Oklahoma football: Sooners must not take Texas Tech for granted

Sep 28, 2019; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws during the second quarter against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2019; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) throws during the second quarter against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The words “win” and “bad” are rarely used in the same sentence. But the Oklahoma football victory over Kansas was about as bad a win that we’ll see this college football season.

The Sooners were truly fortunate to come away with a victory. The down-and-out Jayhawks, who have won just seven times against Big 12 opponents in 13 seasons were the better team last Saturday, and against an Oklahoma team that was undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the country and was favored to throttle Kansas by five touchdowns.

Sooner fans are hoping something really good will come out of the bad that hit OU between the eyes at Kansas. If they didn’t realize it before, the Sooners sure should now: You can’t take any team for granted, regardless of their record.

Perhaps that reality check couldn’t have come at a better time, with the most difficult part of Oklahoma’s back-loaded 2021 schedule sitting straight ahead, beginning with Texas Tech at home this weekend.

Sooners -19.5. 2:30 PM, CT. ABC. Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. 815. 5-3. 874. 8-0

Texas Tech comes to Norman sporting a 5-3 record overall, 2-3 in the Big 12, and with a new head coach. Matt Wells was fired this week after a run of two and a half years as head coach of the Red Raiders. Offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie will serve as interim head coach the remainder of the season.

The Red Raiders have a special place in the heart of Lincoln Riley and several members of the OU coaching staff. Riley is a 2006 graduate of Texas Tech and spent three years after that on the Red Raiders’ coaching staff under Mike Leach. Sooner assistant coaches Bill Bedenbaugh (offensive line), Dennis Simmons (passing game coordinator/outside receivers) and Bennie Wylie (sports performance) also have spent time coaching at Texas Tech.

Oklahoma is 22-6 all-time against Texas Tech, including a nine-game winning streak. The last time the Sooners lost to the Red Raiders was in 2011, when an unranked Texas Texas team stormed into Norman and upset third-ranked Oklahoma 41-38, ending a 39-game OU home winning streak and handing Bob Stoops’ Sooners just their third loss in 78 home contests as head coach.

Saturday’s game is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff and will be televised nationally on ABC. The announcing crew for the game will be Dave Pasch doing play by play, with former OU and NFL player Dusty Dvoracek providing analysis and Tom Luginbill working the sidelines.

What to watch for from Texas Tech

Texas Tech is an especially dangerous matchup for Oklahoma at this point in the season because it is a team that comes in with nothing to lose and an Air Raid aerial attack that is well suited for attacking the Sooners’ biggest defensive vulnerability: pass defense.

Texas Tech averages 438 yards of total offense per contest, but the strength of the Red Raiders’ game in throwing the football. They rank second behind Oklahoma in passing offense, and senior quarterback Henry Columbi has a major receiving weapon in 6-foot, 3-inch Eric Ezukanma, who will have a size advantage over the smaller OU defensive backs. But as has become a common expectation from Tech’s Air Raid offense, Ezukanma isn’t the only talented receiver at Columbi’s disposal.

The Red Raiders don’t rely solely on the passing game, however. They also have been successful this season running the ball, with SaRodorick Thompson and Tahj Brooks carrying most of the load. Brooks is averaging over eight yards per rush.

Texas Tech has seen the success other teams have had against Oklahoma this season by sustaining drives and shortening the game by keeping the Oklahoma offense on the sidelines That may be the Red Raiders best defense against the Sooners because they rank in the lower half of the Big 12 in both pass and run defense, as well as sacks, which could be a huge problem on the road against a balanced and potent OU offense.

What to watch for from Oklahoma

In simple terms, Caleb Williams and the offensive line are the keys to the Oklahoma offense.

If the O-line plays well, avoids costly mental mistakes and is able to keep the pressure off of Williams, the young OU quarterback will be able to get through his reads and find open receivers. If the Texas Tech defense elects to rush three and drop eight defenders, as most teams have done against the Sooners this season, it will open up rushing opportunities for Kennedy Brooks and also Williams, who the Red Raiders need to be mindful of because of his ability to make big plays with his legs.

Oklahoma needs to get off to a fast start against Texas Tech and jump out in front early. If they are able to do that and get some early separation on the scoreboard it will take some of the pressure off the offense, but they need to stay in attack mode for a full four quarters.

When the Sooners reach the red zone this season, it has been lights out for the opponents. OU has scored in 44 of 45 trips  inside the red zone (97.8 success rate), tied for fourth best in the country.

Defensively, Oklahoma needs to stop the run and get pressure on the Texas Tech quarterback, two things the Sooners did not do well against either Kansas or TCU. Otherwise, the Red Raiders will pick apart the OU defense with short passes against soft coverage and keep drives alive. DTs Perrion Winfrey and Isaiah Thomas and edge rusher Nik Bonitto have not been the disruptive force in the opponent’s backfield the past couple of weeks that they were earlier in the season, and it has cost the Sooners. OU needs this to change against Texas Tech.

Oklahoma may have safety Delarrin Turner-Yell and defensive end Jalen Redmond back from injury, which should be a big boost to the much-maligned Sooner defense.

The Sooners also have struggled the past two games defending third and fourth downs. TCU and Kansas were a combined 16 of 27 on third-down attempts against Oklahoma. For the season OU ranks 82nd in the country in third-down conversion defense, If the Sooners are going to win this game, they must get defensive stops, force punts and prevent time-consuming offensive possessions.

Touchdowns are always better than having to settle for field goals, but three points are always better than none. That’s why it’s great to have one of the country’s best placekickers in junior Gabe Brkic who has been successful on 16 of 19 field-goal attempts this season, including four of 50 or more yards.

Savvy Sooner stat

Oklahoma averaged 38.4 points, 433.4 yards of offense per game and 6.3 yards of offense over the first five games of the season. In the last three games (Texas, TCU and Kansas) the Sooners have averaged 47.3 points, 528.3 yards and 8.5 yards per play. Moreover, OU’s 7.2 yards per rush in the last three games is the second highest average over the time span.

Bottom line

Here we go again. The Sooners are nearly a three-touchdown favorite (-19.5) over Texas Tech on Saturday. That can be partially attributable to the fact that the game is being played in Norman — where Lincoln Riley is 27-2 as a head coach — but also because you would expect Oklahoma to bounce back in a big way after their near-monumental collapse a week ago against Kansas.

The problem is we have yet to see a complete game from the Sooners this season. We’ve seen outstanding offensive and defensive performances in spurts or over a half, such as the remarkable second-half comeback against Texas, but putting all that together over a full four quarters has been a struggle. Riley keeps saying the best of OU football is still coming. The hour is getting late, though, and the competition is about to get much stronger.

Could this be the week we see the Sooners finally put it all together?

Oklahoma 48, Texas Tech 28