Protect the Football: There are many potent offenses in the Big 12; six of the nation's top eleven offenses in terms of total offense hail from the Big 12. And there are numerous bad defenses in the Big 12; four of the nation's worst defenses in terms of total defense are from this conference.
But Oklahoma State and only Oklahoma State, a team that scores points by the bushel and gives up yards by the parsec, is ranked No.2 in the nation. What gives? What separates the Cowboys from the likes of Texas Tech, Baylor, Texas A&M and Missouri?
Oklahoma State leads the nation in this category with a plus 17. Were the Cowboys more pedestrian in this area they would have already lost a couple of games. Indeed, Kansas State very nearly beat OSU last Saturday, in large part, because they won the turnover battle, 4-2.
What does this mean for the Red Raiders? Well, obviously the Tech defense is not suddenly going to transform itself into a turnover-generating machine. If it hasn't happened to this point, it's just not in the cards for the 2011 season.
But the Red Raider offense is capable of taking care of the football. If Tech does not turn the football over then they will do no worse than tie the Cowboys in turnover margin, and that will give the Red Raiders a shot at pulling the upset. If, on the other hand, Tech forks over the pill a couple of times early in the contest, this game will turn into an ugly snowball for the home team tout suite.
Tote the Rock: The Red Raider offense has been good this season and is not significantly responsible for Tech's disappointing 5-4 ledger. The Red Raiders are No.18 in scoring offense, No.11 in total offense, and No. 6 in passing offense.
But as good as Tech has been offensively, I think they could have been better with a stronger commitment to the ground game. Since the departure of Eric Stephens, I have noticed a tendency to abandon the run, just when it's getting cranked up. It seems, moreover, that the Red Raiders almost entirely forego the run in second halves.
This trend must stop if Tech is to defeat Oklahoma State. In Tech's best performance of the season, DeAndre Washington and Aaron Crawford combined for 146 rushing yards against Oklahoma. That sort of production will be necessary if the Red Raiders are to spring a second monumental upset.
And the Tech ground game will be even more critical against OSU than it was against OU for the simple reason that the Red Raider defense has deteriorated since the trip to Norman. This unit is hurting, it is vulnerable, it is a liability, and it must be protected.
To do this, the Red Raider offense must generate multiple, time-consuming drives that result in touchdowns. And the only way to do this is to run the football often, and run it effectively. Fortunately for Tech, the Cowboys are not stout against the rush, allowing 196 rushing yards per game.
If Tech's offense is able to run proficiently, it will limit the snaps the defense has to play, and allow it to conserve energy. This, in turn, will allow the defense to play with greater energy and effort. If that happens, the Red Raiders might actually get a few stops, and that could be the difference between a win and a loss.