Oklahoma State might be the best team in the Big 12 and a legitimate College Football Playoff contender.
Yet hardly anyone outside the Big 12 seems to know that, let alone mention it.
With the nation’s No. 3 defense in total yards (282.8 yards per game) and No. 8 scoring defense (16.4 points), the Cowboys could compete against almost any team in the nation.
Super-senior linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez set the tone by racking up 86 tackles and nine quarterback hurries. Rodriguez also snagged the No. 5 spot on Oklahoma State’s all-time career tackles list, ahead of linebacker Sim Drain, at 372.
Freshman defensive end Collin Oliver leads the team with 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. As a team, the Cowboys have a nation-best 37 sacks.
The defense has put Oklahoma State in position to win the Big 12 regular-season title, grab a spot in the conference title game and, given some outside help, perhaps crack the CFP’s top 4.
Questions remained, though, about whether the offense could provide enough support.
Quarterback Spencer Sanders had turnover problems and struggled moving the ball early in the season. I noted those issues before Oklahoma State played Texas and wrote that Sanders’ performance would play a large role in determining the game’s outcome.
He had a decent showing with 2 total touchdowns, a 60% completion rate for 178 yards and just one interception.
The Cowboys erased a 24-13 deficit and won 32-24.
Sanders may not have dominated, but he did what was needed. He took the check downs and screen passes when available and occasionally took a shot downfield.
That trend has continued and contributed to a 9-1 record (6-1 Big 12).
A 24-21 loss at Iowa State is the only black mark since the Texas game, but Sanders threw three touchdowns and committed zero turnovers. In fact, Sanders has tossed just two interceptions over the last five games and accounted for 11 touchdowns.
Performances like that will keep championship dreams of any kind a reality.
Sanders passed for 157 and 182 yards and four total touchdowns in the wins over Kansas and West Virginia respectively.
Defense Still Leads the Way
The Oklahoma State defense held Kansas to 44 rushing yards and 99 passing yards while the Mountaineers mustered just .5 yards per carry and 2.3 yards per play.
Since the defense dominated those two opponents, the Cowboys just needed an efficient effort from Sanders.
A similar scenario played out during the 63-17 victory against TCU last Saturday. Oklahoma State’s defense held TCU out of the end zone until the fourth quarter and recorded seven sacks.
Sanders complimented that with 235 passing yards and a touchdown on 17-of-25 completions. He also carried the ball 10 times totaling 53 yards.
The running game has helped take pressure off Sanders too.
Running back Jaylen Warren posted 103 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries versus the Horned Frogs. He is a workhorse, averaging 104 per game and 5 yards per carry.
Oklahoma State possess the ingredients for championship runs.
The Cowboy’s best defense in recent memory will lead the way. If Sanders and the offense keep playing efficiently and protect the ball, Oklahoma State will emerge with its first conference title since 2011.