With the regular season coming to a close, we’re starting to get a more clarified picture of what the final Big XII standings are going to look like.
Despite just three conference games scheduled on Sat., the Big XII won’t disappoint, or lack any of the drama we’ve come to expect from such an unpredictable group of 10 teams.
For starters, the (6-3, 3-3) Oklahoma Sooners are headed to to Lubbock, Tex. to take on the (3-6, 1-5) Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Oklahoma dropped off the rankings map last week after its complete 48-14 meltdown at home in Norman against the No. 7 Baylor Bears. The Sooners were 4 of 13 on third down conversions, and held to a mere 13 first downs, as opposed to Baylor’s dominant 31. The Sooners also registered seven penalties for 59 yards, and if that continues they are perfectly poised for an evenly distributed matchup against the Red Raiders.
One of the more prominent story threads this week was the follow up on Sooners’ injured sophomore quarterback and 2013 Allstate Sugar Bowl MVP, Trevor Knight. Although he got up on his own will, Knight was immobilized and carted off the field last weekend against Baylor following a sack. Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops ruled Knight out this weekend for an undisclosed reason, but did confirm that he wasn’t concussed. Knight is being replaced by redshirt freshman Cody Thomas, who led a touchdown drive in OU’s 30-31 loss against the Kansas State Wildcats on Oct. 18.
There is one name viewers will likely hear a few times on Saturday, and that’s former Texas Tech walk-on quarterback, Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield won the starting job at Texas Tech, but when he was injured in Week 5 against Kansas in 2013, he was replaced, and Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury didn’t return the starting job to him when he got healthy. Around the time practices for the Holiday Bowl began, Kingsbury opened up the competition again. And that, coupled with the fact that Tech was still working on a scholarship for him, made Mayfield believe Kingsbury and the staff weren’t behind him. That’s when Mayfield decided to transfer to Oklahoma — his favorite childhood team — despite the Sooners’ solid depth at the position, with five quarterbacks on scholarship.
Texas Tech comes into Saturday off of a much needed bye following a two game losing streak. On Senior Day, Tech has to find its long-forgotten “Fearless” playing mantra and click on all cylinders from the start, if its planning on sending the seniors off with a tortilla laden applause.
The Red Raiders have shuffled through three quarterbacks this season, and while it’s not known whether Davis Webb, Pat Mahomes, or Vincent Testaverde Jr. will start at this time, what is a silver lining in the offense is the passing stats. Combined, Tech quarterbacks rank No. 9 in the nation in passing, averaging 320.3 yards per game. While a sizable portion of that metric is due to Webb’s play, the Red Raiders are also ranked 119 of 125 FBS Division 1 teams in turnovers with six fumbles and 16 interceptions — 13 of which came off the hand of Webb.
A key deciding factor will be how Oklahoma matches up to Texas Tech’s defense on trips inside the red zone. The Sooners rank 74th in the nation inside the 20, and of their 43 attempts, they have 20 rushing touchdowns, and 11 passing. Tech’s red zone defense ranks 112 in the nation and has allowed 37 touchdowns inside the 20. Containment is key. And if Tech’s consistently shuffling offensive line can keep either quarterback on his feet, this game will be competitive.
Both teams are entering Saturday off demoralizing losses, but Tech’s had more time to regroup coming off the bye week. Will that be an advantage, or will Oklahoma capitalize off its fresh emotions and sell out? Either way, the Sooners are already bowl eligible and Tech needs to to pull off wins against Oklahoma, at Iowa State, and somehow pull off the biggest upset in history against Baylor to become eligible. Things might get chippy, so grab your popcorn.
*Section Photo credit to Matthew Holst, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Chat Sports