Expect the running game to take center stage when the Cowboys and Horned Frogs face off this weekend
Oklahoma State will travel to Fort Worth on Saturday to take on TCU in a battle between two teams coming off impressive wins. Oklahoma State won a shootout with Texas Tech last weekend, while TCU got a blowout win over Kansas.
The Cowboys (6-2, 5-2 Big 12) are still in the hunt for a Big 12 Championship Game berth, and they desperately need a win this weekend to stay in that hunt. It won't be easy, as the Horned Frogs (4-4 overall and in Big 12 play) have won three of their last four games and seem to have found their stride after starting the season 1-3.
This also will be a battle between the second- and third-longest tenured coaches in FBS. Gary Patterson has been at the helm of the TCU program since 2000, while Mike Gundy has coached the Cowboys since 2005. The two head coaches bring a combined 311 wins into Saturday's matchup.
No. 15 Oklahoma State at TCU
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 5 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma State -2.5
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Normally we'd be expecting the Cowboys to be throwing the ball all over the field. In last week's win over Texas Tech, however, junior running back Dezmon Jackson stepped in for the injured Chuba Hubbard and carried the ball 36 times for 235 yards and three touchdowns. What this just a one-off anomaly? Or should we expect to see Mike Gundy stick to what was working when his team put 50 points on the scoreboard last week? As of now, it sounds like Jackson is penciled in to start the game this weekend, which tells me that Gundy liked what he saw against Texas Tech and wants to stick with it. That said, the threat of Jackson running the ball is likely going to loosen some things up in the TCU defensive backfield, which could benefit the Oklahoma State passing attack. Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson and his staff are going to need to adjust on the fly defensively, more so than they have all season.
When TCU Has the Ball
Everything the Horned Frogs do offensively starts and stops with quarterback Max Duggan. The sophomore signal-caller is the team's leading rusher as well. He has 409 yards and seven scores on the ground, and his dual-threat ability makes the TCU offense difficult to defend. When Duggan does go to the air, he spreads the ball around the field pretty evenly. Taye Barber leads the team in receptions with 30, but three other Horned Frogs have at least a dozen catches on the year and seven different players have caught a touchdown pass. To stop the Horned Frogs, the best option for Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is probably to have someone spy Duggan and take away the threat of him running the ball in hopes that his defensive backs can win individual battles with the TCU skill players.
Offense has rarely been a concern for Mike Gundy's teams since he's been running the show in Stillwater. Defensively, however, his Cowboys have allowed more than 40 points in three of their last four games. That's not a great sign heading into a game against an offense as dynamic as what TCU brings to the table. The Horned Frogs have scored 30-plus points five times in 2020, I'm not sure Oklahoma State has the answer to preventing TCU from doing whatever they want on offense. This is likely to be a high-scoring affair, but the team with the better defense will prevail. Right now, it's advantage TCU.
Prediction: TCU 38, Oklahoma State 34
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— 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.
(Dezmon Jackson photo courtesy of @CowboyFB)