Before the season, I doubt anyone in the commentariat would have labeled Oklahoma-Texas Tech one of the marquee games in the Big 12 this year. (Note that I'm using "marquee" in a very relative sense, i.e. within the decidedly non-marquee conference itself.) Yet, here we are.
As is customary of the crew from Lubbock, the Red Raiders boast a prolific offense that is near the top of the country in a number of key statistical categories. Can OU slow down Tech's hurry-up O?
A few thoughts based on what I've seen out of TTU so far this year.
Not so physical in the running game.
Bob Stoops brought his brother back to Norman with the hope that Mike would retool OU's defense to at least slow down the Big 12's smorgasbord of spread offenses. Going on two years in his second stint in Norman, OU's defensive coordinator has done a better job than the #HATERZ would care to admit. Of course, the moves made to combat all that uptempo aerial action have left the Sooners susceptible to downhill running games and play action – Notre Dame, Texas and Kansas, for instance.
Tech is about as spread as you get. While the Red Raiders have two productive running backs in Kenny Williams and DeAndre Washington, Kliff Kingsbury's offensive philosophy skews pass to run. Lining up to mash between the tackles with heavy personnel sets and tight formations would go way against type. Consider that an edge to the Sooners.
Plenty physical at receiver.
One guy to watch for Tech is junior receiver Bradley Marquez. He’s a physical route runner and is especially tough on comebacks and stop patterns on the sideline.
Personally, I’d look to match Aaron Colvin or maybe even Cortez Johnson against Marquez, who could overpower one of the smaller DBs.
That Tech "tight end" is scary.
Jace Amaro fits the definition of a receiving tight end to a TT. He'll remind Sooner fans of Jermaine Gresham, although Amaro is probably a notch below as a blocker. His size and athleticism pose hellacious decisions for defensive coordinators, who have to prepare for Amaro to line up tight or split out.
In our preview podcast, Aaron Dickens of RedRaiderSports.com made the point that the best approaching to defending No. 22 is to accept that he will get his touches and just limit his capacity to turn them into big plays. TCU accomplished that earlier this year by using a few bracket coverage schemes that emphasized re-routing Amaro away from the middle of the field and towards the sideline. I'm not sure if I'd recommend that approach for OU, but it's at least one school of thought.
Please, Tapper, don’t hurt ‘em.
I haven’t been overly impressed with Tech’s ability to protect the quarterback. To me, the weak link appears right tackle Rashad Fortenberry (No. 71). Check out his handiwork on these back-to-back plays against West Virginia:
If I’m Mike Stoops, I want to try to exploit that spot with pass rushers Charles Tapper and Eric Striker.
Unlike the 3-4 sets that the Sooners have run in recent weeks, I expect to see OU playing a ton of 3-3-5 and 3-2-6 on Saturday. Last year, OU went with a Cover-2 Man Under defensive scheme against spread offenses that was met with varying degrees of success. It leaves the D vulnerable to running quarterbacks, but that’s not Davis Webb.
Would Mike consider dusting off a game plan that saw such an ignominious end in 2012?