For the third year in a row, Sooners Illustrated breaks down Oklahoma’s most important games for the upcoming season. The rating system is based on the importance of a win, the strength of the opponent and a general idea of how key the game will be in terms of scheduling and performance.
It starts with the easiest game and ends up with the toughest.
2015 record: 7-6
Last year vs. OU: Oklahoma, 63-27
Why this game is dangerous: First and foremost, it’s in Lubbock, which is never an easy place to play. And the Red Raiders could be 6-0 heading into the late October game. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s season could be in trouble. Losses to Houston, Ohio State, TCU and Texas aren’t unthinkable through the first seven weeks of the season. The game itself presents a major challenge for Oklahoma’s linebacker group. The linebackers won’t be tested with quick, underneath routes like they will against the Red Raiders. Texas Tech has the ability to dink-and-dunk all the way down the field, relying on big chunks after the catch to keep the offense going.
Opponent to watch: Can Patrick Mahomes be a surprise Heisman Trophy contender? He would need a really special season from the Red Raiders, but Mahomes is a special talent. If he was on another team, he’d be getting Heisman hype. He’s that good. The offensive line has to protect him, though. Mahomes was sacked 27 times. He was sacked on one of every 23 pass attempts, which is almost three per game for a team that throws the ball a ton but also has plenty of quick passes built into its attack. Mahomes threw 36 touchdowns last year, and he can still get better.
Prediction: Where the Texas Tech offense is potent, the defense is definitely not. Opposing offenses converted almost 50 percent of third downs against the Red Raiders defense, which allowed less than 200 rushing yards only three times and allowed more than 400 yards to Oklahoma. There’s no reason to think anything will be much different with the Red Raiders’ defense. The Oklahoma offense could be though. Two new offense guards and the loss of top receiver Sterling Shepard: Those are two things that could impact the game. Not enough for an Oklahoma loss, but a more narrow, 48-24, win is likely within reach. Baker Mayfield gets a little revenge.