Reason #1: Kendall Hunter Can Run
This will be the first game since the Nevada game where the Red Raiders have faced a formidable running game. Most of the teams up until this point have been predominantly passing teams, or perhaps it would be best to say that the teams prefer the pass over the run. Not Oklahoma State. Not only does OSU run for 273 yards a game, but the Cowboys are also incredibly efficient. Good for 5th in the country at a whopping 5.7 yards per carry (only trail Nevada, La. Lafayette, Oregon, and West Virginia). The big reason for Oklahoma State's success is the legs of Kendall Hunter, who is averaging 135.56 yards a game. And just in case you're curious, Hunter's worst game was against TAMU and Baylor where he rushed for 90 and 93 yards, respectively. Those games, along with the Washington State game were Hunter's worst in terms of average per attempt for the season, however, Hunter is averaging 6.7 yards per attempt. That's just staggering.
Reason #2: Improved Oklahoma State Defense
As much as we like to discuss how much the Texas Tech defense has improved, there's no doubt that Oklahoma State can be more boastful. Last year, OSU was 10th in the conference in total defense (8th in rushing and 12th in passing), but this year, Oklahoma State is markedly improved. OSU is 3rd (5th in rushing and 6th in passing) in the conference and 76 yards a game better in 2008 than in 2007. The numbers don't lie. Oklahoma State is significantly better on defense, and although the pressure isn't there, they are almost a full touchdown better from where they were last year in scoring defense.
Reason #3: Robinson Is More Efficient
Zac Robinson is almost a yard better than last year. Last year Robinson averaged 69 yards a game (6.7 yds/att) running the ball and 222 yards a game (8.4 yds/att) passing the ball for a 7.7 yard per play average. This year, Robinson has cut back his running (the attempts are still there, over 10 a game in 2008 and 2007) but the yards aren't. Robinson is rushing 3.7 yds/att, but becoming a more efficient passer, averaging 11.1 yds/att. Right now, Robinson is an incredible 8.6 yards per play for the season. Again, for comparison purposes, Harrell is not too far behind Robinson at 8.3 yards per play, but Robinson is almost 1 yard better than last year despite running less, a sure sign that he's got more than a handle on the passing game.
Reason #4: Stopping The Run In The Spread
I found it interesting that Oklahoma State does a better job of stopping the run against the in conference opponents that run the spread than any other offense. Oklahoma State has held Missouri and Baylor under 100 yards rushing while allowing over 100 yards for every other team. I recall watching that Oklahoma State vs. Missouri game and thought that OSU's run defense was spectacular. Of course, the Missouri game was one of the defenses' best performances of the year, limiting the Tigers to 3.56 yards a carry, but by far the best game for the Cowboys was against Baylor where they limited the Bears and freshman of the year candidate Robert Griffin to 42 yards on 31 carries for a 1.35 yard per carry average. Having not watched much Oklahoma State football, I'm guessing that their linebackers do a superb job of filling the gaps created by the wider splits in the spread offense. Texas Tech adjusted their line splits last week against Texas, essentially tightening up those splits at various times during the game. I'm guessing that we might wee more of that this week, but it certainly doesn't look promising for Texas Tech to continue running the ball when OSU has shown the ability to stop efficient running teams like Baylor (4th in the Big 12 in yds/att-4.62) and Missouri (3rd in the Big 12 in yds/att-5.21).
Reason #5: Special Teams
Rarely does special teams make an appearance in the 5 Reasons, but this week, there's no doubt that it should. Oklahoma State is deadly in the return game, namely because of Dez Bryant. Oklahoma State is averaging 19.50 yards a punt return whle Bryant is averaging 15.15 yards per return, which ranks him 4th in the nation, and he also has 2 touchdowns. Kickoff returns are a completely different thing for the Cowboys as Perrish Cox is only (I'm joking) 7th in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 31.05 per return. Meanwhile, Texas Tech is 2nd to last in the Big 12 in punt return coverage, allowing 12.14 yards per return and 6th in kickoff returns, 22.52 per return. It's the punt returns that worry me the most considering the disparity in the return ability of Bryant and the inability to stop the return for Texas Tech (i.e., Jordan Shipley, I know, the block in the back). Bryant has the ability to absolutely break this game open with a punt return for a touchdown and that would be bad news for your Red Raiders.