Here we are days away from one of the most heated non-rivalries. It seems like almost every single time these two teams face off the viewers are getting their money's worth (Note: I've blocked 2008's game out of my head). It's pretty safe to say that the determining factor each time in the last seven years has been home field advantage. Somewhere down the line, though, one of the teams are eventually going to lose at home. The question is whether or not it will be this year. I think a fair share of fans on each side aren't exactly confident in what their respective team has done thus far into the season. With new schemes being implemented at both schools, the first six weeks of the season have definitely had their ups and downs. And while Texas Tech has lost two games, Oklahoma State definitely could have been in the loss column a couple of times as well. So who will stand victorious after the seven hour war (a very mild exaggeration) that will take place on Saturday? To me, the key to victory lies within five different position matchups. Click the jump to see this week's breakdown.
Once again, let's start up front with the big uglies.
OSU's Defensive Line vs. Texas Tech's Offensive Line
The stats don't lie. Texas Tech's offensive line has been solid. The Red Raiders have allowed nine sacks on the year but keep in mind four of those came from the Longhorns in the 3rd week. Another thing to keep in mind is that they have also already played three conference games as opposed to OSU's one. It's pretty safe to say that the unit will be ready for the level of competition that OSU is going to bring. And while the running game hasn't flourished yet (103rd in the nation), the O-Line has certainly given their QB, Taylor Potts, enough protection to earn the nation's 4th best passing offense. On the other end, OSU's D-Line has done an average to above average job so far this season. They've helped earn the defense 13 sacks which is 35th in the nation. They have also heavily contributed to OSU stopping the run as the team sits at 29th in the country in run defense. Unfortunately, that's where the flattering stops. OSU has had trouble this year getting stops on 3rd and 4th down and much of that has to do with a lack of quarterback pressure. While OSU may pressure Potts a few times this Saturday, it won't be enough to win the battle in the trenches--especially in passing situations. Advantage: Texas Tech
OSU's Wide Receivers vs. Texas Tech's Secondary
Honestly, this breakdown could be reversed and the results would be close to the same. Both teams' secondaries have eight interceptions on the year and both team's passing defenses are ranked in the bottom seven in the nation. However, OSU's receivers get the benefit of the two matchups for one reason: Justin Blackmon. Blackmon currently leads the country in receptions, receiving yards per game, and touchdowns. He has been called a "nightmare to cover" by every coach that has faced OSU so far. I have no doubt that Tech's defense will try to take him out of the game with double coverage of some sort. This, in turn, will leave plenty of options open for Brandon Weeden to choose from. In the end, the receivers will most likely have video game numbers yet again. Advantage: OSU
OSU's Running Backs vs. Texas Tech's Linebackers
Texas Tech has done a great job stopping the run so far this season. One of the main reasons is their senior linebacker, Bront Bird. Bird leads the team with 38 total tackles. At 39th in the nation, expect Texas Tech's run defense to only get better in its new defensive scheme. On OSU's side of the ball is an All-American that will try to make that improvement wait one week longer. Kendall Hunter is back and healthy once more. He currently is 5th in the nation in rushing yards per game at 140. His quickness and ability to shed and sidestep tackles are what make him one of the best in the country. New to the mix is true freshman Joseph Randle who will be next in line once Hunter graduates. He has already shown much promise in the action he has seen thus far. Coach Tuberville has been known to try to stop the run before anything else and I have no doubt he will maintain that gameplan Saturday. However, Texas Tech has not seen a running game of this caliber yet this year and I think OSU's two-headed monster may have the Texas Tech linebackers chasing them up and down the field. Advantage: OSU
OSU's Special Teams vs. Texas Tech's Special Teams
Let's not sugarcoat or dance around this one. OSU's coverage unit is bad. Really bad. As in dead last in kick off return yards allowed. Punt return yards allowed isn't as bad but it certainly isn't good at 67th in the nation. By the way, this has nothing to do with OSU's kicker. Quinn Sharp leads the nation in touchbacks with 31. The next closest is FSU's kicker with 23 and he's played one more game than Sharp! Still, when the ball is returnable there isn't an OSU fan watching whose heart doesn't start pounding a bit harder. With Texas Tech ranked 27th in the nation in kickoff returns, it wouldn't surprise me to see a couple of big ones ripped off on Saturday. As tight as I think this game is going to be, field position means everything. Count on Texas Tech to take advantage as much as they can. Advantage: Texas Tech
OSU's Coaches vs. Texas Tech's Coaches
Before this year, this matchup was a direct tie. Both sets of coaches knew how to best the opposition on their respective home field. Mike Leach and Mike Gundy had an enormous amount of respect for eachother. But we are now in a new era and this game kicks it off. Truthfully, this matchup is pretty hard to gauge. For every year Mike Gundy has been at OSU, he has been more successful than his last. All of his players are now the ones he recruited and has a relationship of trust with. Coach Tuberville does not have that luxury yet. But while he is only in Year One in Lubbock, he has a proven track record of success that Mike Gundy does not. This may come down to coordinators and game plan. OSU's Bill Young and Dana Holgorsen have proven to be among the top coordinators in the country. No matter which school they have coached in their careers, they have had high levels of success. In each game this season, both have made halftime adjustments that have worked flawlessly each time. For now, because of that fact alone, I am giving the edge to OSU. But mind you, it is only the slightest edge and may very well change. This Saturday will tell us more. Advantage: OSU
So there you go. Those are the five matchups that I think will have the biggest impact on the game. Feel free to agree, disagree, and state which matchups you think are most important in the comments below.