Run and Shoot: Road To BCS Runs Through West Texas

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Road To BCS Runs Through West Texas

LUBBOCK, Texas - In a season where upsets have become commonplace and where any number of nationally-ranked teams start each new week battling to stay off the endangered species list, the old saying "Any win is a good win" has never rung more true.

Third-ranked Oklahoma knows all about the volatile and unpredictable atmosphere permeating the Division-I ranks this fall. The Sooners were introduced to the upset bug back in late September when they blew a 24-7 second-half lead and eventually dropped a 27-24 decision at Colorado.

If not for that shocker, coach Bob Stoops' squad would be sitting atop the BCS standings, squarely in control of its own destiny. As it stands, the Sooners can still control their BCS future by taking care of business over their final two regular season games (at Texas Tech tonite) and (vs. Oklahoma State, Nov. 24) and then by winning the Big 12 title game on Dec. 1.

Texas Tech, of course, would like nothing better than to knock Oklahoma out of the national championship picture. The Red Raiders are 7-4 overall, but have struggled against conference foes, going just 3-4 and dropping a 31-26 decision at home against that same Colorado team back on Oct. 27.

Despite its struggles, coach Mike Leach's Tech squad is always dangerous at Jones Stadium. OU suffered a controversial loss in Lubbock two seasons ago and got all it wanted from the Raiders last year in a 34-24 win.

The absolute key to tonight's Big 12 showdown on the plains - at least where the Sooners are concerned - will be the ability of the OU defense to slow down Tech quarterback Graham Harrell and the high-powered Red Raider offense. Harrell enters the game just under 150 passing yards short of 10,000 for his career. He has thrown for 4,878 this season alone, along with 43 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

The Sooners have shown flashes of defensive brilliance this fall. They rank 16th nationally on that side of the ball, but have been prone to surrendering big plays through the air in recent weeks.

If OU turns in the same defensive performance it did last weekend against Baylor - giving up 450 yards to the Bears - it will be a very long night in Lubbock for the Sooners. But if they can pressure Harrell and create some Tech offensive miscues, it could go big the other way.

OU, playing without star defensive end Auston English (foot), must deploy some combination of blitz packages or disguised coverages to keep the Raiders off balance.

There will be plenty of fireworks on both sides, as the Sooners entered the game with a hot quarterback in Sam Bradford, who is surrounded by a stable of talented skill players, including running backs DeMarco Murray and Allen Patrick, and receivers Malcolm Kelly, Juaquin Iglesias and Jermaine Gresham.

It should be fun.

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