NCF Nation: Taylor Sokolsky

Pre-game report from Lubbock

November, 8, 2008
11/08/08
7:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Welcome to Jones AT&T Stadium, where I've found a much bigger concentration of Iowa Hawkeyes and LSU Tigers fans than I ever knew existed.

Penn State's loss has already assured Texas Tech's chance of remaining in the top two if they can beat No. 9 Oklahoma State tonight. Alabama is looking pretty shaky as I write this.

Here are some trends that I'll be watching as the game progresses.

Oklahoma State's defense against Tech's passing attack: Graham Harrell torched the Cowboys for 646 yards last season and came only a dropped Michael Crabtree pass from beating them. If Oklahoma State doesn't improve its pass rush, they could be facing a similar dilemma tonight. And if they don't provide some token pressure from some blitz packages they normally don't use that much, Harrell will pick them apart.

Texas Tech's attitude: I'm curious how the Red Raiders will approach the game after last week's dramatic upset victory over No. 1 Texas last week. Their emotions have to be dragging, at least just a little.

Only one team since 1965 has beaten a No. 1 team and then rebounded to beat another top-10 team the following week. The Red Raiders do have the advantage of playing at home, which helped spur that 1984 Oklahoma to beat Oklahoma State on the rebound game.

How Texas Tech limits big plays: The Red Raiders have struggled against Oklahoma State in recent seasons, allowing six rushing touchdowns runs of at least 45 yards. And they will have to contend with big-play threat Dez Bryant, who has produced five TD receptions of 35 yards or longer and also two long punt returns for scores. Remember that Tech was burned for a 91-yard pass last week by Colt McCoy. But I still look for Tech to use its usual zone-heavy pass defense it has favored this season.

Tech's run defense: The interior of the Tech's run defense has played much better this season, ranking 10th nationally with an average of 99.7 rushing yards allowed. Colby Whitlock has been a beast inside recently and Brandon Williams has been a steady performer. But the Red Raiders haven't faced anywhere near the challenge from the veteran Oklahoma State offensive line and Big 12 rushing leader Kendall Hunter. The Red Raiders must keep out of second-and-short and third-and-short situations to give their pass rushing talents some teeth.

Can Oklahoma State develop a second receiving threat?: Texas Tech defenders will be keying on stopping Bryant. That should give them a chance to isolate 6-foot-6 tight end Brandon Pettigrew, especially if shorter safeties Daniel Charbonnet and Darcel McBath are being forced to commit to run support because of worries about Hunter and Keith Toston.

Injuries: The biggest concern for Tech continues to be Crabtree, who has been hobbled since the Texas A&M game with a sprained ankle. He twice left the game last week, but still rebounded to produce a season-best 10 catches and the game-winning touchdown grab.

Leading sacker McKinner Dixon limped off the field last week with a gimpy ankle and did not return. His condition was not addressed by Leach earlier this week.

Oklahoma State comes into the game relatively healthy. Special teams standout Taylor Sokolsky will miss the game with a broken foot. And safety Lucien Antoine was lost for the season with a knee injury against Houston.

Weather: It's perfect football weather with clear, seasonably moderate weather. Temperatures are in the mid-60s with humidity of 17 percent and winds from the southeast at 10 mph. The temperature should continue dropping throughout the evening before settling in the high-40s later this evening. There is no chance of precipitation.

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