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Texas Tech faces difficult challenge at Oklahoma State

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The Red Raiders look for their first win over the Cowboys since 2008

Houston v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

After a strong win in their non conference finale against Houston, Texas Tech will look for a huge win against the 15th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys in both teams’ conference opener. Oklahoma State is coming off a 44-21 win over Boise State in a game where Oklahoma State had seven sacks on Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien. The game will be played in Stillwater at 6:00 on FS1. Ther Red Raiders have struggled recently against Oklahoma State, having not won a game in the series since a 56-20 win in 2008, and having not won on the road since Kliff Kingsbury was quarterbacking in 2001.

Last season Oklahoma State narrowly avoided an upset at Jones AT&T Stadium via a Mason Rudolph touchdown with just over a minute left. That game featured a resilient effort from Texas Tech, as Keke Coutee went down with an injury and the Texas Tech offense sputtered as a result for much of the first half. Oklahoma State would win 41-34, as Nic Shimonek could not lead the Red Raider offense downfield for a last second touchdown. The Cowboys would finish the season 10-3, while Tech sputtered down the stretch to a 6-7 record.

Both teams lost their two leading receivers and quarterback to graduation. Gone is the 3 12 year starting quarterback for the Pokes in Mason Rudolph and his favorite receivers in James Washington and Marcell Ateman. Both offenses have rebuilt, and expect new quarterback Taylor Cornelius to sling it around to returning receivers Tylan Wallace, Tyron Johnson, Dillon Stoner and Jalen Mccleskey.

The biggest strength for Oklahoma State’s offense seems to be the running back Justice Hill, along with fellow backs Chuba Hubbard and JD King. Oklahoma State has averaged 257 yards per game on the ground so far this season.

NCAA Football: Boise State at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, the Oklahoma State offense has been extremely strong thus far this season, averaging 590 yards and 52 points per game. With all that said, the Oklahoma State defense might be even more impressive under first year coach Jim Knowles. The team held Boise State to only 1.1 yards per carry, and the Cowboys lead the country with 16 sacks on the season.

We still have not heard if any of McLane Carter, Da’Leon Ward, Tre King or Jah’Shawn Johnson will be back this week. Having Jah’Shawn back could really help in preventing big plays, which the Red Raiders have struggled with in games vs. Houston and Ole Miss. Da’Leon could open up the running game even more, and allow for cleaner pockets for Alan Bowman.

Key Players

Offense

WR Ja’Deion High (Texas Tech)

With Oklahoma State being an extremely aggressive defense, it is likely that Alan Bowman will not have a lot of time to get rid of the ball. In addition to that, both T.J. Vasher and Antoine Wesley will likely be prone to a bracketing scheme over the stop to prevent Bowman from being able to hit quick out routes and go routes. In watching a little bit of film on the Boise State game, it seems as if Oklahoma State has struggled with containing drags and slants. High will need to utilize a couple of those routes to have success.

NCAA Football: Lamar at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

QB Taylor Cornelius (Oklahoma State)

Cornelius has done a solid job of operating the Oklahoma State offense over the last three games, but with Texas Tech likely selling out to stop Justice Hill and company, Cornelius may have to take the game into his own hands. He will have to improve on his deep ball if he wants success.

Defense

LB Jordyn Brooks (Texas Tech)

Brooks has been largely anonymous over the first three games, and that has to change against Oklahoma State. Dakota Allen will likely have to spy against Cornelius for some time and pick up “Cowboy Back” Jelani Woods at some point. Brooks needs to help stuff run lanes like he did against Hill in 2017, where he had seven tackles and was a large part of Texas Tech coming back in that game. If Brooks does not play well, Justice Hill could have a huge day.

CB A.J. Green (Oklahoma State)

A.J. Green will likely have to face T.J. Vasher on the right side of the field, and at 6’1 there are definitely going to be questions about his ability to do that. If he can keep T.J. from gaining leverage, it could make things tough for Alan Bowman to go long against an Oklahoma State defense that naturally will force a lot of short throws.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Key Stats

3rd Down Conversions

Last year Texas Tech went 5-12 on 3rd down in the game against Oklahoma State, and failed to convert a 3rd down for the duration of the 4th quarter. If that happens again there is virtually no way Texas Tech wins unless things are already out of hand.

Rushing Yards

Whoever starts at running back will have to do better than the 54 yards that Tech ran for last year. An unbalanced offense could spell disaster for the rest of the game, especially given the balance of the Oklahoma State offense.

Taylor Cornelius YPA

As specific as this may sound, holding Taylor Cornelius to a reasonable YPA may be the difference between a win and a loss. Texas Tech has not won a game since LA Tech in 2016 when allowing more than 9.0 YPA, which has been close to what Texas Tech has given up in each of the last few Oklahoma State losses which happened to be close games. Given how much the deep ball has killed the Red Raider defense in this series, keeping Cornelius limited to underneath routes has a good chance at swinging the game.

Final Analysis

While Oklahoma State is definitely the better team on paper, there are weaknesses that Texas Tech could exploit. It will be extremely important for Alan Bowman to make solid decisions, as with how good the Oklahoma State offense has been, stops may be hard to come by. Utilizing tempo and exploiting the size advantages will be important to establish a good flow on offense, while on defense it’ll be vital to manage the big plays and keep the running game contained if the Red Raiders want to win

It should be a good one in Stillwater! Let us know your predictions in the comments!