If you were expecting a good ol’ fashioned Big 12 shootout in Lubbock, Texas, between two offensive-minded teams, you were in luck. Texas Tech put No. 7 Oklahoma on upset alert early by taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and a 31-28 lead into halftime. In the end, though, the Sooners had just too much firepower for Kliff Kingsbury’s team to stop them. Oklahoma was tested on the road, but came away with the 51-46 win.
It’s a big hurdle for the Sooners as they march toward another appearance in the Big 12 Championship Game. Home games vs. Oklahoma State and Kansas are certainly winnable, meaning the showdown at West Virginia to end the season should have plenty of meaning. But what does the shootout from Saturday night mean? Let’s break it all down.
1. Kyler Murray is still a cheat code: This feels repetitive — probably because it is — but it holds true. Murray did not have the best start to this game, with back-to-back interceptions that led to two Texas Tech touchdowns. But credit Murray for bouncing back, getting into a rhythm and finishing the night with 460 yards of offense and four touchdowns. Don’t worry for now whether he’ll pursue a professional baseball career or pull a 180 and try his luck in the NFL, just enjoy him for what he is: a human cheat code. If Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa wasn’t having such a ridiculous year, Murray might win the Heisman. He’s already ahead of reigning Heisman winner Baker Mayfield in passer rating and yards per passing attempt. His ability to evade pressure, scramble back 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage and make something out of nothing is rare. Enjoy it, because we’re not going to get it for much longer.
2. Oklahoma keep pounding the rock: This feels weird to type when you have Murray, CeeDee Lamb and Hollywood Brown in the passing game, but I’d bet the most under-appreciated part of Oklahoma’s offense is how physical it is in the running game. The offensive line has been mashing lately, paving the way for Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks to pick up chunk yards. The Sooners rank second nationally in yards per rush average, and had 327 yards on the ground Saturday evening. Sermon got the bulk of those yards against the Red Raiders (206 yards, three touchdowns), but he and Brooks have formed a nice one-two punch in the wake of Rodney Anderson’s season-ending injury.
Of course, there’s Murray with his scrambling ability, as well. That’s not really on anyone’s blocking, but that’s simply pure talent. Murray might be the fastest person on the field at any given time. It’s understandable if Oklahoma holds its breath every time Murray takes off, but he doesn’t take a lot of direct hits because of how slippery and fast he is. Oklahoma’s running game is what sets up one of college football‘s most efficient offenses.
3. Oklahoma’s defense is what it is: It doesn’t matter if defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was fired or not. Sure, the Sooners might be better coached by interim DC Ruffin McNeil, but the numbers aren’t all that different. The Sooners still allowed 6.67 yards per play against Texas Tech and five first-half scoring drives. Things improved in the second half, though the injury to Red Raiders quarterback Alan Bowman played a factor. Still, this a defense that doesn’t play well in the red zone and gives up plenty of points.
Oklahoma may have felt the switch from Stoops was necessary, and it probably was, but the Sooners are going to win games this year with offense. It’s who they are, and until long-term changes are realized, it’s who they’re going to be.
4. Texas Tech might be the most dangerous five-win team in the country: Not to qualify the Red Raiders too much, but this is a fun team that’s just come up short a few times. Yes, the opening-week loss to Ole Miss is pretty rough, but Texas Tech has come back to nearly beat West Virginia, couldn’t quite get over the hump against Iowa State and came within a touchdown of beating Oklahoma. Well, those three conference foes are in the thick of the Big 12 Championship Game hunt. At this point in the season, your record is your record, but Texas Tech is a little better than 5-4 would normally indicate. It would not be surprising if it beat Texas in Week 11 and finished on a three-game winning streak to go 8-4.