The Oklahoma State Cowboys and Tulsa Golden Hurricane will square off on Saturday afternoon in an in-state battle of teams looking for respect in their respective conferences.
Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State Cowboys have stormed out of the gate in 2019, logging two wins by a combined score of 108-50. As usual, their identity is a high-powered offense that is respected around the country.
Tulsa opened the year with a hard-fought loss to Michigan State and followed that up with a win 34-16 win over San Jose State. Expectations are not high for the Golden Hurricane in 2019. That said, Philip Montgomery's club won't shy away from a fight with an in-state Power 5 team.
Oklahoma State at Tulsa
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma State -14
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Dual-threat freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders is going to be a college football star. He has thrown for 453 yards, six touchdowns, and no interceptions during the first two games. He has also piled up 160 rushing yards on 25 carries. He's a different kind of signal-caller from what we normally see in Mike Gundy's offense, and he makes the Cowboys more dangerous than usual to defend — which is scary.
Ideally, Tulsa would like to take away Sanders' deep options and make him run or hand it off Chuba Hubbard, in hopes of shortening the game and limiting the number of possessions the Cowboys get. That's Tulsa's only hope of keeping this one close. The problem is, Hubbard is one of the best backs in the country. Oklahoma State's offense is a double-edged sword.
When Tulsa has the ball
In the same spirit of shortening the game and controlling the tempo, Tulsa wants to run the ball. The Golden Hurricane have a pair of solid backs to do that with in Shamari Brooks and T.K. Wilkerson. Look for Tulsa to pound the ball at the Cowboys early on to establish the rushing attack, possibly loosening up the Oklahoma State secondary to be vulnerable for a big play through the air at some point in the game. That's what it's going to take for Tulsa to pull this off.
Even if Tulsa can establish the run early, it's unlikely that it will be able to do it consistently all game. At some point, the Golden Hurricane will need to open up and toss it downfield. Tulsa quarterback Zach Smith has the ability to do damage through the air, but his receivers are going to struggle to get open against a seasoned Cowboy defensive backfield used to competing with explosive Big 12 offenses.
Look for a quick, close first quarter as both teams run the ball and feel each other out. Oklahoma State will likely open up the offense in the second quarter and establish dominance through the air, forcing Tulsa into a shootout it can't win. From there, Gundy will just lean on his All America-caliber running back (Hubbard) to shorten the game and get out of Tulsa with an easy win before conference play begins.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 48, Tulsa 10
— 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.