It’s week three of the post where analysis matters and the points don’t.
Here’s the rules: Every week, each writer picks the player they think will be the MVP on offense, defense, and special teams for OSU and their opponent. If a player has the best game out of those chosen, the writer who picked him gets a point. We’ll keep track of the points through the season.
Here are the standings after week two:
1. Cade - 7 points
Christopher - 7 points
3. Dustin - 6 points
4. Joel - 5 points
5. Phillip - 4 points
This week Oklahoma State looks to rebound against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, while some of us look to rebound from a terrible week 2 (Phillip!).
O - Mason Rudolph | D - Jordan Burton | ST - Matt Ammendola
Offense: I do believe last week’s loss will light a fire under the team, especially Rudolph, who had one of the worst games of his OSU career. Pittsburgh is giving up an average of 255 yards a game so far to less than stellar competition. I think Rudolph plays lights out and even gets some yards on the ground as OSU tries to figure out its Red Zone issues.
Defense: Burton leads the team in total tackles after two games. With as much as Pitt will rely on it’s star running back James Connor, I think Burton is going to have plenty of opportunities to continue to add to his already impressive season.
Special Teams: He was called upon last week to kick a 53 yard field goal, and he nailed it. He also got two touchbacks on three kick-offs. I think we’re going to start seeing more of the Ammendola we expected coming into the season, than the one in Game 1.
O - James Conner | D - Jordan Whitehead | ST - Quadree Henderson
Offense: I realize this is the obvious choice, but not just because of the carries. Through the first two games, Conner has 7 catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns to go with his 175 rushing yards and two rushing TD’s.
Defense: I’m going with Whitehead over defensive leader Ryan Lewis (who I’m sure a few people will pick). Whitehead hasn’t been a slouch this season. He’s second in total tackles and has 1.5 tackles for a loss. He also has a pass breakup, a pass defended and a recovered fumble. He’s been everywhere and will likely have his name called a few times on Saturday.
Special Teams: He’s their go-to return man, with four punt returns for 58 yards and four kick returns for 214 yards and touchdown. Plus their kicker has missed all three field goal attempts.
O - Mason Rudolph | D - Chad Whitener | ST - Ben Grogan
Offense: Not much has changed on my perception of Mason Rudolph. No, he didn't have a spectacular game last week, but I expect him to bounce back in a big way, and I expect Yurcich to oblige him with a better called game. Look for QB1 to have a big game.
Defense: The Pitt Panthers have quite a rushing attack, led by James Conner. He will be a tough out for this defense, and will be unlike anything they have seen. Conner is an NFL-ready Running Back, and Whitener will be called on in run support all day. If he plays a good game, he should see double-digit tackles.
Special Teams - Always take the kicker. Always.
O - James Conner | D - Tyrique Jarrett | ST - Quadree Henderson
Offense: James Conner is an absolute stud. He would've been a Heisman candidate last season, but he was fighting larger battles. Conner was diagnosed with Lymphoma before the start of the 2015 season. He's now recovered, and he is a man on a mission. He had a huge game against Penn State last weekend, and while I don't expect OSU to let him run wild, he will be a tough out for the Pokes.
Defense: I'm taking the Nose Guard, Tyrique Jarrett. Brad Lundblade looked overmatched last weekend against Central Michigan, and that was against someone who is not to the caliber of Tyrique Jarrett. Jarrett had 4 solo tackles last week against Penn State, and could see his way into the backfield a few times on Saturday. Hopefully I'm wrong.
Special Teams: Here's another pick that I'm hoping I'm wrong about. Remember what I said about always taking the kicker? Yeah, well, always take the kicker unless you have Quadree Henderson returning kicks for your team. Henderson ran a kick back for a touchdown in week one, and had an 84-yard return last week. He is a dynamic player at the receiver position, but has game-changing ability returning kicks.
O – Mason Rudolph | D – Chad Whitener | ST - Ben Grogan
Offense: This is the first time this year I’ve picked Mason Rudolph, and I highly doubt it’s the last. I’m expecting the Cowboy quarterback to have something to prove after his below average performance last week. Pittsburgh’s defense gave up 332 yards through the air to Penn State on Saturday, and I believe OSU’s QB1 will put up big numbers against the Panthers. I expect Mason to show more poise in the pocket this week and connect on throws that he missed against Central Michigan.
Defense: Chad Whitener has been pretty solid at the middle linebacker spot so far this year. He has eight total tackles with seven of them being solo. With the amount of times that I expect Pitt to run the ball, I think Whitener will see a lot of action and will have the chance to make something happen for Cowboy defense. The Panthers have 427 rushing yards on 90 attempts through two games this year.
Special Teams: Grogan is perfect on the year so far, 10/10 on extra points and 3/3 on field goals. I’m going to select him for the second straight week, and may keep picking him until he proves me wrong. Although, I was impressed by the long field goal from the Cowboys’ other kicker, Matt Ammendola, last week, so he could be a potential future pick at the special teams spot for me.
O – James Conner | D – Ryan Lewis | ST - Quadree Henderson
Offense: Similar to picking Cooper Rush of CMU last week, I believe James Conner is the obvious selection for the Panther offense. If you haven’t heard about this guy, go check out the feature on him from ESPN's College GameDay last week. The Pittsburgh running back ran for 117 yards and a touchdown last week against Penn State. Along with his dominance on the ground, he also hauled in four receptions for 29 yards and another score. He’s totaled 39 rushing attempts and has seven receptions through the first two games for 215 total yards and three touchdowns. I think the Cowboys’ front seven will be able to slow him down, but I still see Conner having a decent showing and most likely getting in the end zone one way or another.
Defense: Panther defensive back Ryan Lewis is a red shirt senior who is finally seeing significant playing time this year, and he is making the most of it. Lewis has 13 solo tackles through the first two games of the 2016. He also made his first career interception to seal the win against Penn State last week.
With the amount of times I believe Oklahoma State will throw the ball, I could see Lewis being involved in a fair amount of plays on Saturday.
Special Teams: As Cade mentioned last week, picking the kicker is always the smart play, but I feel like living on the edge a little bit this week. Or maybe I’m just not a smart man. But, I’m going with Pitt return man Quadree Henderson. The Panther receiver is lethal on kickoff returns. He averaged 28 yards per return last year with one touchdown and so far this year he has totaled four returns for 214 total yards and a touchdown. He recorded the touchdown in the first week and then he almost took one back last week against Pitt, as well. I really hope he doesn’t, but I think the potential is there for a big play from the 5’8 speedster who set his high school’s record in the 100 meters.
O - Mason Rudolph | D - Vincent Taylor | ST - Ben Grogan
Offense: Pitt gave up over 300 yards passing to Penn State last week, and given the state of the Cowboy running game, I would expect OSU to throw it early and often. With McCleskey breaking out for over 100 yards receiving last week, it looks like Mason will have options and hopefully he will bounce back from a poor outing last week and distribute the ball more accurately and more consistently.
Defense: Conversely, Pitt threw for under 100 yards last week but ran the ball incredibly effectively. I'm not sure the Pitt passing game is good enough to take advantage of what appears to be the weaker aspect of this Cowboy defense, so I expect them to do what they do - run the ball and control the clock. Vincent Taylor is the best of a strong group of DL and should have about 50 opportunities to tackle Panther backs throughout the game. I'm betting he makes good on a lot of those chances.
Special Teams : Until this offense operates at a higher level in the red zone, Grogan will continue to be the easy pick here. Sanders got next to no run last week against CMU, so it's tough to take him even though he looked explosive against Southeastern Louisiana the week before. McCleskey is a threat on punt returns, but its too sporadic for me. Grogan may lose a long chance here and there to Amendola, but he's still the best bet for the Cowboys special teams unit.
O - James Conner | D - Ryan Lewis | ST - Quadree Henderson
Offense: Conner is a feel good story, but more than that, he's the man that makes the Panther offense go. The Pokes have been tough against the run so far this season, but this is by far the best rushing attack and the best talent at RB that they will have faced. Even if Conner is bottled up by the Cowboy defense, it's hard to see anyone else from the Pitt offense really breaking loose here. Conner could easily get 25+ carries and I'm betting he's productive behind a pretty good offensive line.
Defense: Penn State threw the ball A LOT against this Panther defense last week and that gave Ryan Lewis the opportunity to rack up the tackles. He finished with nine and leads the team coming into Saturday. I expect the Cowboys will attack the Pitt defense in much the same way, mostly because they don't appear to have much of a viable option. Lewis will get his chances again, I just hope those tackles are all 10+ yards downfield.
Special Teams: Pitt comes in having missed all three FG attempts on the season, so I'm not exactly excited about the idea of taking their kicker. Instead, I'll take Henderson, the guy who has led the team in total yards both games so far this season. Hopefully he gets 7-8 kickoff return chances and, at that point, even mediocre returns would net him some solid total yardage numbers. All he may have to do to outperform their kicker is avoid turning the ball over multiple times, and I think he can probably manage that.
O - James Washington | D - Chad Whitener | S- Zach Sinor
Offense: James has to break out at some point, and I'm hoping it's this week.
Defense: Whitener will be in on a lot of plays and make a lot of tackles. I except the defense to play angry this week.
Special Teams: Sinor punted a lot last week, but the majority of his kicks changed field position quite well. On multiple occasions, he pinned CMU inside the 20, and once inside the 5. Hopefully he can do the same this week.
O - James Conner | D - Bam Bradley | S - Chris Blewett
Offense: In December, he was diagnosed with cancer, he spent the first part of the year going through chemotherapy, and he beat it this summer. And now he's playing football at a high level again. Kudos to this guy, I admire him for sure.
Defense: First of all, what a name. Secondly, he totaled 33 tackles last season and has gotten good playing time so far this season. He'll have a good game playing downhill at the linebacker position.
Special Teams: Blewett led the Panthers in points last year. He'll get into field goal range a few times and is automatic.