Originally Published: Nov 16, 2009 9:12 AM CDT
It's Sunday night--check that, Monday morning and time to gaze into our Crystal Ball. Here's my comparison between the 6 and 4 Oklahoma Sooners who travel to meet the 6 and 4 Red Raiders of Texas Tech.
Coaches: PUSHCall it a PUSH. Mike Leach is not having his best year because he doesn't have his best quarterback. He's still just one victory from becoming Tech's all-time wins leader. the A three-headed QB never makes the head coach look smart. But Leach is still sly and he's got a staff of quality assistants who don't get out-schemed. Bob Stoops was smart enough to hire Leach to OU where he was smart enough to sign a guy named Heupel who was smart enough to lead OU to a national title in the second year under the head ball coach. Stoops and Co. did a masterful job in getting his team mentally ready to play and dominate A and M seven nights after the Nightmare in Lincoln.
Intangibles: edge TechTech has turned into a team OU has no problem handling at home but a team that OU has a major problem with in Lubbock. Tough place to play...and just as OU is a different team at home, Tech is a different team in Lubbock. A/M shocked them, but overall, OU has had to work for its wins. Leach loves sticking it to his mentor and will have a chance to do so again as OU comes in a four-point favorite. The Sooners don't like to hear it, but they continue a bad trend of playing poorly in games away from Norman and losing close games. Both teams are 6 and 4 and know there's a heckuva lot of difference between 7 and 4 than 6 and 5.
Specials: edge OUOU has had a terrific year in almost every area of the kick game. Tress Way has become a tremendous punter--the same with Matt Mooreland and the kickoffs, the coverage units have been outstanding, the snapper and the holder as well. But it's been a sad story when it comes to kicking field goals and extra points. So much so that Stoops went with his third kicker in three weeks against A/M when he subbed in a sophomore named Patrick O'Hara, who did not even play high school football. We'll see. Can't imagine the other kickers are too happy. Tech is not good in this area of the game. Matt Williams is tenth in the Big 12 in field goals and Ryan Erxleben averages only 40 yards punting the ball--not quite the talent his daddy Russell was when we played his Texas teams in the 70s.
DL: edge OUThis is the anchor point of an consistently outstanding defensive unit. DE Frank Alexander took advantage of seeing substantial playing time in the absence of the injured Auston English. Alexander is what you are looking for physically. He works hard, is a rangy former Baton Rouge high school basketball star and at 6-4 and 260 pounds is able to cover big chunks of ground in OU's zone blitz package. He and his mates must get pressure on whoever QBs for Leach or the other seven defenders will have their hands full. Tech got three sacks vs. OSU and the Cowboys went away from outstanding DL Brandon Sharpe, who is second in the league in tackles. Des Daniel Howard and Cody Davis (9th Big 12 tackles) are tough matchups for OU's offensive line.
LB-Travis Lewis edge OUThe Sooners continue to get high-quality play from their linebacker corps. WLB Travis Lewis consistently leads in tackles where very few ball carriers are able to escape his clutches. All the linebackers tackle well and rarely get caught out of position. Look for RS-FR Joseph Ibiloye to replace MLB Ryan Reynolds in the nickel and see extensive playing time. Austin Box also sees time as this group must continue to tackle in space well. OSU felt Tech's Bryan Duncan was better side-to-side than they expected going in and is one of the leaders in the league in tackles.
DB-Brian Jackson edge OUThe secondary of the Sooners continues to be one of the best in the league--if not the country. Being rock solid is easier said going into Lubbock than coming out, as Tech has the capability of making even the best of defenses look like a bunch of sieves. Field corner Brian Jackson continues to excel as a shutdown guy who matches up with the best receivers week in week out. The insertion of Ibiloye and Jonathon Nelson will test Tech's high-powered offense. Tech slowed down OSU's receivers last week and won't be overwhelmed by an above average group of OU wide-outs and an almost non-existent tight end game.
QB-push Taylor PottsWhat? Mike Leach has turned into Steve Spurrier on us! The Old Ball Coach has a history of playing the revolving QB game and The Mad Scientist is doing the same. Part of the shuffling is due to injury, but nonetheless, it's been disappointing for Tech fans to not see the typical ultra-effective passer throw for gazillion yards and half a gazillion TDs. Talor Potts started against OSU but has been inconsistent. Steven Sheffield may have been the best before he got hurt and threw two picks in Stillwater. It's a PUSH, not because of the stat that shows Landry Jones is tied for the Big 12 lead in TD throws, but because he leads the league in interceptions. Like his team, the RS-FR has struggled away from Norman. He got all or the majority of the snaps in losses in Dallas twice, Miami and Lincoln.
Run game: Push Batch TTTexas Tech's run game is not good--dead last in the league. But I really like Baron Batch. Quick, elusive, good feet and hands. He only averages 50 yards rushing a game but whenever he touches the ball, usually good things happen for TT. OU's DeMarco Murray improves weekly and is coming off a remarkable game in the win over A/M where he gained 234 total yards. I give it a push because unlike Sooner teams of the past, fourth and ones are hard to come by. Sooner fans were relieved and ecstatic at the same time to see their version of the Wildcat formation be used with Murray the operator with some success against A/M. More creativity like that in the run game would give OU the edge over most teams, including Tech. OU has a package in the wildcat with Ryan Broyles playing the lead role, and it would not surprise to see his ability to throw be called upon.
Receivers: Push broylesThe receivers are a push. Both teams have dropped a notch from previous years as players like Tech's Crabtree and OU's Juaquin Iglesias do not get mail in Lubbock or Norman. Ryan Broyles continues to be a difference maker and OU does a good job of getting the ball into his hands as much as possible. But big-target DeJuan Miller and a trio of others must improve to elevate this position into a strength. On the positive side, there are signs of improvement. On the negative side, there's been plenty of room for it and the season is about over. TT is led by the talented Detron Lewis, frosh Alex Torres is catching about five balls a game and Tremaine Swindall is ninth in the league averaging 66 yards receiving per game. They are not as good as Leach teams of the past.
Offensive line: TT Brandon CarterOU has not and will not blow anyone of the line of scrimmage and establish a good old' fashioned run game this season. But the pass protection has been good and was great in giving up zero sacks in the A/M romp. All-star LT Trent Williams played up to his billing and kept the nation's top sacker from scratching--Von Miller had no chance and was out-manned start to finish. Injuries have made a question mark position on this team become the most criticized area of the team. Tech center Brandon Carter leads another group of Red Raiders who take wide splits and are weighed by the ton, not by the pound. Tech gave up only one sack in 59 pass calls in the loss in Stillwater.