Sooners prepared for high-powered Texas Tech

Bob Stoops is all-too familiar with Texas Tech’s wide-open brand

of offensive football.

The Oklahoma coach watched it for years while competing against

the Red Raiders and former coach Mike Leach.

Stoops will have another chance to watch the latest version of

the ”Air Raid” in person on Saturday when the No. 17 Sooners

(6-1, 3-1 Big 12 Conference) host surprising Texas Tech and

first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.

”We recognize it,” Stoops said. ”It’s still difficult to

stop, though.”

The No. 10 Red Raiders (7-0, 4-0) were picked to finish seventh

in the Big 12 before the season, but they have yet to stumble under

Kingsbury – the former Texas Tech quarterback who has energized his

alma matter in his first season.

”When you can continue to prove people wrong, it’s great for a

team’s psyche,” Kingsbury said.

Led by a pair of freshmen quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and

Davis Webb, the Red Raiders enter Saturday second in the nation in

passing offense with an average of 416.4 yards per game.

All of those passes have also translated into points, with Texas

Tech second in the conference in scoring with an average of 41.1

points per game.

As good as the Red Raiders have been this season, Oklahoma will

provide their most difficult test so far this season. The game is

the first of three in four weeks for Texas Tech, which hosts

Oklahoma State next week and Baylor on Nov. 16.

Much like Texas Tech, which struggled before rallying for a

37-27 win over West Virginia last week, the Sooners have also been

stuck in somewhat of a funk in recent weeks – beginning with a

36-20 loss to rival Texas two weeks ago.

Oklahoma fell behind 13-0 at Kansas last week before storming

back for a 34-19 win, a game in which it held the Jayhawks to just

201 yards of total offense.

The Sooners lead the country in pass defense, allowing just

149.7 yards through the air per game, and the secondary is likely

to be tested early and often on Saturday as both teams look to take

a significant step toward a Big 12 championship.

”They’re a ball-hawking defense; get their hands on a bunch of

balls,” Kingsbury said. ”So, they’re good against the rush,

against the pass. They’re just an overall very well-coached, very

disciplined defense, so it will be a challenge to move it in all

phases.”

Five things to look for as Oklahoma tries to become the first

team to slow the high-powered Red Raiders:

1. UNDER CENTER: As good as Texas Tech’s offense has been this

season, it enters Saturday with a bit of uncertainty at

quarterback. Mayfield was the starter before a knee injury on Oct.

5 against Kansas sidelined him, and Webb has performed well in his

absence – throwing for 462 yards in last week’s come-from-behind

win against West Virginia. Kingsbury declined to select a starter

against the Sooners, saying only ”We’ll see how Baker feels and

take it from there.”

2. BOOMER BELL: Stoops has faced questions about Oklahoma’s

quarterback play since the preseason, when Trevor Knight beat out

Blake Bell for the starting job. Bell has performed well at times

since supplanting Knight, but he’s thrown three interceptions in

his past two games. Against the Jayhawks, the junior was 15 of 25

for 131 yards, and he added 53 yards rushing. The performance was

good, but not great – or not nearly as great as Stoops expects his

quarterback to play. ”I still believe he can play better,” Stoops

said.

3. SLOW STARTS: Oklahoma has fallen behind early in each of its

past two games, the loss to the Longhorns and last week’s win over

Kansas. It’s a sore spot for the Sooners, who hope the return home

this week provides an early lift. ”It’s got to change,” Oklahoma

center Gabe Ikard said. ”We need to come out, play fast, get

points on the board. That will be very important against Texas Tech

with how explosive their offense is.”

4. NEARING HISTORY: Stoops, with a 155-38 record at Oklahoma, is

three wins away from passing former Sooners coach Barry Switzer for

the most coaching victories in school history. He’s 15-2 at home

against ranked opponents, and a win on Saturday would mean he could

tie Switzer with a win on Nov. 7 at Baylor.

5. EXPERIENCE FACTOR: While Stoops is nearing a school record in

his 15th season, Kingsbury is enjoying an undefeated opening act so

far in his first year at Texas Tech. Despite the gap in experience,

Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro feels good about his new head

coach entering Saturday. ”Well, no disrespect to coach Stoops, but

I’ve got a great coach over here,” Amaro said. ”I feel like he’s

prepared in all aspects of the game to be ready for this type of

game.”