If we see Doege winding up like this on Saturday, Cowboy fans will be collectively holding their breath.
Two scores, one a final. Both with significant meaning.
The first score came with 5:20 to go in the 3rd quarter of the West Virginia game, with OSU fans none to comfortable. Geno Smith and WV were beginning to gash the Cowboy secondary. Fortunately, the offense AND defense responded as OSU finished strong for the final of 55-34.
The second score? We don't have to remember, because Tech might never forget. The Red Raiders suffered lacerations in Lubbock in 2011.
The latter result is important overall, as Tuberville and crew should be motivated.
The former should be of more concern to Cowboy Nation. Here's why...
As always, stats are based on Big 12 games only. If the game plays out by the averages:
- Of the 6 conference opponents OSU has faced, 5 are the bottom half in passing & total offense;
- The Cowboys' pass defense has allowed on average 17.1% MORE yards than the opponent's current per game average, and, of the 6, only one (TCU) was held under their average. Take them away, and the number goes up to 25%;
- West Virginia is ranked 3rd in passing, and OSU allowed 19.2% more yards than their current average;
Given these numbers, I would expect the #1 passing offense to put up somewhere in the range of at least 434-464 yards through the air. While Tech prefers to dink and dunk (7.9 ypa...11.3 ypc), I imagine they will test OSU deep, much like West Virginia did. Seth Doege is 2nd in passing yards per game, 3rd in passing efficiency, and 2nd in total offense. Eric Ward and Darrin Moore are the favored targets, pulling in just under 50% of Doege's completions per game. Ward averages 7.6 receptions for 13.3 ypc...Moore averages 7 receptions for 10.2 ypc. Neither seems to be a huge deep threat, as their longest receptions in conference play are 32 and 35 yards respectively, and each average 1 TD catch per game. Jace Amaro seems to be Tech's more effective version of Blake Jackson, but a rib injury has kept him out of the last 4 games. Tech was hit with the injury bug, just like OSU, and lost two key WR's as they began Big 12 play. Alex Torres and Austin Zouzalik have both stepped in and contributed in the last 5 games. Jakeem Grant will be another name to watch for, although he has missed two games due to injury.
As for the running game:
- OSU has faced 3 of the top 5 running games in the Big 12;
- The Cowboys have held all of those to an average of 16.5% LESS yards than their current average;
- Have only allowed one 100 yard rusher (Sims, KU);
Based on that, I would expect the Big 12's least productive running game to produce around 80 yards against OSU. Kenny Williams (5-9, 212) is the "workhorse" for Tech's running game. While he may not pile up the yards, he's averaging 4.9 ypc on a little over 10 carries per game. In conference play, he has carried the ball 15+ times on 3 occasions, 2 of those losses. In the other 4 games he hasn't had more than 9 carries, with only 1 loss. They seem better off when they don't try to pretend to have a rushing attack.
For total offense, I would not be shocked at all with a number between 490 and 550. While OSU is ranked 5th in total defense, keep in mind what I mentioned before...they have played the 6 worst teams in the total offense rankings up to this point. I would expect to see more yards than we are accustomed to, especially since their strength is going against our weakness.
As far as scoring:
- OSU has faced 3 of the top 5 scoring offenses in the conference, and the 3 worst;
- The 3 worst were held 42% below their current average;
- The other 3 exceeded their current average by an average of 6%;
Based on this, I predict Tech's score will be around 24-35 points. While ranked 7th in scoring, their offense is more like the top 6 than the bottom 3.
Third downs could be key as usual:
- Tech is #5 in conversions at 44.2%
- OSU is #2 in conversions against at 32.3%
As far as turnovers, the Red Raiders are averaging almost 2 per game (3 fumbles, 8 int's), which is good given that OSU's defense is averaging barely 1 per game. Both teams are losing the turnover battle.
Expect a couple of sacks...both teams are averaging 2 per game.
It will be interesting to see how penalties go. The Big 12 doesn't break out offensive vs defensive flags, but Tech is LAST in the conference, averaging 7.3 infractions for 69 yards per game. The Cowboys are 8th, and we know a fair amount of those have been PF penalties on the defense.
Tech is at a clear disadvantage in the kicking game. They are 6th in FG% (64.3%...OSU is 3rd at 80%) and 5th in punting (38.7 net avg...OSU is 1st at 41.9). The Red Raiders are 7th in kick return avg (19.8 yards per), but obviously haven't met our kickoff coverage unit (6th...36.7 yards per). Let's hope Sharp is either booming it or has further perfected the "Three Stooges" squib. Neither team has missed a PAT.
Time of possession is hard to examine. If you add together both team's average TOP, you still don't get 60 minutes (TT 29:55 + OSU 27:05 = 57:00). That extra 3 minutes could result in an extra possession for both teams.
The place where this gets really interesting is the red zone. Both teams will likely be there a number of times Saturday. Tech is #3 in red zone offense (87.9%), while OSU is #1 in red zone defense (69.6%). Again, Tech has played all but 1 of the top 5 red zone defenses, and OSU has played 4 of the 5 worst red zone offenses.
The most striking thing about this, and the thing that gives me hope, is that with such good red zone and 3rd down conversion %'s...with such good passing and total offense #'s...how can this team be only 7th in scoring? My research doesn't get me anywhere. They are tied for 2nd most red zone trips, and tied for 3rd most red zone TD's.
Has to be the turnovers and penalties. Like OSU, Tech has struggled with penalties and is losing the turnover battle. The Red Raiders have been a bit on the extremes in scoring, surpassing 40 pts in regulation 3 times, but being held below 25 pts 3 times. Just like OSU's defense mentioned above, Tech's best performances were against teams in the bottom 5 in scoring defense, while the 3 worst came against teams in the top 5 in scoring defense. The good news...the Cowboys' are 3rd in scoring defense, and Tech's offense is #7. The bad news...as we've seen above, OSU's defense has made a living off of the least productive "yardage" offenses in the conference in several areas. Let's hope the Cowboys are closer to the good than the bad.
I think in the end, and this is just my gut speaking, OSU's defense can do what it did last week...slow down the opponent's offense better than their counterpart. I question Tech's team chemistry, and I'm pretty confident that Tuberville is not in a position where his guys will jump off a cliff for him. Gundy's boys will.
I'll go with the guys who are willing to jump off the cliff.