Cory Mccartney
Thursday November 20th, 2008

Granted, there are bigger rivalries on the schedule, i.e. Michigan-Ohio State, BYU-Utah and a game that will be so bad you just can't help but watch: 0-10 Washington versus 1-10 Washington State. But no game looms larger this weekend than another clash of top 10 Big 12 teams with No. 2 Texas Tech visiting No. 5 Oklahoma.

1. It's the Biggest Game in School History, Take III for the Red Raiders. They've already beaten No. 1 Texas and eighth-ranked Oklahoma State and hold the highest ranking in school history, but this will be the most pressure Mike Leach's crew has faced yet.

A win over the Sooners would give Texas Tech its first Big 12 South title and a spot in the conference-title game against Missouri. Not to mention Tech would move one step closer to the BCS Championship Game. If the Red Raiders lost, they'd have to root for Oklahoma State to beat the Sooners the following weekend. Texas Tech faced a similar scenario in '02 when it went to Oklahoma with a shot at winning the division but lost 60-15.

To secure that elusive Big 12 title-game berth, Texas Tech will have to do something it hasn't done this season: win a big game on the road. Tech did beat then No. 19 Kansas by 42 in Lawrence, but the Red Raiders are 1-6 in Norman, where Oklahoma hasn't lost in 23 games.

2. The Sooners are looking for a little payback. Last season Texas Tech knocked then No. 3 Oklahoma out of the national-title race with a 34-27 win, and revenge will indeed be a factor, despite what Bob Stoops is saying.

"I don't know that last year has anything to do with it," Stoops said. "We're not anything on talk about revenge or any of that kind of thing. That would be to disrespect them."

Fine, forget revenge. How about redemption? Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford played just four snaps in that loss due to a first-quarter concussion and if anyone's looking to right the wrongs of that defeat, it's Bradford.

"It's frustrating to turn on the tape and see I wasn't out there to finish the game with my teammates," Bradford told The Star Telegram. "So there is a little extra motivation to play well this year."

All Texas Tech has on Bradford -- a player Red Raiders safety Daniel Charbonnet calls "the best professional quarterback that we'll face" -- is game film and four live plays from last season. And now they have to face him for really the first time. As strange as it sounds, that time on the bench could actually be to the Sooners' advantage.

3. Come for the points, stay for the Heisman Trophy race. Take a pair of offenses that combine for 1,116 yards and 99.3 points per game, add defenses that are ranked 93rd (Oklahoma) and 98th (Texas Tech) in pass defense and it's enough to make you wonder if the Owen Field scoreboard will short circuit. It's also the perfect platform for three of the leading Heisman candidates to impress voters with ballots being mailed out this week.

Texas Tech's Graham Harrell leads most lists, including my colleague Gene Menez's Heisman Watch, while Michael Crabtree and Bradford are among the top three or four.

Harrell, the national leader in passing yards (4,077) has put up mammoth numbers in the last four games, throwing for 1,766 yards, 13 touchdowns and two interceptions on 154-of-201 passing. Bradford, who has been lost in the Heisman shuffle, is second in passing efficiency (188.9) and has put up impressive numbers in the last four outings, going 90-for-145 for 1,374 yards, 15 scores and a pick. Crabtree, who faces an uphill battle in the race, has 78 receptions for 1,010 yards and 18 TDs.

Another big game in a win would all but clinch the award for Harrell, while Bradford could vault to the top spot if he can upstage the Red Raiders' contender.

Texas Tech's biggest improvement this season has been on defense. The Red Raiders rank third in the Big 12 in total defense. I asked a coach of one of Texas Tech's opponents for his impressions of the unit. Here's what he had to say:

"[You have to have] patience. They do enough different things, but they execute a non-complex game plan and force you into being mistake-free down the field and then they capitalize on people that are impatient or make mistakes. They're very talented, too, but they're good at what they do and they don't step outside that. They don't try to be different from week-to-week. They're consistent and that allows their players to play really hard.

"They have a lot of depth up front on their defensive line and they are athletic. Because they aren't complex it allows them to play with a number of different players and be confident in what they do. [Defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill] has done a great job. When he took over he talked about simplifying what they did and he allows them to play without handcuffs on them.

"Any defense will give up big plays at a certain time, but [the keys are] being patient and getting down the field and using ball-control, especially with their offense. I think that would be key -- to be able to control the football and the time of possession -- because they're so explosive on offense."

Oklahoma 42, Texas Tech 38. The Sooners pass defense is a concern with the way Harrell and Co. fling the ball around, but Oklahoma has more balance on offense than anyone Texas Tech has played. The Sooners will further muddle the Big 12- and national-title pictures with their 24th-straight win in Norman.

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