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Despite how we feel about the Oklahoma Sooners through eight games, the reality is they’re an undefeated team. As years pass, that becomes an increasingly more difficult thing to do. It’s the first time in Lincoln Riley’s tenure as head coach that they’ve made it this deep into the season undefeated.
It can be easy to take wins for granted. To hear the great Toby Rowland tell it, fans were not happy with Oklahoma’s 66-59 win in the 2016 game vs. Texas Tech.
Because how you win still matters in college football, it’s easy to let the details of the win overtake the joy that your team won.
The Oklahoma Sooners are in the driver’s seat for a berth in the Big 12 Championship and still remain a favorite to make the College Football Playoff per FiveThirtyEight’s latest projections.
Heading into their matchup Saturday against Texas Tech, the Sooners are still looking for a complete team effort. Is this the week it comes?
As we wait to find out, here are 10 bold predictions for Oklahoma’s game vs. the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Close as Usual
Winning close games has become a tradition like no other in 2021 for the Oklahoma Sooners. Five of their eight wins have come by one score or less. The only games they’ve won by more than a score was the week two romp of Western Carolina, then they beat a reeling TCU team by 21, and last week in their 12 point win over Kansas. A game that required the Oklahoma Sooners to convert on fourth down
For as good as we felt following that win over TCU, the good vibes evaporated in their win over Kansas as they fell behind 10-0 at halftime and had to fight off a scrappy Jayhawks squad.
While Oklahoma is the more talented team on paper heading into their matchup with Texas Tech, the Red Raiders have plenty of talent on the offensive side of the football, especially at wide receiver, to keep this game close.
Caleb Williams Makes Some Magic... Again
The Caleb Williams era of Oklahoma Sooners football has started off with a bang as the true freshman quarterback has taken the college football world with highlight throws and runs in each of his extended runs for the Sooners.
In each of last three games, Williams has a touchdown run of at least 40. He’s helped the Sooners convert on fourth down several times and his takeaway of Kennedy Brooks on fourth down on Saturday helped the Oklahoma Sooners put the game away with Kennedy Brooks’ second score of the game later in the drive.
Williams has made a habit of creating big plays in both the passing game and the running game. As he gets more experience, head coach Lincoln Riley will open the playbook up even more for his quarterback.
As I expect this week to be another close game for the Sooners, they’ll need Williams to make big plays in this one to help them avoid the upset from the 5-3 Red Raiders.
Kennedy Brooks Back Over the Century Mark
The Texas Tech Red Raiders rank 73rd in the country in rush defense allowing 151.6 yards per game. They’re allowing opposing ball carriers to average 4.3 yards per carry. A few weeks ago against TCU, the Red Raiders allowed both Zach Evans and Kendre Miller to rush for a combined 328 yards on 29 carries, averaging 11.3 yards per carry.
Brooks was held under 100 yards rushing against Kansas, but he and the Sooners offensive line will rebound with a stout rushing performance in week nine.
Donovan Smith gives the Sooners Fits
Henry Colombi is the starting quarterback for Texas Tech. However, with the coaching change that took place this week, all bets are off as to how interim head coach Sonny Cumbie handles the quarterback situation. Colombi hasn’t played well in recent weeks and the Red Raiders might look to the future to give them a spark.
Last week against the Kansas Jayhawks, Jason Bean kept them off balance with his running ability, something Colombi doesn’t provide much of. In order to keep the Sooners on their toes, Cumbie will use freshman Donovan Smith in the read-option game.
In the first half of last week’s game, the Oklahoma Sooners struggled to contain the read-option, often overcommitting to the running back and allowing Bean to slip out the backside. The Sooners corrected it as the game went along, but if they come into this game unprepared, Smith and the Red Raiders could take advantage of OU’s aggressiveness.
Oklahoma Sooners Keep Erik Ezukanma under 100 yards receiving
For an Oklahoma Sooners secondary that’s been struggling of late, they have an incredibly tough matchup with Texas Tech wide receiver Erik Ezukanma. Ezukanma has size and speed to break tackles and win down the field. If Quentin Johnston of TCU still lives in your nightmares, then Ezukanma might provide the sequel.
The 6-3, 220-pound Ezukanma is averaging 15.9 yards per reception in 2021 and 9.8 yards after the catch per reception, which is tied for 12th in the FBS per Pro Football Focus. He’s forced nine missed tackles according to PFF, which is good for 26th in the country.
The Sooners secondary is in need of a bounce-back game in week nine against the Red Raiders. With a tough matchup like Ezukanma, the Oklahoma Sooners may not get it this week. However, if they’re able to slow down one of the Big 12’s best wide receivers, it will go a long way to restoring confidence in the Sooners secondary.
Scary Perry Returns
After being graded as Oklahoma’s worst defender in week eight against Kansas, Perrion Winfrey has a huge game for the Sooners. He recorded a half tackle for loss against the Jayhawks and hasn’t recorded a sack since the Texas game. He’s since allowed Nik Bonitto to take over the team lead in sacks and tackles for loss, but this is the week Perrion Winfrey gets back in the sack column.
Marvin Mims Reawakens
Just when it looked like things were turning the corner for wide receiver Marvin Mims, the production slowed down again. After posting nine receptions and 207 yards in back-to-back weeks against Kansas State and Texas, the Sooners leading receiver from 2020 had just three receptions for 70 yards in the two games following against TCU and Kansas.
With Michael Woods and Mario Williams limited this week, the Oklahoma Sooners need Mims to have a rebound game and be a difference-maker.
True freshman quarterback Caleb Williams is making just the start of his career and he needs his best players to be at their best down the stretch. Lincoln Riley has to find a way to get the ball in Marvin Mims’ hands. Whether it’s on the shallow clear-out crosser that the Sooners used Marquise Brown on or on bubble screens.
Mims is too much of a threat to have just one target in a game where the Sooners had to play some catchup. Teams are certainly trying to take away the big-play ability of Mims, but that just means Lincoln Riley has to find a way to get the ball in his playmaker’s hands.
Tight End Mountain tough to Climb for Sooners Defense
Texas Tech brings to Norman a couple of Goliaths at the tight end position. Travis Koontz stands 6-4 and 255 pounds. Mason Tharp is even bigger at 6-8 and 250 pounds.
We’ve seen in years past, the Oklahoma Sooners struggle with taller tight ends. Just last year, Iowa State provided a blueprint with how to attack with their talented tight end Charlie Kolar.
Oklahoma’s been susceptible to the pass in 2021. They’re one of the worst pass defenses in the country and Tech’s Tight End Twin Towers could be the difference in this game. If the linebackers and safeties can’t contain these guys, it could be a long day for the Sooners.
1 of 2 Corners Come Back
One big reason for the Oklahoma Sooners’ defensive struggles in 2021 have had to do with the injuries they’ve suffered.
Woodi Washington’s been out since the Western Carolina Game. D.J. Graham suffered a concussion against TCU and hasn’t returned yet.
Lincoln Riley mentioned they were close to getting some guys back on the defensive side of the ball and it sounds like Jalen Redmond may be back, which should help everyone from the defensive line to the secondary. But I think they’ll get someone back from the secondary as well.
In particular, one of the cornerbacks will return for the Sooners this week, and that will be welcomed need for a pass coverage that’s struggled in recent weeks.
Jeremiah Hall, Jadon Haselwood continue Touchdown Pace
With Marvin Mims not getting a ton of opportunities and Michael Woods and Mario Williams out of action, Oklahoma’s passing game the last couple weeks has been led by Jadon Haselwood and Jeremiah Hall.
Both players have scored a touchdown in each of the last two games with Haselwood scoring four over the last two weeks.
It appears the Sooners have found their red zone threats and that should continue for Oklahoma this week against Texas Tech.
Haselwood and Hall have scored touchdowns at an incredible rate. 21% of Hall’s receptions have gone for touchdowns in 2021 and he’s second on the team in receiving touchdowns. Haselwood has scored on 20% of his reception, leading the team in touchdowns with six.
They’ll keep the good times rolling against Texas Tech and score for the third straight week.