While most are focused on the big Oklahoma-West Virginia tilt in Morgantown on Saturday night, it’s actually Oklahoma State (8-2. 6-1 Big 12) who controls its destiny in the Big 12 championship race. Winners of their last six games, including a 17-point victory over the Mountaineers, the Cowboys need to beat TCU this weekend and the Sooners on Dec. 3 to secure, at minimum, a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowls.
Standing in the way of Oklahoma State this Saturday are the Horned Frogs, who have underachieved and still need one win to become bowl eligible. TCU (5-4, 3-3) righted the ship somewhat two weeks ago with a dominating 62-22 road victory at Baylor after losing its previous two games.
Oklahoma State at TCU
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: TCU -4.5
Three Things to Watch
1. TCU has to limit turnovers
TCU enters this contest minus-2 in turnover margin. While that is not terrible it could play a significant factor in this game. By comparison, Oklahoma State has produced a plus-8 turnover margin in 10 games thus far.
TCU’s Kenny Hill has been inconsistent throughout much of this season, as evidenced by his 10 interceptions compared to 14 touchdown passes. He will need to make smart decisions against a defense that leads the Big 12 with 11 interceptions.
2. The first team to break 30 points may win
Both defenses come into this contest giving up fewer than 30 points per game. Oklahoma State may have the slight edge in scoring offense (41.3 ppg vs. 37.4), but TCU’s defense has the edge, statistically speaking, on the other side of the ball. The Horned Frogs and Cowboys are neck-and-neck in scoring defense (29.2 to 29.3 ppg), but TCU is allowing 41 fewer yards per game on the season (410.2 vs. 451.2).
From a scoring standpoint, Oklahoma State is 0-2 when it scores fewer than 30 points. If TCU can put forth at least an average performance on defense, the Horned Frogs will increase their chances of winning this game.
3. History gives the nod to TCU
The home team has won every game between these two teams since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012. Since three of the four have been played in Stillwater that’s why Oklahoma State leads the relatively new conference rival 3-1, and it’s why the Horned Frogs could have an advantage on Saturday.
However, TCU is just 1-3 at Amon G. Carter Stadium this season, with losses to Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Both of Oklahoma State’s losses have come away from home (at Central Michigan, at Baylor), so it’s not like the Cowboys have been road warriors this season either.
So history is somewhat in the Frogs’ favor even though they have struggled at home, but Oklahoma State hasn’t exactly been a great road team. Either the status quo will continue or someone is going to buck a trend in this game.
Both teams are playing well right now, Oklahoma State’s six-game winning streak and TCU’s recent dismantling of Baylor each impressive in its own right.
While scoring points has not been a problem for either offense this season there are variables that both teams possess that will cause problems for the other.
The Horned Frogs are second in the Big 12 in sacks with 34 or about four per game. Oklahoma State is second to last in the conference in sacks allowed with 27. Advantage TCU?
The Horned Frogs are dead last in the conference in red zone defense, allowing a score of 34 of 37 such trips (91.9 percent). The Cowboys are fifth in red zone offense, scoring on 48 of 55 (87.3 percent) visits inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. Advantage Oklahoma State?
You can go on and on with these comparisons proving only that this game will be almost too close to call. With that said you have to go with recent history and that is in the Horned Frogs’ favor. TCU will be the first to 30 points and become bowl eligible this weekend.
Prediction: TCU 31, Oklahoma State 28
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.