Against quarterback Bryce Petty and the high-scoring Bears, Oklahoma should have leaned on its power running game – taking the old adage of controlling the clock and keeping the best offense in the Big 12 Conference off the field.
Instead, quarterback Trevor Knight finished with a team-high in carries. Now, Oklahoma (6-3, 3-3 Big 12) faces the worst rushing defense in the conference with a chance to go back to its best offensive scheme. “Every game is big for us,” offensive tackle Daryl Williams said. “We always want to rush for at least over 200 yards, average five yards per rush. It’s nothing new to us. We don’t feel pressure.” The mauling Oklahoma offensive line is best moving forward, grinding out tough yards but hasn’t always found success this season.
While the run game will be key and the Sooners should be able to find holes, Oklahoma need to do a better job converting in short-yard situations. That is the key position battle this week. Here’s a look at how each team compares across the board:
Quarterback: There are five different players that could start in the two head-to-head spots in this game. Davis Webb vs. Trevor Knight would make for a pretty good match. Cody Thomas vs. Texas Tech third-stringer Vincent Testaverde is much less so. Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury is still hopeful that Webb will play. If he plays, then he’s the best quarterback on the field. Webb is second in the Big 12 in total offense and gives Texas Tech the advantage.
Running backs: Oklahoma’s stable of backs will take on Deandre Washington, who has more than half of Texas Tech’s carries. Washington has done something with those touches. He is second in the Big 12 in yards per game but has just one touchdown. Texas Tech, as a whole, has only six touchdowns from running backs. Oklahoma has 19 touchdowns from its trio.
Wide receivers: It’s impossible to look at this position fairly without taking Sterling Shepard’s injury situation into major account. Michiah Quick has changed Oklahoma’s outlook on the position, giving the Sooners a legit No. 2 receiver, but Texas Tech has four receivers with at least 300 yards and three touchdowns. Oklahoma doesn’t have a receiver with more than two that’s not named Shepard. If Shepard plays, he’s the best receiver on the field. That’s just too much of a variable against Texas Tech’s group – style of play considered.
Tight end: The Sooners have one decisive advantage over Texas Tech at this position. Oklahoma has a listed tight end on its roster.
Offensive line: There’s a lot of scheme to take in to consideration for both of these offensive lines. The Red Raiders’ quick passing game doesn’t lead to many sacks chances, and they’ve allowed only eight all season. Oklahoma’s power rushing attack has led to a Big 12-leading 5.7 yards per carry. So, take the inverse as a comparison. Texas Tech is averaging 5.2 yards per carry – third in the conference. Oklahoma has allowed the fewest sacks in the Big 12 (six all season). Any better of a line to go against and Oklahoma’s utter failure in short-yard situations would cost them.
Defensive line: Texas Tech not only has the worst run defense in the Big 12, but it is also in the bottom half of the conference in sacks. It’s not a good look for a defensive line. Oklahoma’s scheme for its defensive line is very similar. Both units like to create space for their linebackers. Oklahoma just does it better.
Linebackers: A lot of what Eric Striker does best has been taken away. He needs time, and because of the offenses that Oklahoma is facing and a lack of coverage in the secondary, he isn’t getting it. Still, he ranks in the top 10 in the conference in sacks and tackles for loss. Oklahoma would prefer him to be higher, but the Sooners also have Dominique Alexander, a steady bastion of defense that is coming of an 18-tackle game against Baylor.
Secondary: Just because Texas Tech’s run defense is bad doesn’t mean the pass defense is any good. In fact, Zack Sanchez has almost twice as many interceptions as the Red Raiders do. Still, Texas Tech’s pass defense is better than Oklahoma’s by almost 25 yards per game on 80 fewer attempts. After the last game, there’s no winning for Oklahoma. It’s Texas Tech but by no product of the Red Raiders’ ability.
Special teams: Alex Ross is just second in the country in kick-off return average. He’s still first in the Big 12. And how about Nick Hodgson? There’s no safer bet in the country than an Oklahoma touchback.