OSU-Texas Tech: Matchups & Prediction

Too many freshmen. Too many redshirt freshmen. Too much inexperience. Those were all heard from head coach Mike Gundy early in the season as the Cowboys mistaked their way to three closer than desired wins over nonconference opponents. The inexperience at times was glaring in the first four Big 12 games, all losses. Now all of those young players are no longer rookies. They have loads of experience and it is showing.

One player who has really improved is center David Washington. The redshirt freshman from Guthrie is looking pretty good in the middle of the offensive line.

"It's getting better and better every game," Washington said. "I started out the season real nervous, but as we got into the games my teammates started helping me out and correcting things from my center position because I run the offensive line. I had my best game against Texas."

A good performance in a game against defensive tackles like Rodrique Wright and Franklin Okam is a nice confidence builder.

"That makes me feel much more confidence and relaxed out there," Washington said after a practice this week. "It lets me know what I can accomplish."

Washington is the only first-year starter on the offensive line, but several players shifted spots. It's been a work in progress and center is one of the key positions within that group. As Washington has improved so has the group, and it didn't hurt in the Texas game that Adam Gourley subbed in nicely for the injured Charlie Johnson at left tackle.

"We've known what we were capable of all season, and we've known we could get better," added Washington. "Our offensive line coach (Joe Wickline) told us during those games don't look at the scoreboard, just keep working and improving. As long as we were climbing the ladder and now we want to take out some people."

Another confidence builder is the production of running back Mike Hamilton, one of those redshirt freshman. Hamilton used the o-line's efforts to run for 194 yards against Texas. He is the top rusher among running backs in the Big 12, and Washington takes a lot of pride in his classmate's success.

"Mike has come a long way also," said the 6-3, 300-pound Washington. "He and I came in together and we just work hard and I'm really proud of how he is running. I am sure he is going to be an awesome running back in the future."

Working together, whether it is Al Pena or Bobby Reid at quarterback, Hamilton, Washington, and the rest of the running game can go a long way in helping the cause -- and the defense -- by taking advantage of Tech's run defense on Saturday.

"We need to keep them off the field," added Washington. "They are really good and Mike Leach does a great job with his program, We need to go on long drives, put up points and as much as possible keep Texas Tech's offense off the field. Get big plays, work hard, and wear them down."

Defense by offense, it's one of the keys to victory when you play against Texas Tech. But you have to remember that on those long time consuming drives that you don't forget to put points on the board.

OSU Pass Rush vs. Tech Pass Protection
This may surprise you, but Texas Tech is averaging giving up three sacks a game, and that's even with newest Raiders system quarterback Cody Hodges being the most elusive of the Tech quarterbacks in recent campaigns. The key is not just getting the sacks, but the sack quality. The bigger the hits the better. Texas shook Hodges up a little (as did Baylor).

OSU Secondary vs. Tech Receivers and Taurean Henderson
Tech is going to complete passes and more than likely a lot of them. The key for the secondary is tackling and taking advantage of those few errant tosses that Hodge will make. You have to tackle in space because Tech is more of a YAC (yards after catch) team than they are a vertical passing team. Tackle them after the catch and you'll be surprised how much easier it becomes to get the ball back without defending an extra point. A few interceptions, just like a couple of years ago, will help as well.

OSU Crowd vs. Tech coach Mike Leach
Leach doesn't like the crowd at Boone Pickens being on top of him. Don't cuss him or the Red Raiders because that may have the opposite impact. Just be loud and be constant. That will bother them more than you can imagine.

OSU Running Game vs. Tech Defense
See David Washington above. Hamilton and company need another big day. If Reid plays, a few big runs in his comeback would be nice as well. Running burns time and as long as the running game is making yards it is a great way to go. It will also set up a few potential big plays in the passing game.

OSU Special Teams vs. Tech Special Teams
Texas Tech has good special teams, but they haven't been pressured a lot. A close game puts heat on special teams and when presented with that scenario it was the Red Raiders special teams that self destructed to help Texas run away with the win in Austin.

Texas Tech is good, maybe very good, possibly BCS good, but it's time for an upset. Call it a homer pick if you want (I will if you won't). I just have a feeling this team has a big upset in them and this is the final chance for a big upset. Conditions may be ripe. First, OSU has some confidence coming off the Texas effort. They are healthier than they have been since the Missouri game. The players are still working very hard and have an attitude. They believe they can win out and go to a bowl. The staff has done a good job game planning since the Texas A&M debacle and feel they have a good read on Texas Tech. The other condition that helps is a complacent favorite, which Texas Tech is not likely to be. However, Tech is not nearly as explosive on the road as they are at home, and that will help. Also, although Leach say he does, the Texas Tech coach really doesn't like the close proximity of the fans at Boone Pickens Stadium. I've been waiting for an opportunity for Bruce "Sunshine" Redden to try a game-winning field goal. I'll say this is it and he hits.
Cowboys 31, Red Raiders 28

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