Posted on November 8, 2017, by Travis Pulver
When the 2017 college football season began, few people, if any, had Saturday’s Oklahoma State-Iowa State game circled on their calendars. With their offense, many college football fans would be eager to see Mason Rudolph go buts on the Cyclones secondary. But the game was not one anyone was expecting to be even remotely competitive.
But then the craziest thing happened.
Iowa State overcame an 11-point deficit to beat then-No. 3 Oklahoma, 38-31. A few weeks later, they took down another giant, then-No. 4 TCU, 14-7. Suddenly, they were no longer just one of the many teams standing in the way of someone else’s Big 12 title run. They were a force to be reckoned with.
Or are they? After recording a huge win over TCU, they followed it up with a loss to West Virginia. As a result, it is hard not to ask one question. Were the big wins over Oklahoma and TCU more a product of luck than talent?
Had Oklahoma not fumbled inside the five-yard line on one drive and missed a field goal on another second-half drive, the Sooners may have won. If TCU hadn’t turned the ball over three times, the outcome in that game could have been different as well.
Then again, as the saying goes, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. It certainly helped against Texas Tech when they turned three turnovers into 17 points.
If the Cyclones are counting on Oklahoma State to make a few mistakes, well—they might be in luck. The Cowboys have turned the ball over 18 times this season (seven interceptions, 11 fumbles). On the other hand, Kyle Kempt doesn’t make many mistakes. Since taking over as the Iowa State quarterback, he has thrown three interceptions (five games).
Iowa State is the only team in the country not to have lost a fumble this season.
With how the season has played out, this game has become one that appears like it will be very competitive.
So— who’s going to win?
Iowa State has been able to make the most of the opportunities that have come their way. Chances are good the Cowboys will make a few. But when push comes to shove, will the Cyclones have enough offense to make the most of them?
Kyle Kempt has done an incredible job since taking over as the team’s quarterback against Oklahoma. He can make the throws, and he can take care of the ball. Sophomore running back David Montgomery gives them a pretty decent rushing attack as well.
Oklahoma State doesn’t have a great defense. Baker Mayfield just torched them for nearly 600 yards, and they haven’t been great against the pass all season (116th in the nation; 273.3 yards/game allowed). They aren’t bad against the run (33rd; 132.2 yards/game allowed). But that could be in large part because everyone throws the ball against them.
So, it is possible to imagine Iowa State’s offense having some success against Oklahoma State. But can they stop the Cowboys high-powered offense?
Well, when you consider they did a pretty good job against TCU, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech, the answer to that question is yes. They may be able to slow down Oklahoma State’s offense. Overall, their defense is a middle of the road kind of unit (40th overall; 367.1 yards/game allowed). Their secondary is not the greatest (77th; 231.2 yards/game allowed), but they keep people out of the end zone (20th; 18.9 points/game allowed).
The oddsmakers have made Oklahoma State a 6.5-point favorite. It is not hard to imagine them beating the Cyclones by much more than a touchdown. With talents like Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Justice Hill, they can explode on offense in any given game.
But the Cyclones have shown a knack for playing mistake-free football. They’ve been able to neutralize the talent on other teams. They are an imperfect team, but when they are on, they can hang with anyone.
Straight up, the smart call would be to go with Oklahoma State, but if they win, it will be by less than a touchdown. So, take the points and Iowa State.