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College Sports: Oklahoma prediction: Sooners should have enough defense to escape Lubbock with win over Texas Tech

No. 7 Oklahoma at Texas Tech

When: 7 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock

Records: Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12); Texas Tech (5-3, 3-2 Big 12) 

Last meeting: Oklahoma beat Texas Tech 49-27 on Oct. 28, 2017, in Norman, Okla.

TV: ABC

What’s on the line

For Oklahoma, this is a huge game for perception. The national narrative all week has been about these teams meeting in Lubbock for the first time since the 66-59 defensive debacle in 2016. The Red Raiders again have a potent offense with an efficient quarterback in Alan Bowman, and the Sooners’ defense again has plenty of question marks — even without Mike Stoops. But if OU’s defense can acquit itself well against Tech and come out with a convincing win, it would send a message to the College Football Playoff committee: This isn’t the same defense that let up 54 to Georgia in the Rose Bowl and 48 to Texas earlier this year.

For Texas Tech, it’s a chance to make a statement on a national stage. The Red Raiders are coming off a frustrating loss to Iowa State that more or less takes them out of the Big 12 title hunt. But Tech appears to be ahead of schedule (this looked like a rebuilding year at the outset) and has a bright future with Bowman under center. Beating No. 7 Oklahoma in Lubbock would be huge for a program that looks ready to make a leap.

When Oklahoma has the ball

Can the Sooners be stopped on offense? They weren’t stopped in nine drives against Kansas State last Saturday, the first punt coming long after Kyler Murray and the starters had left the game. Murray is in the midst of one of the best quarterback seasons of all time, and Texas Tech doesn’t have the type of defense that could give him problems.

The Red Raiders are 79th in defensive S&P+, which should set off alarms in Lubbock ahead of this matchup with Murray. TCU is 27th in the same category and still gave up 52 points to the Sooners in Fort Worth two weeks ago. Linebacker Dakota Allen is a problem the Sooners will have to deal with, but Lincoln Riley’s offense should be able to still get things done.

When Texas Tech
has the ball

Is this Oklahoma defense for real? The Sooners have allowed less than 300 yards of offense in back-to-back games for the first time since 2016, but they did it against the Big 12’s worst offenses. That’s not what Texas Tech is. The Red Raiders are going to test Oklahoma’s undersized secondary with tall, speedy receivers. Alan Bowman is the type of precision passer who could throw for 400 yards without breaking a sweat.

Texas Tech’s vertical threat is led by Antoine Wesley, who already has 977 receiving yards this season. Oklahoma does not have a cornerback taller than 6 feet, so he — along with T.J. Vasher — presents a big matchup problem for the Sooners. Bowman has shown to be turnover-prone (what freshman isn’t?), so this game may come down to OU forcing a rare turnover in the secondary.

Prediction

This game won’t feature quite as much offense as that 2016 clash — both defenses are slightly better and neither team has a top-10 NFL draft pick at QB — but it may get close. Murray and Bowman are electric. The downfield receivers may be unstoppable. Who can force the most turnovers? That might be the difference.

Score: Oklahoma 56, Texas Tech 38

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