We all know a couple things about these teams. Basically, they love to score, usually by getting into rhythm on offense to keep the defense out of whack. So does that mean that the two gameplans cancel each other out?
If one were to chronicle these two teams' seasons, they would seem pretty similar, and would look to be in the same situation. Both have dominated nearly every game this season, with the slight advantage to Oklahoma in terms of dismantling teams throughout.
Both teams also started strong in their marquee games, both against Texas. The only difference is that Oklahoma was unable to counter the late rush by the Longhorns, while Texas Tech was. There lies the difference between the two seasons. Oklahoma could be undefeated just as easily as Texas Tech could have a loss.
But that isn't how the games played out, and Texas Tech is the one in the driver's seat, although they will most likely be the underdogs heading into Norman next weekend. There are a plethora of things that Texas Tech has to do to win, and I will point out the eight most important. 8 > 7.
1. Do not give up the big play, especially early. Force Oklahoma to work their way down the field.
It is no secret that Oklahoma can score, and they are definitely not trying to hide it. They have jumped out to early leads in each of their last three conference games, scoring at least 28 points in the first quarter of all those games.
Tech would be doing themselves a huge disservice by allowing Oklahoma to score on or even have a big play. The more that you make Oklahoma work down the field, the more chances there are for mistakes. The Tech defense has been opportunistic and has successfully employed the bend don't break defense so far this year, and this game should be no exception.
Ten of Sam Bradford's 38 touchdown passes have been of 40 or more yards, which, for those bad with numbers, is an average of one a game. Every big play—whether it be a return, run, pass, anything—will get the crowd into the game, which is exactly what Tech wants to stop from happening. Take the crowd away, even the playing field...
2. Don't just take the crowd out of the game—DO NOT allow them to get into it...
Now, by don't allow the crowd into the game, I don't mean lock the gates so spectators are denied entry. That wouldn't be very nice. Rather, Texas Tech needs to jump ahead early, because a crowd loves nothing more than a lead and a sense of security.
There are so many things that could get the crowd involved that Tech needs to eliminate, or at least lower the chances of occurring. While there are things that Tech cannot control that pump up a crowd (big hits, embarrassingly Madden-like juke moves), there are plenty of things that they can.
Turnovers, sacks allowed, big returns on punts and kickoffs, large gains, and getting caught on camera eating boogers are just a few. It is unlikely that Tech can eliminate every one of these elements from the game, but the more successful they are, the better their chances of winning on the road.
3. Forget about the past, whether it be 2005, 2007, or the last 10 wins...
Texas Tech cannot go in with the idea in their heads that just because they've beaten them two out of the last three years, they will win this game. So far this season, Texas Tech has done a wonderful job of looking not at the past or the future, but rather at the present only.
If Texas Tech wants to look at anything, it should be the fact they will most likely be the underdogs. The bye week will do a lot for both teams to allow them to either get their heads clear, or over-think the situation, so most likely whichever team comes out most focused on this field alone will have the advantage.
All Texas Tech fans would love to think that it can't happen, but you never know. The truth of the matter is that Texas Tech has never been in this situation before. We are unsure of how they will handle the pressure, but they sure have done a good job of misdirecting that same pressure in the past few weeks, haven't they?
4. Put pressure on Bradford and CONTAIN the run with just the front 3-4...
To be able to defend both the pass and the run, Tech needs to be able to get to Bradford with just the basic pass rush. Having to blitz to pressure him will allow him to pick apart the defense for bigger plays, which we already targeted as one of the keys to winning.
Even more important perhaps will be controlling the line of scrimmage and containing the run with that same line. We saw it last week, and I hope to see it again in this game. Colby Whitlock has been an absolute beast the last few weeks and even made a tackle with his back last week—just one sign of the scrappiness of the front line that Tech will need to employ to win the battle against the run.
Although it would seem crazy to play into Oklahoma's strengths and make them pass, it will be necessary. Texas was able to do it and forced Bradford to win the game by himself, and he wasn't able to do it, although I am sure he is capable of it. The quicker that Oklahoma has to abandon the run, the quicker Texas Tech can fall back and play a more consistent scheme.
5. Be the more efficient team on offense and control the pace, even if both teams are trying the same thing...
Both teams want to score, and both teams want a quick, steady rhythm to do it. Which means the Sooners will put their defense on the field A LOT, right? WRONG. If Texas Tech does the same thing, both teams' defenses will be in the same predicament.
Ideally, both teams would love to control the clock to win the game, but with both offenses clicking, neither coach will want to disrupt the flow. The team who is able to dictate the flow, even if the difference is minuscule at first inspection, will have the better chance to win.
Texas Tech ran their offense perfectly last week with long drives that were still relatively quick—a perfect gameplan to employ in this game as well.
Efficiency will go a long way towards deciding the winner. The ability to gain yards on every play and avoid incompletions will be key. In a game like this, momentum and efficiency go hand-in-hand. Tech cannot allow what Oklahoma does on offense to disrupt what they are doing. After all, they are playing against the Sooners defense, not their offense.
6. When/IF Texas Tech takes a lead and is in evident control of the game, do not take your foot off the gas...
Last season we saw it. Texas Tech was outplaying Oklahoma, with the game in hand, and they stopped trying to score... Against Texas, Texas Tech got a bit too conservative and found themselves unable to move down the field in the second half. If Texas Tech jumps out to a halftime lead, that is not an excuse to come out flat and conservative.
Continue to attack on offense, continue to be aggressive on defense, and don't force yourself to win the game late if you have the game in hand early. Every possession is a statement in this game and cannot be approached lackadaisically. This has been my only gripe with Leach, as he tightens up when given the lead, and it is detrimental to keeping that same lead.
Sure, try to control the clock, but don't change your gameplan to do it! If you are completing passes, the clock will keep running, Mike Leach. Have you forgotten that?
7. Here is a basic one...win the turnover battle.
Sure, last weekend the fumble on the opening drive didn't come back to haunt the Red Raiders, but on the road, it surely will. Like I stated earlier, turnovers are a momentum shift and a reason for the home crowd to get involved, two things we cannot give the Sooners.
More importantly, it is a lost possession. In a defensive battle, turnovers are important but not crucial, but in a game where teams have the ability to score every time they have the ball, every possession you give up will make a difference. If you're going to lose a possession, at least make it a punt deep in their zone, forcing them to work their way down the field.
Graham Harrell has been perfect the last three games (excluding the fumble last game), not throwing an interception since the A&M game. That right there is one of the reasons that we are realizing success that has been hiding for years. A team with an offense like Tech's is scary enough, but one that throws 50 times a game without interceptions or sacks is just ridiculous.
8. Look for Michael Crabtree in the Red Zone, but do not force it to him...
Every fan of Texas Tech knows that Michael Crabtree is money in the red zone, on pace to score even more touchdowns this season than he did in his record-setting freshman year. That having been said, it is also a known fact to the opposition that Michael Crabtree is money in the red zone...
Crabtree scored three touchdowns last week despite having under 100 yards receiving. One part of Michael Crabtree's game that makes him the most valuable to this team is his value as a decoy. Having Crabtree on the field opens it up for every other receiver out there with him, so don't be afraid to look their way Graham...
If Crabtree is being keyed on, then spread it out. Eric Morris, Detron Lewis, Tramain Swindall, Edward Britton, and both running backs are all threats to score, as we've seen in the past. Having Crabtree in the red zone will help the team, but not just because of his ability to score touchdowns.
I am still wary of the time Graham Harrell tries too hard to get it to Crabtree, forcing a pass in there and getting intercepted in the red zone...
Well, there are eight facets of the game that Texas Tech will need to capitalize on to win this game in a hostile environment. Of course there are more, obvious battles they need to win (outgain, outbalance, outsack, outscore, outplay, and out-own), but these are what I see as the keys...
After all, this win will go a long way in defining Tech's future. Whether or not we capitalize on the opportunity has yet to be seen, but frankly I have all the faith in the world in this team.