There’s a huge game between Oklahoma State and TCU this weekend.
The winner remains undefeated and on track for the Big 12 Championship game and in the playoff hunt. The loser is probably still a favorite for one of the two championship game spots although UT and KSU have some say in that as well. It’s expected to be a close game with both teams boasting high-scoring offenses and suspect defenses.
When I look at this game as a Cowboys fan, two things stand out to me. One gives me hope they can pull out the win but the other concerns me not just for this game but for the rest of this season.
Let’s start with the positive!
Gundy Wins Close Games
In games where the spread is between +3.5 and -3.5 Gundy’s teams are 14-3 since 2016. Since 2010 on the road with the same spread, they are 13-2 after winning in Waco two games ago. I believed the spread has moved up to +4 since I started writing this but I don’t have the exact stats on +4 to -4 so I’m just sticking to the numbers I already know!
Sure, his conservative nature irritates the fanbase a lot. Those punts in enemy territory always seem like a bad idea at the time, but the stats don’t lie. This season, a plus-territory punt turned into a safety against Baylor. It would’ve led to another against Texas Tech if safety Kendal Daniels was 6’1” instead of 6’4” so his head would hit Behren Morton’s chest instead of his face mask.
If it’s a close game the numbers favor the Cowboys so keep that in mind if the teams are trading haymakers on the way to a 48-45 finish. If it’s a slower, low-scoring game it’s time to be nervous. Why you might ask? Because of the other glaring topic, I see in this game.
The Cowboys are terrible at rushing the ball.
You might think “oh it’s not that bad” but if you take Spencer Sanders out of the equation it’s 2014-levels bad. I’m not an X’s and O’s guy so I don’t know if the lack of production is an offensive scheme problem or if the opposing defenses are loading up to stop the rush to force throws and hoping Sanders has a meltdown day like he has in the past throws 3 picks but whatever it is it needs to improve.
Dominic Richardson is a capable back and not afraid to pound out tough yards. He catches the ball well on screen and gets better at the end of games when defenses are tired but the rush attack being nonexistent early on is a serious problem. I was disappointed to see Richardson say earlier this week that he no longer held a grudge against the Horned Frogs (they pulled his scholarship offer after he had accepted to make room for a different running back) because he’s run angry against them when given the chance. The extra juice would’ve been helpful!
Sure, Sanders can make electric things happen with his legs but that needs to be a compliment to the running backs, not the number one option. The senior QB hasn’t played a single one of the previous three seasons as a starter without missing at least one game. Inviting extra hits should make all Poke fans nervous. Oklahoma State has done okay with the backup when needed but I don’t think backup Gunnar Gundy, who hasn’t taken a meaningful snap in a competitive game since his high school championship game 3 years ago, is going to beat Texas or either of the Kansas schools.
Oklahoma State needs to find a way to get 125 yards on the ground a game not counting what Sanders adds. If that’s 65 from Richardson and 35 from backup Ollie Gordon and then 25 more on jet sweeps to receivers that’s fine, just make it happen.
(Quick side note: Ollie Gordon is the future in Stillwater. He’s their next big-time back. He’s impressive as a true freshman and will be a monster next year. I expect him and Richardson to be more of a 1a and 1b by the end of this season.)
If this game is a firework show I like OSU’s chance to win but if it’s slower-paced and lower-scoring I think the lack of a strong run game may sink the Pokes.