Week 9 on the Big 12 football calendar features a full slate of games with all 10 teams in action for the first time in several weeks. There are a couple of intriguing matchups – Texas at TCU and Oklahoma State at always-tough-to-play Iowa State, for instance – but the contest that clearly is drawing the most attention is the nationally televised showdown in Norman, Okla., between the No. 9-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders, according to the current USA Today Coaches Poll, and the 12th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
Texas Tech brings a perfect 7-0 season record into Saturday’s game against the 6-1 Sooners, whose lone loss was a 36-20 defeat in the annual Red River Rivalry game with Texas. Two things come immediately to mind in thinking ab0ut this game.
It was two season’s ago that Texas Tech rolled into Gaylord Family-Oklahoima Memorial Stadium against an undefeated OU team riding a perfect 6-0 record and a nation-best 39-game home winning streak and shocked the top-10 rankied Sooners, pulling out a 41-38 victory.
Four seasons before that, the Red Raiders came to Norman with a league-leading 10-0 record amd just two regular season games left to play to finish off their first Big 12 division title and a date with Missouri for the conference championship. The Sooners wreaked havoc on the Red Raiders from the very start, dominating every phase of the game from start to finish in handing the visitors from Lubbock an unrelenting 68-21 smackdown.
In its only other game this season against a ranked opponent, Texas Tech defeated then 24th-ranked TCU 20-10 at home in Lubbock. The Sooners also have played only one ranked opponent thus far in the season, defeating Notre Dame, then ranked No. 21 in the USA Today poll, in South Bend.
The one common opponent of the two teams in which there was a marked difference in the outcome was Kansas. Oklahoma had to come back from a 13-0 second-quarter deficit before pulling out a 34-19 victory. The Red Raiders fell behind the Jayhawks 10-0, but unloaded after that with 54 unanswered points for a 54-16 win.
The Red Raiders are far and away a pass-heavy team – with almost a two-to-one difference in pass attempts vs. running plays – and they do it extremely well. Texas Tech ranks seventh in the country in total offense (Baylor is No. 1), averaging 548.1 yards per game, but is second in the nation in passing yards (416.4 ypg). That sets up a key matchup against the Oklahoma pass defense, which statistically ranks No. 1 in the nation through seven games. The Sooners have allowed 149.7 yards a game through the air, and a week ago held Kansas to just 16 total passing yards.
“Their defense schematically has changed a bunch from last year,” Texas Tech first-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury told ESPN.com. “(The OU coaching staff) does a good job bringing people from everywhere, very athletic, fly around, fundamentally sound. It will be a very, very good challenge for a young quarterback.”
Kingsbury is referring to Red Raider freshman quarterback Davis Webb, who has thrown for over 400 yards in each of his two starts in place of injured starter Baker Mayfield.
On the other side of the ball, the weak link in the Texas Tech defense appears to be how they defend the passing game, which has not been Oklahoma’s offensive strong suit this season, unlike past years under Bob Stoops. The Sooners cannot afford to have another subpar passing game against the Red Raiders like they did two weeks ago against Texas, if they want to maintain pace with the high-scoring Texas Tech scoring machine.
This game is going to come down to Oklahoma’s ability to slow down the Texas Tech offense and limit its passing attack and the Red Raiders ability to stay out of third-and-long situations and Webb’s effectiveness in finding and connecting with his receivers against the aggressive and active Sooner secondary. If the Red Raiders are unable to run the ball against the OU front seven, which has been a problem for Tech but hasn’t been for other Sooner opponents this season, that will play into the hands of coach Mike Stoops’ defense against the passing game.
Three Things To Watch For In The Oklahoma-Texas Tech Matchup
- Third-down conversions could play an important part in the outcome of this game by keeping the other team’s offense off the field and wearing down the defensive team by sustaining drives. Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in third-down stops against its opponents with a 70 percent success rate and ranks second in the league with a 49.2 percent success rate when the Tech offense comes up against a third-down try.
- The Sooners are 17-1 in home games played in October under Bob Stoops and 6-1 in games in Norman against Texas Tech. The one loss was the Red Raiders’ 41-38 upset victory the last time they played at Oklahoma (in 2011)
- It is Oklahoma’s homecoming and there will be 85,000-plus screaming fans in attendance. That’s a tough environment for any visiting player, let alone a freshman quarterback who has only made two career starts. That is an overriding reason why OU has only lost five games (against 84 wins) at home in Bo Stoops’ 15 seasons as the Sooners’ head coach.
Game prediction: Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 31
Other Big 12 Picks in Week 9
Oklahoma State 35 @ Iowa State 14 – Last time the Cowboys played at Iowa State, it cost them an undefeated season and a chance at the national championship. Not the same stakes this time, but the Cowboys won’t come away a loser, either.
West Virginia 24 @ Kansas State 42 - With only six games remaining and just two wins on the season (and none in the conference), defending conference co-champion Kansas State needs this win in a big way to keep its postseason bowl chances alive.
Baylor 59 @ Kansas 13 -This game could get ugly quick and continue to get worse. Nation’s No. 1 offense (Baylor) against 71st-ranked defense (Kansas) and 89th vs. the run. Something tells me the statistical spread is going to become even wider after this game.
Texas 24 @ TCU 28 - Texas’ three-game conference winning streak comes to an end. TCU is best in the league against the run (Texas’ strength) and the Horned Frogs’ secondary is as good as they come. The question is: Can TCU generate enough offense to squeak by in this one.
Last week’s results: 3-1
For the season: 37-10 (.790)