Despite what many will say, most Texas Tech fans always expect to beat Iowa State in football. Even though Matt Campbell has that team rolling, and the Cyclones have whooped many a good teams - I can’t think of many Red Raiders who didn’t think we’d waltz into Ames and come out the victors. We should likely give Iowa State more respect, but that’s more of a 2019 problem if you feel me.
This week, we face off with the Oklahoma Sooners, and they’ve been an offensive juggernaut this year. Kyler Murray might have a better statistical year than 2017 Heisman Winner,
and Lubbock’s Favorite Son, Baker Mayfield. Despite losing Rodney Anderson, they’ve managed to unearth a few new running back cogs in the machine, and their receiver group has been nothing short of perfect. But, this is a night game in Lubbock, it’ll be chilly, we’re in all-blacks, and there’s little doubt in my mind that the crowd will be loud. Maybe we’ll get lucky?
Before we dive into the Q&A, a special thank you to Jack Shields for answering questions this week. Toss him a follow on Twitter, and check out Crimson and Cream Machine for all the opposition content your heart can handle. Let’s dive into the questions!
1. Thus far, it appears as if the loss of Rodney Anderson hasn’t hampered the run game at all. In fact, Kennedy Brooks is averaging over 10 yards/carry. What do you expect to see this weekend from the running back group?
Well, they were definitely missing a beat at one point, but the offensive line is now really beginning to gel as a run-blocking unit. Anderson was able to sort of offset some of those issues with his otherworldly abilities, but the OL’s chemistry issues began to show once he was injured. Now that things are going swimmingly, the talent behind Anderson is on display.
I’d expect this group to have yet another solid outing, and I’d expect to see a heavy dose of both Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks. I think Lincoln Riley will make a concerted effort to really establish the running game, and that’ll largely be for the sake of giving Ruffin McNeill’s defense some time to breathe.
2. This offense hasn’t skipped a beat post-Baker Mayfield. How do you limit this unit, and what have teams done to effectively limit Kyler Murray?
The only way to really limit Kyler Murray and this offense is to keep those guys off the field. Long, sustained drives by the opposing offense can potentially throw this group out of its rhythm. In short, Tech’s offense is likely its best defense. It’s not like defenses for Texas or Army really did anything to limit OU’s offensive efficiency. OU averaged over nine yards per play against Texas and nearly nine per play against Army.
3. It seems like solid offenses have gotten to Oklahoma this year. How are teams putting points on the board against OU? Via pass or run? Big plays or stringing drives together?
It’s sort of difficult to answer that at the moment because of the defensive transition. Ruffin McNeill has really simplified things since Mike Stoops was fired, which has allowed these guys to play a bit more instinctively and aggressively. Having said that, it doesn’t fix the problems that OU has experienced with big, athletic receivers, and Texas Tech obviously has some guys who fit that mold. Hakeem Butler, Jalen Hurd, Denzel Mims, Colin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey all gave OU fits, which is one thing that worries me as they face Antoine Wesley and T.J. Vasher.
4. Who do Tech fans need to keep an eye on that we’re not already aware of?
Defensively, true freshman pass-rushing threat Jalen Redmond might be a name to know. He was expected to miss the entire season due to some blood-clotting issues he experienced prior to the season, but he was cleared to play a few weeks ago. The former five-star prospect recorded 2.5 tackles for loss against Kansas State, so we might be seeing even more of him this week.
The offense is full of household names, but true freshman running back TJ Pledger could perhaps play a role in this one. They aren’t necessarily going to need him, but he looked fantastic with the ball in his hands this past week. He’s a short, elusive back who also possesses good burst and deceptive power, so he could get some touches and make an impact at some point.
5. What are the best matchups for OU heading into this game?
That’s a tough one, but I’ll go with the Oklahoma offense line vs. the Texas Tech defensive front. That’s not really even an indictment of Tech, but OU’s OL has just looked invincible in every facet as of late. It’s been an elite pass-blocking unit from the jump. However, as mentioned earlier, the running game is really hitting its stride. OU returned some big names from last year’s group, but Bobby Evans switched from RT to LT, Cody Ford moved from guard out to RT, and redshirt freshman Creed Humphrey was getting his first collegiate action. Now that they’re established in their roles, things are going quite well.
6. Any key injuries/suspensions to track?
No suspensions as of now, and things are mostly good on the injury front at the moment. However, we’ll be keeping an eye on NB Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles, who dealt out a big hit on Saturday and injured himself in the process. He’s someone they’re monitoring right now and seems to be in a day-to-day situation.
7. Score Prediction?
I’ll go 59-31 in favor of Oklahoma in this one. Texas Tech will do some damage with this offense, but I think McNeill will have this defense playing much better than the one we saw in Lubbock two years ago. They’ll get just enough stops to keep this one from becoming another shootout.