NORMAN, Okla. – When a team can send an opposing coach to grab a pen and paper after a game not to draw up a play or make a roster change, but to write an apology to his school’s students, it did something right.
That’s exactly what the No. 17 Oklahoma Sooners did after a 55-point shutout win in Manhattan, Kansas last week. Even if that coach who sent out the letter was Kansas State’s Bill Snyder—a.k.a the classiest man in the nation—it should speak to the level that Bob Stoops has his team playing at right now.
After the Red Rivalry loss the week before to Texas, falling out of the top ten to No. 19, people (including myself) were quick to write off the Crimson and Cream Machine. The logic being, “If it can lose to an imploding Texas program, it can lose to just about anyone. Maybe that win in Knoxville doesn’t mean much.”
But that was the wrong approach to take.
Not only have the Sooners never lost a game immediately following a loss to Texas during Stoops taking the reins in 1999, but the only time they have had consecutive regulars season losses was during his first season after losing to Notre Dame and Texas.
Furthering that notion that Stoops knows how to steer his team in the right direction following a loss, the Sooners have only lost twice in a three-week span five times. Based on history alone, the Sooners look to have the upper hand over Texas Tech as the Red Raiders ride into Norman this Saturday.
However, Oklahoma also holds the advantage in talent as well.
Not to discredit Tech’s offensive prowess as the third most efficient offense in the nation according to ESPN’s data, but Oklahoma has a Top 20 offense and defense that should be able to play smashmouth football as it had last week.
All eyes will be on Baker Mayfield at quarterback. He’s coming off one of his best games of his career after tossing a season-high five touchdowns, playing against one of the most disciplined defense in the nation. But most importantly, he’s playing against the school he transferred from.
This, above any other game, should be his affirmation that he made the right call to take a year off to take the reins at Oklahoma.
With the Sooners’ run game looking absent this season, it’s easy to assume that trend will continue. But consider that this game may be dictated by emotion for both Mayfield and his former teammates. Stoops would be wise to divert the attention from his quarterback and start laying on the gas with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon at running back.
Not only will that help ease Mayfield, but it also takes advantage of the Red Raiders’ glaring weakness: run defense.
Texas Tech ranks 119th in rush yards per attempt and 122nd in rushing yards allowed against FBS teams. Granted, that number is inflated due to playing against a dominant Baylor running back committee. But it’s been their downfall in just about every game this season.
Last season, Perine ran at will for 213 yards and three touchdowns in Lubbock. If he or Mixon can’t find a way to take advantage of his carries this game, that should start to worry fans as the brunt of their schedule will require a consistent (balanced) run game.
But consider, if Texas Tech does win as the underdogs, its only losses would be to TCU and Baylor. Kliff Kingsbury’s team would essentially control its own destiny as it has a good chance to win out after this week. That would mean there’s a chance the Big 12 could have a five-way tie for the title.
It’s a complicated road from there, but it’s really just a matter of the top half of the conference cannibalizing itself with some tough home-field advantage games coming up in November.
Unlikely, yes, but possible nonetheless if Oklahoma can win out after this week as well.