- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The home stretch of the Big 12 schedule could be as entertaining as any conference race in recent memory. No. 10 Texas Tech visits No. 15 Oklahoma on Saturday in a top-15 battle that will have a big impact on the Big 12 race.
Here’s a look at the Raiders trip to face the Sooners:
Who wins the strength on strength battle? Texas Tech enters the game as the game as the nation’s No. 2 passing offense (416.43 yards per game) and OU enters the game as the nation’s No. 1 pass defense (149.71 ypg). Something’s got to give. Expect Mike Stoops to try to pressure quarterback Davis Webb and expect Kliff Kingsbury to use the Red Raiders multiple receiving threats to look for weak links in OU’s secondary.
Can OU convert third downs? The Sooners have talked about focusing on third-down conversions and believe that is the key to their offense becoming more explosive. Texas Tech leads the Big 12 in third-down conversion defense which will make OU’s success or lack thereof on that down a key to watch.
Will the Red Raiders try to run more than normal? OU’s run defense has been horrible in the past two games, so it would be silly if Kingsbury does not try to exploit the biggest weakness in the Sooners defense. TTU will need that success on the ground and make sure it has balance to help keep the Sooners from focusing on getting to the quarterback.
Players to watch
OU Linebacker Eric Striker: The Sooners linebacker has consistently gotten to the quarterback this season, making defensive coordinator Mike Stoops look like a genius for finding a way to get Striker on the field. If he can continue to create pressure with his pass rush skills, OU’s chances of slowing down Texas Tech increase.
Tech tight end Jace Amaro: The 6-foot-5, 260-pound pass-catcher should continue to be a playmaker for Texas Tech. OU has multiple defenders with good size and speed, so they match up with Amaro better than most, but expect the reigning Big 12 offensive player of the week to have an impact on the game anyway.
Tech defensive tackle Kerry Hyder: OU will try to run the ball and control the momentum and clock against Tech. Hyder has been stout in the middle for TTU, averaging 1.43 tackles for loss per game, so if he proves to be unblockable against the Sooners, he could force OU to change its game plan and make the Sooners put their offensive success on the shoulders of quarterback Blake Bell.
Prediction: Texas Tech 38, Oklahoma 35. The Red Raiders enter the game with more confidence and momentum as they’ll look to extend their unbeaten streak to eight games. Texas Tech gets an early lead, allowing them to play from ahead and take the crowd out of the game and the Sooners just don’t have enough offense to overcome the early deficit.
4dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon