Even this late in the season, a top-ranked team can be shown to be vulnerable. Iowa proved it last weekend against No. 3 Penn State. Virginia Tech proved it against No. 23 Maryland. No. 2 Texas Tech proved it against No. 9 Oklahoma State.
Next weekend Oklahoma is hoping to prove it, and themselves, against that same Texas Tech team in Norman.
To do so, the Sooners need to remember seven things—their keys to the game.
1) Shut down the Tech run game. It might sound odd at first considering that Texas Tech doesn’t have much of a ground offense, but they typically run just enough to keep defenses honest. Forcing QB Graham Harrell to pass exclusively will force him to make mistakes over time.
2) Disrupt Harrell’s rhythm. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said that his team was never able to disrupt their rhythm in their loss last weekend. The problem was, OSU’s defense gave him plenty of time to find an open receiver. Deny him that and he’ll make mistakes.
Chances are very good that Harrell won’t attempt to run the ball himself when a play starts to break down. He has only 28 carries on the year for -5 yards.
3) Cover the Tech receivers through the end of the play. One of the reasons that Harrell looks so good is that his receivers are in sync with him. When he gets flushed from the pocket, they continue moving with him until coverage breaks down. Oklahoma’s secondary needs to stay in step with coverage throughout the play, and not just until the offense is scrambling.
When coverage starts to break, keep an eye on Michael Crabtree. He’s been Harrell’s favorite target this season, going to him an average of 23 percent of the time.
4) On the other side of the ball, the offensive line must protect OU quarterback Sam Bradford. A sack on Bradford in the first quarter of this contest last year took him out of the game with a concussion. Backup QB Joey Halzle, while good, just couldn’t get enough going to win in the end. Offensive line—no one wants a reminder of that game, least of all Sam Bradford’s skull.
5) With the rushing facet of the offense back in fine fashion thanks to stellar performances by both Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray against Texas A&M, more will be asked of them against Texas Tech. Mix up the play calling, and the Texas Tech defense won’t stand a chance.
6) The last question about Oklahoma’s performance on the field is special teams play. They have given up more big yardage plays on kickoff returns this season than almost any other time in the school’s history. Most of it comes down to defenders not staying in their lanes on returns.
Take note—go where you are supposed to. Trust that the guy next to you will do his job.
7) Try to keep the kicker and punter off the field as much as possible. Oklahoma has been blessed by a great leg in Garrett Hartley the past few years, and no one in the stable is at that level yet. Finishing the plays in the red zone with a touchdown, rather than going for three, will help a lot in the long run.