Who: Texas Tech (4-5, 2-4) vs. Oklahoma State (7-2, 5-1)
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Oklahoma
When: Saturday, November 12, 2:30 p.m. (CT)
Media: FS1 (TV), Texas Tech Radio Network (radio)
Returning Starters: Texas Tech (12), Oklahoma State (18)
2015 Records: Texas Tech (7-6, 4-5), Oklahoma State (10-3, 7-2)
Coaches: Texas Tech (Kliff Kingsbury 23-24), Oklahoma State (Mike Gundy 101-49)
Series History: Texas Tech leads 21-19-3
Last Meeting: Oklahoma State 70 Texas Tech 53, October 31, 2015
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
In many respects Oklahoma State’s offense mirrors Texas Tech’s. Both are near the top of the stack nationally in scoring offense, both have very dangerous passing attacks, and both field statistically weak running games. On the face of it, this should be a typical Oklahoma State/Texas Tech duel in which scoring touchdowns is like taking candy from a baby, and defense is more of a rumor than a reality. That’s how it should play out in theory.
As poor as Oklahoma State’s ground game appears, however, Texas Tech would be foolish to overlook this aspect of the Cowboy offense. And the reason for that is freshman running back Justice Hill, who has carried for 663 yards and four touchdowns, and averages a solid 4.8 yards per tote. He’s an extremely quick back, who runs well against the grain and breaks arm tackles with some regularity. Because of his talent, and because of the relative porosity of Tech’s defense, it is entirely possible that Hill will have the biggest game of his collegiate career so far. At bare minimum, it is certain OSU will throw Hill at the Red Raiders repeatedly just to see if they’re up to the task of slowing him down.
The more heralded aspect of Oklahoma State’s offense is, of course, the passing game. Quarterback Mason Rudolph has quietly but steadily improved over the course of his career in Stillwater, and at this juncture may well be the second best quarterback in the Big 12 behind Baker Mayfield. Rudolph is sixth nationally in passing with an average of 332 passing yards per contest. His passer rating is No. 9.
Helping Rudolph tremendously is an outstanding group of receivers led by James Washington, who is arguably the most dangerous wideout in the Big 12. The junior is No. 12 nationally in receiving yards per contest, averages 19.5 yards per grab, and has scored eight touchdowns.
Washington, in turn, benefits from the presence of Jalen McCleskey who has six touchdown passes and averages 74 receiving yards per game.
It will certainly be interesting to see if Texas Tech’s defense can do anything with Oklahoma State’s powerhouse offense. This group’s performance in the last two weeks against TCU, and in the fourth quarter against Texas, has improved, but sustaining that improvement against the Cowboys will be extremely difficult.
Nationally, the Red Raiders rank near the bottom in almost all important statistical categories, but a few individual players are having reasonably good seasons. Linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Malik Jenkins are one-two on the team in tackles with 61 and 60 respectively. Cornerback Justis Nelson leads in passes broken up and passes defended with 11 of each. Unsung defensive end Kris Williams paces Tech in sacks with five. Sophomore defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko shows signs of becoming the player he was expected to be coming out of high school, and freshman cornerback Douglas Coleman, who returned a fumble 100 yards against Texas last Saturday, looks like a real find.
When Texas Tech Has the Ball
Only a few weeks ago it appeared as though Texas Tech had the best offense in college football. But after multiple games in which the offense has frequently misfired and failed to ring the bell when the chips were down, this is no longer the case.
Quarterback Pat Mahomes is still among the nation’s best statistically, but most of those numbers were put up against inferior competition, and before he suffered a shoulder injury against Kansas. In recent outings Mahomes’ accuracy has at times deserted him, and his mastery of the passing scheme has vanished. If Mahomes does not return to form and begin operating within the offense rather than outside of it, Texas Tech will not keep up with OSU.
Mahomes, it is only fair to note, has not been helped by a punchless ground game. True freshman Da’Leon Ward is slowly developing into a credible rushing threat, but he may not become a back the offense can truly lean until next season.
The receiving corps, led by Jonathan Giles and Dylan Cantrell, has been very good and is the team’s true strength. As a true sophomore Giles has already emerged as one of the nation’s best receivers, while Cantrell is a force of nature as a blocker, and has terrific hands.
The Oklahoma State defense has been average at best this season, so the opportunity is there for Texas Tech to have great success if they can execute.
One area in which the Cowboy defense has excelled is in interceptions. OSU has pilfered 11 aerials (the Red Raiders, by contrast, have four), with Jordan Sterns and Ramon Richards each nabbing three.
Stearns leads Oklahoma State in tackles with 60, while tackle Vincent Taylor leads in sacks with 5.5.