The return of star quarterback Mason Rudolph and receiver James Washington for their senior seasons raised hopes for a special season at Oklahoma State. Those dreams took a hit last week with the Cowboys’ loss to TCU, but they’re not entirely crushed. Head coach Mike Gundy now has to figure out the best way to keep his team together after the disappointing defeat.
Unfortunately for the Pokes, Texas Tech is a less than ideal bounce-back opponent. Kliff Kingsbury’s team has surged to a 3-0 start, offering signs of life for a program that appeared to be headed for new leadership sooner than later.
For two teams known for their aerial pyrotechnics, this Big 12 matchup could come down to which one runs the ball better.
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Oklahoma State -9.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Tech’s run defense
Through three games, the story of the Red Raiders’ season has been the improvement of coordinator David Gibbs’ defense. Tech is really locking down against the run, allowing just 3.2 yards per attempt.
Limiting OSU running back Justice Hill on early downs would get the Pokes off-schedule and force them to execute in the passing game on second- and third-and-long scenarios.
2. Tech’s run offense
While the Red Raiders are excelling in stopping the run, their own ground game has moved in fits and starts. Arizona State bottled up the backfield trio of Justin Stockton, Desmond Nisby and Tre King for just 72 yards on 29 attempts. Against Houston, however, Tech generated more than six yards per run (33 attempts for 200 yards).
TCU used a grinding rushing attack last week to help spring an upset of the Cowboys. The more Tech can run the ball and control possession, the less time OSU’s offense will spend on the field.
3. Are the Cowboys angry?
The Horned Frogs took it to OSU a week ago, controlling the game on both sides of the ball. In light of the hype surrounding the Pokes’ hot start, the beatdown had to leave them feeling pretty dejected. They can’t afford to mope on Saturday night in what should be an energized environment in Lubbock.
On the other hand, a fired-up Oklahoma State squad should dispatch the Red Raiders pretty easily. So which one will Gundy get?
Wild stuff tends to go down in Lubbock. For the most part, OSU has managed to avoid the upsets that have felled other visitors to Jones AT&T Stadium.
It will probably go that way this time, too. TCU didn’t expose the Cowboys in their last game so much as show that the Horned Frogs are a team to be reckoned with this year.
Look for OSU to be focused and intent on getting back on track. The Red Raiders will have enough sporadic success moving the ball to keep the game from turning into a rout. The Cowboys still won’t have to sweat out the finish.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, Texas Tech 31
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.