Among the battles between ranked teams on this week's college football slate, the leaders in the Big 12 are squaring off when the No. 8 Oklahoma State Cowboys take on the No. 13 TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth. Both teams enter this game with identical records — 5-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play.
The two squads have risen to the top of the league on the strength of high-powered offenses. TCU, in particular, has made notable improvement in year one under new head coach Sonny Dykes.
Here's what to watch on Saturday in this battle of unbeatens.
No. 8 Oklahoma State at No. 13 TCU
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
This Oklahoma State team is starting to look more and more like the Cowboys of old each week. Last week versus Texas Tech, the Pokes put 41 points on the board as they dispatched of the Red Raiders in Stillwater. Steady play from quarterback Spencer Sanders, who has thrown just two interceptions so far this year, has keyed OSU's offensive resurgence.
Sanders also is chipping in on the ground, rushing for more than 50 yards in each of OSU's games this season. Meanwhile, Dominic Richardson has taken over the role of lead running back, averaging 4.1 yards per attempt with four rushing touchdowns.
OSU can probably find some holes to exploit in the TCU defense, especially through the air. The Horned Frogs have given up more than 350 passing yards in two games already this year versus Kansas and SMU. The matchup between TCU cornerbacks Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson and Josh Newton versus OSU wideouts like Braydon Johnson, Bryson Green, and Brennan Presley may prove pivotal to the defense's ability to contain OSU.
When TCU Has the Ball
The Horned Frogs should have no problem matching Oklahoma State's offensive pyrotechnics. That starts with the play of Max Duggan, TCU's veteran quarterback. Duggan sits second nationally in passer rating behind C.J. Stroud of Ohio State, and he can tax opponents with his legs, averaging 6.4 yards per rushing attempt this season.
Of course, it helps that Duggan is throwing to a stable of physical wide receivers. Quentin Johnston leads that group and is coming off a game against Kansas in which he snagged 14 receptions for 206 yards and a touchdown. Also keep an eye on junior Savion Williams, who offers another lanky target for the downfield passing attack. Both he and Johnston are at least 6-foot-4 and check in at 215 pounds.
OSU has clearly taken a step back on defense this season following the departure of tactician Jim Knowles to Ohio State. The Cowboys did retain their ability to create problems behind the line of scrimmage, as they average 10.2 tackles for a loss per game. Pressuring Duggan and putting the Horned Frogs in unfavorable down-and-distance situations might help relieve some of the pressure on the Pokes' secondary.
Can either of these teams stop the other? That's the operative question in a game in which the scoreboard at Amon G. Carter Stadium will probably get a workout.
For TCU, getting stops may hinge more on forcing mistakes out of Sanders, who has been known to get careless with the football at times in his college career. Also, keep in mind that Horned Frogs defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie held the same position at Tulsa for the previous three seasons. In the last two meetings between Oklahoma State and the Golden Hurricane in 2020 and '21, Gillespie's defenses limited the Cowboys to some of their lowest offensive outputs in each season.
In the end, the TCU offense looks like it will be the best unit on the field in this game. Playing in front of a home crowd, expect the Horned Frogs to outlast the Cowboys in a shootout.
Prediction: TCU 41, Oklahoma State 34
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— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.
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