Posted on September 28, 2017, by Travis Pulver
When the season started, Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury had one of the hotter seats in college football. Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys entered the season with national championship aspirations. Three weeks in and Kingsbury’s seat is starting to cool off, and Oklahoma State’s playoff hopes are hanging by a thread.
Should Texas Tech win, Kingsbury’s seat will begin to ice over. Should Oklahoma State win, it will be nothing special. They are a 9.5-point favorite for a reason.
On paper, the Cowboys should win this one. They have a senior quarterback that has been around the block a few times. They have one of the best young running backs in the nation in Justice Hill. The Cowboys also have one of the more explosive wide receivers in the country in James Washington.
Oklahoma State has the offensive firepower to make this one get real ugly fast. But making it happen will be easier said than done. This year, the Red Raiders appear to have something they have had precious little during Kingsbury’s tenure.
To be fair, they are nowhere close to being in the same conversation as Alabama or Clemson. When compared to what they’ve had in recent years they are looking pretty good this season. They still allow 407.3 yards a game (86th in the nation). But they are only giving up 26.3 points a game (73rd). It certainly doesn’t hurt to have the second-best turnover margin in the nation.
Last season, they were 128th in scoring defense (43.5 points/game) and total defense (554.3 yards/game). They gave up 236.8 yards/game on the ground (116th) and still managed to give up 315.8 yards/game passing (125th).
So, yeah—they’ve come a long way. But they still aren’t a great unit. Against Oklahoma State, they will face one of the best offenses in the nation. Will they have enough firepower to slow down Mason Rudolph and company?
Texas Tech will have a chance beacause of their offense. Kliff Kingsbury has another star quarterback in Nic Shimonek (90-125 for 1248 yards, 11 touchdowns, and one interception). He’s actually ranked one spot higher than Mason Rudolph among the nation’s passers (he’s third; Rudolph’s fourth).
He doesn’t have a James Washington to work with, but Keke Coutee, Dylan Cantrell, Derrick Willies, and Cameron Batson are a nice quartet to work with.
Oklahoma State’s defense has been okay for most of the season. But while facing their first truly good offense of the season last week (TCU), they failed to get the job done. It helped that Kenny Hill had one of the more efficient games of his career. But Shimonek will almost certainly outplay Hill.
Does that mean the Cowboys don’t have a chance?
This is going to be a high-scoring game that could very well come down to whoever has the ball last. The only way that it doesn’t will be if either defense can force the other’s quarterback into making a few mistakes.
When a game has an over/under of 85.5 points, every scoring drive is going to be important. So, if one team can steal a drive or two with a timely interception, they could win the game.
Neither team is throwing interceptions this year, but Texas Tech has done a great job of causing fumbles this season (seventh in the nation). With that in mind, take the points (9.5) and look for the Red Raiders to at least keep it close.
But don’t be surprised when they win.