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Baker Mayfield will meet his former team and coach — Kliff Kingsbury — on Saturday as Oklahoma faces Texas Tech. Mayfield left the Red Raiders to play for the Sooners. Feeling should run high for this Big 12 matchup.
1. Home field: Advantage or not? This is a season-defining game for the Sooners but one can say, “Aren’t they all inside the Big 12 Conference?” The K-State student section was rowdy and came early and stayed late and loud in Manhattan considering that their team was being woodshedded. Point is, will Oklahoma get that same service Saturday at home from their student section and fans in general in a game that some experts pick Texas Tech to win?
2. Emotions: Lots to weave into the game story line regarding the Baker Mayfield journey that led him from Tech to OU and not in an ideal scenario for the current Sooner QB. Mayfield will remain cool, calm and collected, I’m thinking but he will certainly be motivated with a little extra BBQ Sauce to defeat the team that sent him packing. Mayfield is the key to the OU team and keeping him upright while No. 6 releases the ball somewhat quicker is crucial. Still of the mindset that No. 81 TE Mark Andrews is still untapped within the OU offensive game plan.
3. Samaje Perine: Love to see No. 32 get more carries against a run defense that’s ranked 122 out of 127 FBS teams. Perine is seemingly on the verge of a dominating game and being able to run the ball against a team that has a potent offense is a win-win scenario. It controls the clock while keeping the oppositions’s best unit on the east sideline. Perine and Joe Mixon are great weapons but they need the ball in their hands to demonstrate their highly regarded feet. Tech opponents have averaged 5.8 yards per carry this season.
4. Sooner secondary: Huge test against the best passing offensive in the Big 12 that averages 427 yards per game. It’s the best vs the best as OU’s pass defense is the top ranked group in the conference. For OU to have the day that they need, Oklahoma must put pressure on Tech’s athletic quarterback Patrick Mahomes. One of the more obvious keys to this game is controlling the Tech QB and keeping him under control and under constant harassment.
5. The unexpected: Count on Red Raider coach Kliff Kingsbury to dial up some gimmick plays in hopes of silencing the 85,000-plus on hand. While Tech has a legit, stellar passing attack, it’s their running game that Kingsbury may try and unleash and repeat the results that Texas achieved in the Cotton Bowl. No matter the game plan Tech may incorporate offensively, the Sooners need another strong game tackling the opposition and taking them to the ground.
6. Special teams: Anyone else think that the Sooners are due for a big return? Sterling Shepherd and Alex Ross are the playmakers in this area and getting special teams points in a game like Saturday’s would be a major benefit. At the same time, OU cannot provide life to Tech while taking the air our of their own home, fans by allowing big plays by the Red Raiders in special teams.
7. Frank Shannon: Gets a start in place of injured Jordan Evans and the redshirt senior has the potential to be a game-changer based on his play in 2013. The Sooners’ defense played a beautiful game after the plane trip from Hell last weekend at K-State. Tech is much better than the Wildcats so playing without a keen sense of urgency Saturday won’t get the job done. It will take an intense, smart four quarters of football for OU to protect their home turf.
The Sooners’ defense sees a version of the Tech offense every day in practice but recognizing new wrinkles and keeping an eye on multiple wide receivers is akin to herding chickens. It’s not easy. OU are a 14.5 point favorite in this emotionally charged league game but that number is troublesome. The over/under is 74. This will be a Slobber Knocker of a game because it’s personal with the Mayfield/Kingsbury issues and all the other adjoined story lines notwithstanding the Sooners cannot afford another Big 12 loss. Hopefully, the game officials will do a good job of preventive officiating and not be too flag happy as a result of the expected, aggressive play.
Prediction: Oklahoma 38 Texas Tech 24
Jim Ross @JRsBBQ
You can follow Jim Ross on Twitter @JRsBBQ, listen to him on the Ross Report Podcast, and see him live atRINGSIDE: An Evening with Jim Ross. JR’s products are also available online at wweshop.com,americansoda.co.uk and beyondtheropes.co.uk