimate the athlete that Mayfield can be. He makes a lot of plays with his feet.
And those two touchdowns catches are by Dimitri Flowers, one of the more underrated and probably underutilized players for the Sooners. He’ll get you a touchdown.
(Just as an FYI as that snap sails past the punter, OU is 96th in special teams S&P, unfortunately Texas Tech is 125th in the same category, much of that is because of the kicking.)
Have to wrap up those Sooner running backs. That’s a must.
Mafield again trusting his receivers to make plays. One on one, let’s give it a go.
Again, have to wrap up those Sooner runners, if they break free, they’ll go for huge yards.
That aggressive Oklahoma defense could be a boom or a bust for Texas Tech.
6. Coach’s Corner
Another week where a PDF or transcript of the coach press conference is unavailable.
I’m sticking with my prediction of 38-21 despite logic telling me otherwise. Don’t ask me how Texas Tech gets to 21. And based on how OU is playing teams this year, Texas Tech’s biggest hope is that if things stay close, then you never know. Teams tend to make mistakes and lose games rather than win games, but OU seems to be the exception to the concept of just losing games, but they do tend to keep things close, especially as of late.
|Texas Tech falls 42-20 in Norman despite a strong outing by the defense in the first 3 quarters.
|49-31 Oklahoma. The OU defense allows the Tech offense to get moving but just not enough to win.
|45-16 Oklahoma. Offense is a non-starter, kicking woes continue, defense puts up a valiant effort but gets overwhelmed from being on the field too much
|45-24 Oklahoma. The game is close for the 1st half.