Two Big 12 dark horses with contrasting styles meet up in Stillwater on Saturday
The two contrasting offensive styles in this game should be on full display. Kansas State runs a more conservative, run-oriented offense, while the Cowboys prefer to spread people out, get their players in space, and turn games into shootouts.
The WIidcats are off to an impressive 3-0 start, highlighted by a win over Mississippi State. Oklahoma State comes in at 2-1, with the lone loss coming in Austin at the hands of the Texas Longhorns last weekend.
Right now, both teams feel like they have a shot to get to the Big 12 Championship Game. This game is a must-win for both programs in regard to that goal.
Kansas State at Oklahoma State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma State -4.5
When Kansas State Has the Ball
As mentioned, the Wildcats — under new head coach Chris Klieman — lean on the run to control the tempo. Ball State transfer James GIlbert is the primary ball carrier, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He'll be the go-to guy again in an effort to keep the football away from Oklahoma State's high-powered offense. The Wildcats have one of the more underrated offensive lines in the country. Offensive line coach Conor Riley is a rising star in the coaching ranks, and he brought the same technique and violence in the trenches that helped win five FCS national titles at North Dakota State with him to Manhattan. You could see some sizable running lanes against an Oklahoma State defense that gives up more than 175 yards per game on the ground.
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Mike Gundy's Cowboys run the same, wide-open, fast-paced offense we've come to expect over the years. This season, however, it features an added wrinkle in dual-threat quarterback Spencer Sanders. The freshman has been solid this season, and he has prevented defenses from just being able to focus on Oklahoma State's elite running back, Chuba Hubbard, when defending the run. When Sanders lets it rip through the air, his favorite target is Tylan Wallace, who has hauled in 20 catches for 473 yards and six touchdowns already this season. As always, Oklahoma Stae is capable of hurting you in many ways offensively.
I believe this game comes down to who has the better game plan. On paper, Oklahoma State has more talent on the field. There is a strong argument to be made, however, that Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman and his staff have the advantage when it comes to coaching in big games and scheming against what opponents do best. Look for Kansas State to take the raucous Stillwater crowd out of the game early as they put together a couple of long drives on the ground that lead to scores. That will keep their experienced defense fresh and ready to get the stops needed to best a talented Cowboys offense. Oklahoma State wants this one to be a high-scoring affair, but that's not in the cards for Klieman and Co. Look for the Wildcats to stymie Oklahoma State's offense in ways Mike Gundy hasn't seen in quite some time, leading to a sound Kansas State victory.
Prediction: Kansas State 34, Oklahoma State 24
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation, USA Today and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.