After last weekend’s upset in Norman the Cowboys control their own destiny in their hunt for a second conference championship. We talked about what where we see the Cowboys in the conference race and what to expect in this week’s game against Baylor.
1. The Pokes are right back in the Big 12 Title hunt after Iowa State’s massive upset in Norman. Now that the Pokes control their own destiny again how do you feel about their chances at this point in the season?
Colin Price: I feel alright about their chances. The big thing on the board right now is that they have to beat OU. They have what they need on offense but the defense has to be ready for a pop in the mouth. They’re also going to have to slog through some good teams on the road in West Virginia, Texas, and Iowa State. I think they are more than capable of winning out but that requires them to cut out the nonsensical penalties and efficiently on both sides of the ball.
Brodie Smith: Somewhat optimistic. Now that the Pokes know what losing feels like this year, here’s hoping it understands the limited margin for error. As in, there isn’t one. My advice: just go out and have fun because you’re clearly better than any team (outside of Norman) you will face until the postseason.
Joel Penfield: There is no room for error now, Oklahoma State has to win out to make it to the Big 12 Championship. No matter who the Cowboys end up playing in that game, I think Oklahoma State has a legitimate shot to win the conference.
Micah Allen: Do I think we’re in the CFP? Let’s be real probably not. But I think at this point playing in the Big 12 championship is definitely in the realm of possibility. Maybe even winning it. I’d looove a chance at TCU again.
Cory Landes: I’ll give them a 25% chance. Bedlam is rarely a gimme, at West Virginia will be a grinder and if the Pokes end up in the title game that will be tough no matter who they play.
2. Mason Rudolph has beaten every team in the Big 12 except for Baylor. Why does that change this weekend?
Colin Price: This isn’t the same Baylor team he’s struggled with in the past. This Baylor team is very young and is having to adapt their style of play in the middle of the season to match its personnel. Not to say they won’t put up a fight; they’re running an RPO system that could give the defense fits if they’re not ready for it. But in the end, there are seven underclassmen starting for the Bears on defense and Mason may be in the mood to exorcise some demons in his senior year.
Brodie Smith: It changes because it has to. The Cowboys have to win out to make the championship game and maybe the playoff. So, there’s no pressure or anything. Really, OSU needs to play sound football and win the turnover battle by not coughing up the football this time around.
Joel Penfield: I believe it does. It’s the perfect storm of Baylor being down and Mason Rudolph being at the top of his game.
Micah Allen: His experience. He’s a senior quarterback that has played Baylor three times now. I think his confidence has built and he’s got more games under his belt.
Cory Landes: I think the obvious answer is because Baylor is struggling. That said, Baylor has been competitive in their past two games, including taking OU to the wire. The Cowboys can’t afford to overlook any team going forward.
3. Mike Gundy mentioned that Tyron Johnson will see his usage increase as the season progresses. Is this the game he finally breaks out? Why or why not?
Colin Price: I think we’ll see him rack up some good all-purpose yards since Baylor is going to have to really commit to stopping James Washington and Marcell Ateman over the top. This means that McCleskey, Stoner, and Johnson will have a lot of open looks short and over the middle. They were also starting to run him on jet sweeps so they might test that out a bit more this week.
Brodie Smith: No, I don’t believe he’ll break out, though I imagine he’ll have a respectable showing (especially in the second half should the Cowboys carry a big lead). Washington is the main threat deep and outside. McCleskey and a sure handed Ateman handle the inside and short games. Johnson can certainly be a factor as the Baylor defense will have to account for his potential explosiveness.
Joel Penfield: I am waiting for Tyron Johnson to break out. I’ve hoped for the last three games that it will be the game that he breaks out. So far, I haven’t seen it. When he gets consistent reps in the offense, he is a touchdown waiting to happen. He is too electric of a player to leave on the sidelines.
Micah Allen: Yes. We’re in the heart of Big 12 play. If there was a time to do it, it’s now. He’s been itching for a chance and I think he’s going to seize this opportunity.
Cory Landes: With Baylor breaking in two new safeties, the opportunity to exploit specific match ups should be there. With so many options for Rudolph it’s tough to predict a breakout game for any of the receivers; hopefully Johnson has flown under the radar enough to this point that defenses try to play him one on one.
4. Justice Hill is on pace for what seems like eleventy billion carries this season. In your opinion is this sustainable? Do we see more J.D. King this weekend?
Colin Price: I think he’ll be able to sustain it for awhile longer. He hasn’t shown any signs of fatigue or injury down the stretch but I still would like to see King get more carries to spread the workload out. I think he’ll get more than the two he received last week.
Brodie Smith: Yes, you’ll see more carries from J.D. King. But, Hill has certainly shown he is capable of handling the heavier workload. He’s a deceptively powerful runner with plenty of shiftiness, which are both helpful with an offensive line more structured around pass blocking.
Joel Penfield: I do think it is sustainable, but I want to see more J.D. King. He is a different type of back than Justice Hill. Hill is great in space because he can make people miss, but when it gets down towards the goal line there is not much room to maneuver. King is a lot more of a run-behind-his pads, downhill runner. Down on the goal line, that is the type of back you want. They could create a solid two-headed monster, but King needs more than one or two carries a game.
Micah Allen: I mean running equals getting hit, there’s a reason that running backs in the league don’t last long. I think J.D. King gets some carries to give Justice some rest.
Cory Landes: I’d like to see more J.D. King in the red zone. I know Yurcich has to keep defenses honest but if we’re going to waste a down with a run up the middle I’d rather see it wasted getting the ball to one of the receivers with a quick pass.
5. The Cowboys defense has really struggled getting of the field on third down this season. Why is this an issue? How can it be fixed?
Colin Price: I think a part of the third down problem is coming from the fact that the schemes are built around the skill sets of the personnel. Since they have such young corners, they play further off the line to prevent giving up the big play, leaving the short game more easily available. I think if you get the corners playing with more confidence and playing without penalties, you can put the defense into a tighter coverage on third down.
Brodie Smith: It may just be my perception, but this unit doesn’t play with the physicality you expect from a shutdown defense. Good defenses make the plays when they need to, but the Pokes haven’t unlocked the combination for consistency from kickoff to final whistle. The defensive front has to get more pressure in the backfield and make the quarterback uncomfortable early. But the secondary must play stronger without accruing costly penalties that extend drives.
Joel Penfield: I think the defense plays too conservatively on third down. They play back and try to keep everything in front of them. Normally this works, but sometimes they give too much space. The match ups and personnel they have on the field do not work at times. On third down in conference play, the Cowboys need to put their speed and athletes everywhere. The speed the defense has sideline to sideline is unheard of. That could make a difference.
Micah Allen: MAKE.YOUR.TACKLES. It seems like guys aren’t getting to guys quite quick enough and they just barely get by. I don’t really know what the solution is, other than practice and getting the young secondary some experience.
Cory Landes: A combination of things in my opinion: defensive line losing containment on mobile quarterbacks or not getting enough push, poorly designed/timed blitzes that don’t force the quarterback to make quick decisions, and to me the biggest issue is leaving linebackers in man coverage on slot receivers. To me it can be fixed by getting stops on first and second down and putting the defense in more predictable, longer third downs that come with a lower percentage of conversion.
6. It’s Homecoming week! Why does Oklahoma State have the best Homecoming in all of college football?
Colin Price: No one does it more spectacularly than Oklahoma State. The man hours, effort, and perfectionism that goes into the week as a whole is second to none and it shows.
Brodie Smith: Because orange is awesome and there’s plenty on display all weekend long. Look, I haven’t been to many homecoming festivities outside of Stillwater, so I’m not really one to comment, but the way the university and especially Greek Life creates a must-see experience is really the major contributing factor. I’ve yet to see anything like it.
Joel Penfield: You don’t find many places where a small college town gets 100,000+ people there for anything. Homecoming is a special time at Oklahoma State, it is so unique to the university because of how it is treated. Homecoming at Oklahoma State proves how much of a family environment our university is, it is an exciting time for everyone. Your realize what it means to be Loyal and True when you see students and alumni come together to love their university. Alright, I’m hopping off of my soapbox now.
Micah Allen: I love homecoming don’t get me wrong. But I never want to look at pomp paper again. No I’m kidding, it’s just the spirit. Alumni love this school and everyone coming back and sharing their memories. That’s what makes it so amazing. “Ever you’ll find us, loyal and true.” (And now I’m thinking about the fact that this is my last homecoming as a student and I’m going to cry so I better stop now.)
Cory Landes: The fans, and it goes back to the alma mater, “loyal and true”. If OSU fans didn’t show up like the do, the buzz definitely wouldn’t exist. Because they do, prominent alumni continue to return which gains even more exposure for the event.