No. 7 Oklahoma returns to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech

Oklahoma Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Cleveland Browns opening.Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The seventh-ranked Sooners return to Lubbock for a 7 p.m. CT matchup on ESPN on Saturday night.

It’s been a little more than two years since Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes dueled in one of the great offensive college football games of all time.

Mahomes passed for an astounding 734 yards and touchdown passes of 23, 32, 41, 56 and 3 yards and also ran for 85 yards and a pair of TDs.

But Mayfield countered with 545 passing yards and 7 touchdowns as he led the Sooners to a 66-59 victory over Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.

“You look at the names and what they’re doing on Sundays right now and it’s incredible,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said about reflecting on the 2016 Sooners-Red Raiders game. “Guys playing on an elite level already early in their (NFL) careers and they’re all out there on one particular night all making plays that night.”

That game has been in the spotlight this week and not just because the seventh-ranked Sooners return to Lubbock for a 7 p.m. CT matchup on ESPN on Saturday night. Mayfield and Mahomes also face each other again as the Browns host the Chiefs on Sunday in Cleveland.

As an extra dose of intrigue, the Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Monday. Mayfield’s college offensive coordinator and head coach, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, has been mentioned as a candidate to relocated to Cleveland.

But Riley said he’s not interested.

“Not right now,” Riley said during his Monday press conference. “You sit here and answer these questions and I always want to be truthful. The truth is for me is I love Oklahoma. I love coaching here. I love college football. I certainly don’t have that itch right now.”

College football fans will tune in to see the next generation matchup back in Lubbock. Texas Tech’s Alan Bowman ranks No. 3 in the NCAA with 344.4 passing yards per game, 12 spots ahead of Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray at 291.1. But Murray is No. 6 in the nation in total offense per game with 350.4 yards, one notch ahead of Bowman.

That’s a lot of pressure on the Texas Tech and Oklahoma defenses.

The Sooners defense is giving up 380.9 yards per game this season. That’s more than 40 yards better than the Red Raiders. But Oklahoma hasn’t played an opponent that ranks in the top 30 in total offense so far this season, while the Red Raiders have faced four of the top 15 offenses in the country.

The oddsmakers and analytics still see the Sooners as a heavy favorite. Texas Tech is a double-digit underdog and ESPN’s Matchup Predictor gives the Sooners a 71.6-percent chance to win.

Perhaps the reason Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) is favored is because prognosticators don’t believe the Texas Tech defense can slow down Murray. Last week, he passed for 352 yards and 3 touchdowns, and ran for 46 yards and a touchdown.

It was just another day at the office for the Sooners’ quarterback.

“I’ve watched him from sophomore in high school on and I’ve never seen him have a bad game,” Kingsbury said about Murray, who played high school football in the Dallas suburb of Allen. “Always poised, always in control.”

The Red Raiders (5-3, 3-2) have had problems stopping opposing offenses for a long time. But this season, they’ve climbed out of triple digits and currently rank 94th in total defense in the country. Texas Tech has a chance to show in prime time if its defensive improvement can hold up against Oklahoma.

“Defensively they’ve made a big jump,” Riley said. “There’s no question when you turn on the film. This group is playing well together. The thing that you see is it’s a lot of the same names and same people that we’ve been playing against now for two or three years and these guys have gotten better.”

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