LUBBOCK — Off the heels of the Red Raiders' best offensive performance of the 2010 season, Texas Tech faces an Oklahoma State team Saturday that has the ability to go toe-to-toe with it. Texas Tech must continue the recent offensive success in order to keep pace with Oklahoma State Former Red Raiders assistant Dana Holgorsen is in his first season as the OSU offensive coordinator after spending the last couple at Houston. Holgorsen inherited a roster with more than a couple of dynamic playmakers. This game should be fast-paced, high scoring and extremely entertaining.
Oklahoma State is led by junior QB Brandon Weeden, who played baseball for a while before landing at OSU. So far, Weeden has completed 131-190 passes for 1,610 yards with 18 TDs and six INTs. Although he's working with a brand new offensive coordinator, Weeden's maturity has helped the OSU offense make a smooth transition to Holgorsen's system. Backing up Weeden is freshman Clint Chelf who is 12-16 for 194 yards with two TDs and one INT.
Also easing the burden on Weeden is senior RB Kendall Hunter, an explosive runner who plays similarly to former Tech RB Taurean Henderson. Hunter has 110 carries for 700 yards (6.4 per touch) with nine TDs. Behind Hunter, Joseph Randle is next on the team with 28 carries for 129 yards, but no scores. Jeremy Smith has the only other rushing score with 69 yards on 17 carries.
This might rub some Texas Tech fans the wrong way, but Oklahoma State has a receiver that is being compared to Michael Crabtree: Justin Blackmon. For the season, he has 47 receptions for 748 yards and 11 scores. Like Crabtree at Texas Tech, OSU gets the ball in his hands every way possible. In short yardage situations, Blackmon uses superior vision and body control to make long gains. On deep balls, Blackmon has the speed to separate from defenders and the athleticism to go up and get the ball. The Red Raiders 114th ranked pass defense will have its hands full with him. Outside of Blackmon, OSU has s few injuries. Michael Harrison (6 rec, 71 yds, 2 TDs) is out after having a pin inserted in one of his fingers. Hubert Anyiam (8 rec, 114 yds, 3 TDs) is doubtful with a sprained ankle, and Josh Cooper (22 rec, 259 yds, 1 TD) is also doubtful after sustaining a concussion last week. RB Hunter has 12 receptions out of the backfield for 41 yards and no score. RB Randle has 11 for 146 and one TD. In all, 16 Cowboys have at caught passes this season. Even with the injuries, fans should expect Weeden to distribute the ball to many different receivers.
Texas Tech Passing
QB Taylor Potts, recently named the AT&T All America Player of the Week, is spearheading Texas Tech's turnaround on offense. After a slow start to the season, Tech's offense looked really sharp last week. On the season, Potts is 161-243 for 1,649 yards with 17 TDs and four INTs. Tech's ability to get the ball to playmakers in space has dramatically improved. Credit that to improved play calling, and also to Potts making quicker reads. Although Potts might not have the freedom to call plays that he had under the previous regime, the success of the offense is still funneled through the QB, so he deserves some credit for Tech's overall improvement. Behind Potts is Steven Sheffield. He hasn't played much, but he is very supportive of his teammates. So far, Sheffield is 2-8 for 17 yards with one rushing TD.
Texas Tech Rushing
Last week's 42-38 win over Baylor was a breakout game for Tech's RBs. The Red Raiders got solid contributions from Batch and Stephens. Last week, Batch had a 37-yard TD run, and Stephens hauled in a receiving TD for the second straight week. That's the kind of production that will keep defenses honest and allow Taylor Potts more time to find his receivers.
On the year, Batch has accumulated 61 carries for 276 yards and three scores. Stephens has 47 carries for 197 yards and also three scores. In the receiving game, Batch has 12 catches for 88 yards and one score and Stephens has 16 grabs for 136 yards and two scores. Aside from them, Harrison Jeffers has 7 touches for 44 yards and Ben McRoy has three for 15. As was mentioned last week, these two players have outstanding speed and the coaching staff needs to find a way to get the ball to them on a regular basis. Last week's game also gave us Tech's longest run of the season. The surprise is that it came via the legs of Taylor Potts. He may never be accused of running like a gazelle, but the play was effective.
Texas Tech Receiving
Lyle Leong continues to pace the Tech receivers. He has 24 catches for 461 yards and nine scores. Detron Lewis has 30 grabs for 272 yards and two scores. Jacoby Franks has 21 catches for 22 yards and no scores. In last week's game against Baylor, Alexander Torres finally showed some glimpses of the great receiver he was in 2009. Still nursing an injury, Torres is coming around for Texas Tech at the right time—the heart of the conference season. Last week, the sophomore from El Paso caught season-high seven passes for 82 yards and his first and second scores of the year. Local speedster Austin Zouzalik has Tech's other receiving score. On the season, he has nine catches for 158 yards and one TD.
Off the Cuff Thoughts
Sitting at 3-2 overall and 1-2 in the Big 12, Texas Tech faces another must-win game this week. With these high-octane offenses battling each other, this contest may come down to whichever team has the ball last. Texas Tech ranks 114th in pass defense while Oklahoma State ranks 118th. Texas Tech should be getting a few defensive players back who were nicked up last week, while OSU is without some top receivers. So, a small advantage goes to the Red Raiders there. But, Oklahoma State clearly has the more consistent offense this season. This game will be a definite barnburner, folks.
Prediction: Texas Tech 45, Oklahoma State 41