OU football: Lubbock provides gritty venue for Sooners' regular-season finale

·4 min read

Aug. 5—Editor's Note: This is the first installment in a look at Oklahoma's schedule for the 2022-2023 season. The Transcript will rank all games by evaluating their significance, difficulty and entertainment value. This article previews Texas Tech, which is ranked No. 9 in the series.

Last season was the first time Texas Tech finished with a winning record since 2015, ending the season with a win in the Liberty Bowl.

However, it was another year of struggling through conference play for the Red Raiders.

Despite finishing the year with a 7-6 record, the Red Raiders posted a 3-6 record against Big 12 opponents. The team has finished with three or fewer wins in conference play in each of the last six seasons.

While the season included a couple of close losses — they lost to Baylor and Kansas State by a combined four points — the team struggled with consistency. They surrendered 70 points in a 35-point loss to Texas; they lost to the Sooners by 31; and they surrendered 52 points to TCU in a double-digit defeat.

It didn't help that head coach Matt Wells — who's now on Oklahoma's support staff — was fired after eight games. Interim coach Sonny Cumbie posted a 2-3 record the rest of the way.

Entering this season at the helm is Joey McGuire. The first-time head coach arrives in Lubbock after spending five seasons as an assistant coach at Baylor. He has a track record of success but heads into his first head-coaching gig tasked with leading a program that has struggled to compete in recent years.

"I know we're in the Big 12, but we're in the state of Texas, and football is extremely important in the state of Texas at all levels," McGuire said during Big 12 Media Days last month. "I think we've had a taste of it at different times. I'm really excited about what we can do with this team. But it's really important to this fan base to get this team right and to win games, and, man, I'm just glad to be a part of it."

The Sooners' battle against Texas Tech closes out conference play and the regular season. Here's an overview of the Sooners' game against Texas Tech and what to expect from the Red Raiders:

Quick facts

—When and where: Saturday, Nov. 26, Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Kickoff time hasn't been set.

Last season

—Offense: Scored 30 points per game

—Defense: Surrendered 28 points per gam

The Sooners hold a 23-6 advantage in the all-time series record against the Red Raiders. They've beaten Texas Tech 10 straight times, including a 52-21 blowout last season in Norman.

This year, however, the Sooners will take on the Red Raiders in Lubbock. The Sooners have won five straight games there, though two of the last three games in Lubbock have been settled by seven points or fewer.

Overview

There's a lot of new for the Red Raiders to navigate this season, and it's not just McGuire's first year as head coach. They also have new coordinators, with Zach Kittley on offense and Tim DeRuyter on defense. Kittley had success as the offensive coordinator at Houston Baptist and Western Kentucky the past two seasons, while DeRuyter arrives after a stint at Oregon.

All indications point to a quarterback battle happening during fall camp between Donovan Smith and Tyler Shough. Smith appeared in nine games last season and threw for 1,181 yards, while Shough was the Week 1 starter.

The offense doesn't have many standout players — the Red Raiders were the only team in the Big 12 to not have a selection on the conference preseason team — but that didn't stop them from averaging 30 points per game last season. The team's leading rushers from last season, SaRodorick Thompson and Tahj Brooks, are back in the fold after combining for over 1,000 rushing yards.

The defense lost several key pieces from last season including linebacker Colin Schooler, who graduated last season as the active FBS leader in career tackles and tackles for loss. But the coaching staff has touted additional depth heading into this season.

The defense peaked around average last season, and that's the expectation again this season.

Summary

Road conference games are always hard to win, and Texas Tech will have some extra motivation this season with the Sooners set to depart for the Southeastern Conference by 2025. But Oklahoma has the clear talent advantage, and playing in Lubbock shouldn't create too many issues for the Sooners.

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580