Hey Cowboy fans, what are you doing New Year’s Eve?
If you said anything other than “watching the College Football Playoffs”, you need to change your plans… because Oklahoma State is going to be in them! That’s right, I’m on the wagon! My orange tinted glasses are on. I’m on the hype train and you should be too. All aboard, folks!
Look, I get that the team is flawed. There are teams out there that look a whole lot better than OSU does. There are teams in their own conference that look better than the Cowboys. But you know what, one of those better looking teams came into the house that Boone built Saturday and caught a beat down. Very few people even gave OSU a chance, but they never doubted themselves. They’ve been through too much already to count themselves out of any game. They’ve taken gut punches that should put you down and they just shrugged them off. How many teams can give two defensive touchdowns to Texas in Austin and win? Not many squads can spot Texas Tech seventeen points in Lubbock and come out victorious. Almost no one wins overtime games at night in Morgantown. That place is just….. different.
But that’s what’s Gundy’s boys have done all year: overcome and WIN.
Saturday night is what pushed me over the edge and made me a believer this team will go all the way through conference play unbeaten. The season may not have been pretty up until then, but what happened in Stillwater against the Horned Frogs was a masterpiece. The offense showed what it can do to a defense when you spend too much time preparing for J.W. Walsh’s wildcat package. Mason Rudolph and James Washington looked like Weeden and Blackmon reborn!
Gone are the runs up the middle over and over that had orange clad fans pulling their hair out the first 6 games. They’ve been replaced with sweeps and reverses. The tempo is back instead of all the huddling up to slow the game down. An offensive line that can’t run block at all holds up well against a pass rush so the head coach is finally letting Yurcich dial up the deep throws. And if you want to work your defense all week to stop the air raid, Gundy will roll out Walsh and zone read you into submission. Just ask the Red Raiders.
Add that to the fact that the defense has been phenomenal and this team will be hard to beat from here on out. Don’t fall into the ‘yards per game’ trap when judging the Cowboy defenders. That stat has been nonsense for a while now. Think about this: OSU versus TCU had 38 offensive possessions and a combined score of 78 points. That’s 2.05 points per possession. Alabama versus LSU had 22 possessions for 46 total points. That’s 2.09 points per drive. Despite the all the fireworks and flare from the Big 12 offenses, the defenses managed to keep points from happening with the same efficiency as the big bad SEC juggernauts. More possessions from the uptempo spread means more opportunities for points. Teams like the Crimson Tide and the Tigers slow the game down and it inflates how good the defenses look on paper. Only giving up 17 points and 270 yards is impressive until you see that it came against only 6 possessions.
But that’s a discussion for another time, let me get back to the point.
What matters is points scored and Glenn Spencer’s defense will keep you from scoring. Without the run game to keep Boykin and company on the sideline last weekend the Pokes decided to instead keep him on the field as much as possible. Score fast and let the defense make them chew up clock. And it worked beautifully. Even when TCU needed 3 scores in the 4th quarter, OSU forced them to go underneath the defense and use up 7 minutes of time only to be stopped on downs one the one-yard line. Add in that the game plan forced four interceptions along with two failed fourth down conversions and it’s hard to argue that the defense played bad even though they gave up 663 yards.
Despite the flaws, this team has the strengths are tremendous, although unconventional. They can strike fast with Rudolph and the receivers. They can grind you out with J.W. Walsh. They can pressure the quarterback with Ogbah and exotic blitzes, or they can sit back and play coverage with four experienced corners. They are fluid and have the ability to outmatch your game plan, no matter what it is, both offensively and defensively. I’m not sure I’ve seen a team more versatile than this one, and I mean ever.
Here’s what’s great right now about Oklahoma State, and what makes them so dangerous to everyone else: Gundy finally stopped trying to make the team what he wants it to be, power running and ball control, and is instead letting them play to their strengths. He put his ego aside and focused on the task at hand. And thanks to all the stumbling around to start the year they are unshakable. What can possibly be done to them that they haven’t already experienced in another game? They are battle tested in a way that no one else they have yet to face has even come close to.
All of this is a perfect storm for Oklahoma State. On top of that, getting to face off against the other contenders inside Boone Pickens Stadium pretty much seals the deal. So get ready, Cowboy faithful. The last quarter of the season will be one for the history books!
And it all ends with a playoff berth.
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