One big win over Oklahoma could be all Texas Tech needs to finally push itself into the Top 25. But it isn't going to be easy.
The Red Raiders are currently 4-0, and they've spent the first month of the 2012 season destroying every opponent in their wake. But they have yet to take on a challenge like the one the No. 17 Sooners will present on Saturday.
Or maybe Oklahoma is vulnerable right now, coming off an upset loss to then-No. 15 Kansas State that dropped them all the way from No. 6 in the nation to No. 17. It's been two weeks since the last time Oklahoma stepped foot on the field, and sometimes, a long layover after a bad loss only leads to even more disappointment.
The Red Raiders have a lot to gain from this matchup, and the Sooners have everything to lose. Which team will show up ready to win?
Where: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, Texas
When: Saturday, October 6 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN2, ABC Regional
Live Stream: SoonerSports.com
Betting Line (via OddsShark): Oklahoma -5
Oklahoma Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- DT Torrea Peterson missed Oklahoma's last game due to academic concerns and is questionable for Saturday's game
- DE Chaz Nelson (knee) is out until mid-October
- WR Jalen Saunders has been suspended for the rest of the season because of eligibility issues
- DT Stacy McGee has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of university rules
- DB Trey Franks has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules
- DB Quentin Hayes has been suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules
- OL Tyler Evans (knee) is out for the season
Texas Tech Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- DB Austin Stewart missed the last game and is questionable for Saturday due to academic issues
- WR Marcus Kennard (groin) is questionable for Saturday
- OL Tony Morales (knee) is questionable for Saturday
- DL Michael Starts (illness) may seek a medical hardship waiver for 2012
- RB DeAndre Washington (knee) is out indefinitely
Let's start with Oklahoma. The Sooners suffered a huge blow when they dropped their most recent game to Kansas State—at home, no less. The fact that they haven't played since then could either help them or hurt them—and if they have any aspirations of being a part of a BCS bowl, they better be hoping for the former.
The first time the Sooners were challenged, they dropped the ball big time. Now, we'll see how they react to their first taste of adversity this season.
Texas Tech, on the other hand, could do itself an enormous favor if it finds a way to win at home this week. Right now, the only thing that's missing from its record is a big win over a ranked opponent—and that's likely the only thing that's stopping it from making an appearance in the Top 25.
A win here and a few more down the road, and this team could be a legitimate contender.
What They're Saying
Texas Tech may be riding incredibly high and Oklahoma may be riding incredibly low at the moment, but this is still going to be a battle of a stellar offense against a very solid defense that allows just 14.7 points per game.
And although the Red Raiders' offense has been the big story this season, their defense hasn't been too bad, either. Last time out, in a 24-13 win over Iowa State, Texas Tech held its opponent to a mere 73 passing yards and 116 rushing yards while forcing four turnovers.
ESPN.com's David Ubben puts Texas Tech's performance into perspective:
A revamped defensive line has Texas Tech holding opponents to just 85 rushing yards a game. … Texas Tech is giving up 24 fewer yards per game than No. 2 Alabama, though the Red Raiders have faced an FCS opponent and three teams that all rank at least 89th or below in total offense.
Saturday's game, as a result, will be a big test, despite the fact that the Sooners submitted their worst offensive performance of the season the last time out against K-State.
According to ESPN.com's Jake Trotter, all this unit needs is a little bit of confidence:
The Sooners scored 10 points through the first three quarters at UTEP. Then through the first three quarters against Kansas State, they managed just 13. After a wild weekend from Stillwater, Okla., to Morgantown, W.V., the Big 12 seems to be as wide open as ever. But if the Sooners are going to jump back in the conference race, they must uncover their offensive identity in Lubbock.
But whether or not they'll find that confidence against a team that boasts one of the most explosive offenses in the nation remains to be seen.
Oklahoma Player to Watch
Sooners senior quarterback Landry Jones is taking much of the heat for Oklahoma's recent struggles, and rightfully so. Ever since leading Oklahoma's resurgence last season—when the Sooners won the Big 12 championship—Jones has looked much more like the 2010 version of himself rather than the 2011 version.
And the 2010 version isn't good enough, as evidenced by his performance against Kansas State, when his two turnovers cost the Sooners a huge game. Overall, he finished with 298 yards, a touchdown and a pick.
In victory, Jones has been moderately impressive, throwing for four touchdowns against one interception in the first two games of this season. But he's a senior, and as such, he needs to start playing like one—at least, if the Sooners want to rebound this season.
Texas Tech Player to Watch
The Red Raiders' own senior quarterback has been the primary reason this team has been so offensively dangerous in 2012. Seth Doege's passer rating in 2012 has yet to dip below 120.6, and he's thrown for a whopping 15 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
Granted, his two best performances of the season came against Texas State and New Mexico, when he threw for five and six touchdowns, respectively. But he has been the key to the nation's seventh-best passing offense, which averages 358.8 yards per game, and it's going to be tough for Oklahoma's defense to keep up with him.
It's also going to be tough for Landry and the Sooners offense to match him. If Doege can keep doing what he's been doing all season, he can easily put Oklahoma in a hole it may not be able to climb out of on Saturday.
Oklahoma is on the precipice of falling into a pretty big trap at Texas Tech, a place where it hasn't won since 2003. That spells doom for a Top 25 team that desperately needs a win this weekend in order to remain a part of the conversation this season.
According to ESPN.com's Jake Trotter, the Sooners have lost three straight to Texas Tech at Jones AT&T Stadium, and they've lost in every manner possible: tight games, blowout games, bizarre games. One of those losses, according to Trotter, was "declared … the worst-officiated game in college football history" by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Who's your pick to win?
This, of course, is great news for a Texas Tech team that needs this win in order to push itself up to the next level. Now, it's only a question of whether Oklahoma will write another chapter in the same history book or take this opportunity to begin a new dialogue.
Prediction: Texas Tech Wins
The Red Raiders are playing at home, they're on a huge roll and Oklahoma is horrible in this venue. Plus, the Sooners have been off for a couple of weeks and could come out sluggish as a result.
They're riding zero momentum whereas Texas Tech is riding a ton of it. This is the week the Red Raiders decisively prove that they're for real.