Expect a West Texas shootout on Oct. 22. That's when the Sooners will line up against fellow offensive juggernaut Texas Tech, and when Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield returns to the Jones AT&T Stadium turf for the first time since his freshman season of 2013 when he was directing the Red Raiders attack.
What you should not expect is for Mayfield to receive a warm welcome.
By now, everyone is surely aware of Mayfield's history with Texas Tech, walking on there and winning the starting QB job in the season opener of his true freshman year. The Austin, Texas, product threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns in his first game and went on to make seven starts as he was eventually named Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. Following the season, Mayfield, then still without a scholarship, decided to transfer to OU, the school he grew up admiring. After sitting out the 2014 season and losing a year of eligibility per Big 12 intraleague transfer rules (that rule was amended yesterday, reinstating Mayfield's fourth year of eligibility), the QB eventually received a scholarship and started every game in 2015, leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.
While Mayfield's replacement at Tech, junior Patrick Mahomes, pilots a high-flying attack, it's no secret that OU's signal-caller will be the target of fan jeers in Lubbock. Channeling what will no doubt be a heightened level of energy and emotion will be key for Mayfield as the Sooners go for their third straight road win over the Red Raiders.
TEXAS TECH COACHING TREE
Baker Mayfield won't be the only Sooner making a return trip to Lubbock this year. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons all have direct ties to Texas Tech. After making the roster there as a quarterback, Riley began his coaching career with the Red Raiders under the guidance of then-head coach Mike Leach. Riley spent seven years at TTU, helping guide the program's prolific offensive attack. Simmons and Bedenbaugh also spent significant time at Tech under Leach. Bedenbaugh was with the Red Raiders for seven seasons while Simmons spent 10 years in Lubbock.
FIRST ONE TO 50 WINS?
Don't expect a shortage of offense in the contest. Last year entering the matchup in Norman, Oklahoma and Texas Tech ranked fourth and second in the nation, respectively, in scoring offense, and seventh and second in total offense. With Riley running a variation of the "Air Raid" offense that Mike Leach pioneered at Texas Tech, there are some similarities in the teams' offensive approach, but Riley doesn't call his offense the "Air Raid." OU's second-year offensive coordinator has put his own stamp on the OU attack, also taking advantage of a high-powered running game. With plenty of returning weapons for both teams, including both starting quarterbacks, OU and Texas Tech should again be near the top of the offensive heap in 2016.
OU topped the Red Raiders 63-27 year ago in a game that saw the teams combine for 164 offensive plays (OU - 79 , TTU - 85) and more than 1,000 yards of total offense (OU - 617, TTU - 436). As evidence of Riley's deviation from the traditional "Air Raid," OU racked up 417 yards on the ground and rushed for seven scores in the game.
An offense is usually only as good as its quarterback, and Oklahoma's Mayfield and Texas Tech's Mahomes are two of the best in the nation. Mayfield, who finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting last season, accounted for 4,105 yards a year ago, the 13th most in the nation, despite missing a considerable amount of time late in games with OU leading comfortably (and half a contest due to injury). He was named the Big 12 Player of the Year, the Sporting News Player of the Year and a finalist for the Davey O'Brien Award, Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award, Manning Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award.
Mahomes led the nation in total offense a year ago with 5,109 total yards (393.0 per game). He piled up 4,653 yards through the air (fourth most nationally) on 364 of 573 passing (.635) with 36 touchdowns (tied for sixth nationally) to 15 interceptions. He also added 10 scores and 456 yards on the ground en route to earning honorable mention All-Big 12 acclaim. Both players will be in the national spotlight in 2016 as potential national award winners.
ABOUT THE RED RAIDERS
The Red Raiders put up plenty of offense in 2015, ranking second nationally in scoring and total offense, but ranked 124th nationally, out of 127 FBS teams, in scoring defense. Tech surrendered 43.6 points and 547.7 yards per game (126th nationally). Those defensive issues contributed to a final record of 7-6 and a 4-5 mark in Big 12 play. The Red Raiders lost 56-27 to LSU in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl.
Tech returns its star quarterback in Mahomes, but must replace its leading rusher and top two receivers from a year ago, including utility man Jakeem Grant. Grant paced the Raiders in receiving with 1,268 yards on 90 receptions, 10 of them touchdowns. He also threw a 72-yard touchdown pass and scored twice on the ground. Among returning players, senior wideout Ian Sadler hauled in the most passes a year ago. He caught 42 passes for 596 yards and scored three times.
Defensively, the Red Raiders will have to replace their two top tacklers, their sack leader and their interception leader from last season. Sophomore defensive back Jah'Shawn Johnson was a bright spot a year ago. He started all 13 games, recording 85 total tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss while picking off two passes and recovering four fumbles.