The TCU Horned Frogs and Oklahoma State Cowboys are squaring off in Stillwater on Saturday in a game that has a "loser leaves town" feel. Whichever team goes down will likely lose its shot at playing in the Big 12 Championship Game in the process.
Both squads scored confidence-building wins last week, though. OSU went to Ames and upset Iowa State in a 34-27 stunner that saw the Pokes (5-3, 2-3 Big 12) put together a complete game. In Fort Worth, TCU's 10-point win over Texas set the stage for the Horned Frogs (4-3, 2-2) to close the Big 12 slate strong.
The Horned Frogs have won their last two meetings with the Cowboys. What will it take for TCU to notch a third consecutive win in the series?
TCU at Oklahoma State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma State -3
When TCU Has the Ball
Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua make for a potent one-two punch in the TCU backfield. In five of seven games this season, the Horned Frogs have run for at least 5.2 yards per rush. Even with dangerous receiver Jalen Reagor on the outside, the running game is the strength of the TCU offense.
OSU has a mixed record this year stopping the run. Texas ran for five yards a pop against the Cowboys, for example, while Baylor had an average of six yards per attempt.
The Cowboys will want to focus on shutting down TCU on the ground to put the game on the shoulders of Max Duggan. The freshman quarterback just gave his best performance of the season last week against Texas, completing 19 of 27 throws for 273 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. A similar showing this weekend could put his team in position to spring an upset.
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Did the Cowboys finally put it together last week?
OSU has relied on the legs of running back Chuba Hubbard to power its offense this season. After eight games, he has run for nearly 1,400 yards.
In last week's win over Iowa State, though, the Cowboys eased back on Hubbard's workload. Freshman QB Spencer Sanders played his best game of the season in response, throwing for 249 yards, two TDs, and just one interception. The last number there is important, given Sanders' occasional carelessness this year.
Sanders also won't have his top target, Tylan Wallace, at his disposal. The Big 12's leading receiver (903 yards on 53 catches with 8 TDs), Wallace reportedly suffered a torn ACL in practice this week. That puts more pressure on guys like Dillon Stoner, Braydon Johnson, Jordan McCray, and Landon Wolf to step up and make plays.
This matchup essentially comes down to TCU's ability to bait Spencer Sanders into bad mistakes. Oklahoma State's freshman QB has thrown 10 interceptions in eight games. He also has shown poor ball security on occasion throughout the season. Those factors have played a key role in the Pokes giving the ball up 17 times this year, easily the most in the Big 12 and one of the highest totals in the entire country.
A week ago, the Horned Frogs picked off Texas QB Sam Ehlinger four times. That sealed the fate of the Longhorns in their loss to TCU. If TCU does that to Sanders on Saturday, the Cowboys are going to lose as well.
Of course, Max Duggan's play last week suggests the Horned Frogs don't need an avalanche of turnovers to hang with the Pokes, especially in light of Tylan Wallace's season-ending injury. OSU's pedestrian defense may not be equipped to handle a well-balanced TCU attack that is finding a rhythm in the passing game.
Prediction: TCU 27, Oklahoma State 20
— 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.