A year ago, the TCU Horned Frogs hosted the Oklahoma State Cowboys late in the Big 12 slate with hopes of salvaging a disappointing season. Instead, the Pokes throttled Gary Patterson’s team in a game that was even more one-sided than the 31-6 score would indicate.
Patterson delights in getting revenge, which should have OSU on high alert in this clash of Big 12 undefeateds. Mike Gundy’s squad has looked every bit of a contender for the conference championship so far in 2017, beating its first three opponents by an average of more than five touchdowns.
TCU will pose the stiffest test yet for the Cowboys as both teams look to start off Big 12 play on a high note.
TCU at Oklahoma State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Oklahoma State -13
Three Things to Watch
1. TCU’s pass rush
For the most part, the Cowboys have kept star quarterback Mason Rudolph clean in the pocket this year, allowing just four sacks to date. The Horned Frogs will need to get to him if they want to slow down OSU’s juiced-up offense. They can’t afford to bring too many rushers, though, given how many weapons Rudolph has at his disposal.
2. Running on the Cowboys
Under new offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie, TCU is showing more dedication to the ground game. The Horned Frogs are averaging more than 40 rushes per game this season and spreading the work out between sophomore Darius Anderson and senior Kyle Hicks. They ran the ball 42 times for 195 yards versus Arkansas in week two, a sign that this rushing attack is for real.
Oklahoma State has been fairly stingy against the run this season, allowing just 3.2 yards per carry. That won’t stop TCU from testing the Cowboys’ defensive front often to see if there are any holes available for Anderson and Hicks.
3. A Hill to not die on
TCU QB Kenny Hill’s physical talents have never quite made up for his capacity to shoot his team in the foot. Namely, he can’t stop throwing interceptions. Last year, he tossed 13 of them, the most in the Big 12. Oklahoma State picked him off twice.
Putting the ball in the hands of the running backs early and often is one way to limit Hill’s mistakes without really trying.
TCU made a statement about its ability to compete in the Big 12 this season when it drummed the Razorbacks in Fayetteville. Arkansas is far from an elite team, but beating the Hogs soundly on their home field proves the Horned Frogs aren’t here to mess around. The Cowboys can’t take TCU lightly, unless they want to leave Boone Pickens Stadium with an L on Saturday.
That starts with committing to stop the run. It goes against TCU’s identity, but Gary Patterson might ask Sonny Cumbie to slow down the pace on offense, especially if the Horned Frogs find early success in how they handle OSU’s defensive line. Better to melt the clock than to give OSU’s offense too many possessions.
OSU’s defense still has plenty left to prove. We’ll possess a far better understanding of how the Cowboys look on that side of the ball once TCU gets a crack at them. Until we know for sure about that D, 13 points feels like too many to give – TCU might win the game outright.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 34, TCU 28
— 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.