Kicking the Tires: Oklahoma State

Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Both K-State and Oklahoma State enter this game 0-1 in Big 12 play. One team will emerge from Saturday's meeting in Stillwater still alive in Big 12 play, the other will find itself in a huge hole.

Despite K-State's majority ownership stake in We Are The Joneses, Inc., last Saturday's loss to Texas had a feeling of inevitability. This entire season has a feeling of listlessness, of drifting toward nothing. In seasons where bad things happen early, this often happens.

More than that, though, it's the inability of K-State to decide what it is, and who should be executing that. Sure, that refers to the quarterback position, but it also indicts the offensive coordinators, the defensive coordinators and their inability to adjust against Texas, and all the way up to Bill Snyder himself. This is stolen from Curtis Kitchen, but it's too good for me to reword: this team has frayed edges that even Snyder's bad teams usually don't have.

But Oklahoma State has issues of its own. The Cowboys were among the preseason Big 12 favorites, and mostly rolled through their non-conference slate. Last weekend's Big 12 opener in Morgantown, W.Va., was supposedly a walkover. West Virginia looked bad against poor non-conference competition, culminating in a 37-0 embarrassment against Maryland.

So of course, West Virginia whipped Oklahoma State's offensive line, exposed J.W. Walsh's shortcomings, and sent the Pokes home 0-1 in conference play.

That sets the stage for the game in Stillwater. K-State, on the road for the second game in a row, looks to avoid falling to 0-2 a week before facing the heretofore unstoppable Baylor Bears. Oklahoma State, at home, looking to get back on track.

Players to Watch

K-State

Passing: Jake Waters, 67-100-5, 948 yards, 4 TD, 9.48 yards/attempt, 237.0 yards/game

Rushing: John Hubert, 58 carries, 238 yards, 4 TD, 4.1 yards/carry, 59.5 yards/game

Receiving: Tyler Lockett, 29 receptions, 469 yards, 1 TD, 16.2 yards/reception, 117.2 yards/game

Oklahoma State

Passing: J.W. Walsh, 79-131-3, 964 yards, 8 TD, 7.36 yards/attempt, 241.0 yards/game

Rushing: Jeremy Smith, 52 carries, 177 yards, 6 TD, 3.4 yards/carry, 44.2 yards/game

Receiving: Josh Stewart, 19 receptions, 312 yards, 2 TD, 16.4 yards/reception, 78.0 yards/game

Walsh is actually OSU's leading rusher on the year, too. He's a threat to keep the ball and pick up yards out of zone read.

Team Statistics (stats from CFBStats.com)

Rushing Offense

K-State:75th nationally, 158.5 yards/game

Oklahoma State: 74th, 159.75 yards/game

Passing Offense

K-State: 55th, 246.8 yards/game

Oklahoma State: 17th, 314.3 yards/game

Scoring Offense

K-State: 59th, 31.8 points/game

Oklahoma State: 30th, 39.3 points/game

Rushing Defense

K-State: 90th, 185.5 yards/game

Oklahoma State: 23rd, 108.75 yards/game

Pass Efficiency Defense

K-State: 43rd, 117.17 rating

Oklahoma State: 19th, 104.84 ratings

Total Defense

K-State: 54th, 377.8 yards/game

Oklahoma State: 50th, 367.5 yards/game

While the post-West Virginia narrative on Oklahoma State is that Walsh's arm is in Case McCoy's league, the Cowboys are gaining more yards per game through the air than on the ground. Of course, that WVU game was kind of a turd (20-47-2, 322 yards, three TD). That's only 6.85 yards per attempt. Plus the interceptions, of course.

Overall, this is the lightest-armed Oklahoma State offense we've seen in a while. There's no Joseph Randle or Justin Blackmon or Dez Bryant or Kendall Hunter or Brandon Weedon lining up for the Pokes. But when you look at K-State's defensive numbers, it may not matter.

Unfortunately, Oklahoma State's looks pretty strong, statistically. Defensive back Justin Gilbert is the only player who really stands out to me, but that's probably because ballhawking plays are flashier than fundamental play by defensive linemen and linebackers. Linebacker Caleb Lavey leads the team with 33 tackles, and has 4.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks, too. Those numbers are good enough to lead the Cowboys in TFL and sacks, too. Defensive tackle Calvin Barnett anchors the Oklahoma State line, with 3.0 TFL and 1.0 sacks this year.

K-State's Advanced Defensive Stats

  • S&P+: 61st
  • PPP: 0.47, 41st
  • Success Rate: 44.3%, 84th
  • Passing Downs: 37th
  • Standard Downs: 72nd
  • Passing S&P: 28th
  • Rushing S&P: 96th

We're seeing even more clearly that K-State is a bend-don't break team defensively. But not a particularly good one. The overall S&P+ ranking is almost dead average. But look at that Success Rate. It doesn't even matter that we're pretty good on Passing Downs, considering that we never force any.

K-State's Advanced Offensive Stats

  • S&P+: 77th
  • PPP: 0.62, 25th
  • Success Rate: 50.0%, 19th
  • Passing Downs: 53rd
  • Standard Downs: 18th
  • Passing S&P: 14th
  • Rushing S&P: 50th

Other than Bill applying his anti-K-State adjustments, I'm not entirely sure how we rank so low in overall S&P+. The strength-of-schedule adjustment must be really strongly against us to end up there when we're 19th and 25th in Success Rate and Points-Per-Play. Though I still don't consider the offense the primary problem with this team -- limiting turnovers would be a big start -- these numbers aren't helping. Also, could our defense maybe force a turnover at some point? That'd be greeeaaattt.

Oklahoma State's Advanced Defensive Stats

  • S&P+: 13th
  • PPP: 0.37, 11th
  • Success Rate: 30.9%, 11th
  • Passing Downs: 51st
  • Standard Downs: 3rd
  • Passing S&P: 24th
  • Rushing S&P: 3rd

So yeah, this Pokes defense is pretty good. Interestingly, they're awesome on Standard Downs, when the offense should have the advantage, while just average on Passing Downs. Given that they're strong across the board against the run, perhaps teams are foolishly running the ball too often on Standard Downs?

Oklahoma State's Advanced Offensive Stats

  • S&P+: 32nd
  • PPP: 0.56, 54th
  • Success Rate: 46.5%, 42nd
  • Passing Downs: 20th
  • Standard Downs: 76th
  • Passing S&P: 52nd
  • Rushing S&P: 48th

Like its defense, Oklahoma State is perversely good on Passing Downs and sub-par on Standard Downs. That makes more sense with an insanely accurate passer like Colt McCoy, but Walsh is completing on 60 percent of his passes on the season.

Conclusion: Oklahoma State's offense has been unimpressive this season. The kind of unimpressive one would usually assume can be exploited. But K-State's defense has been so passive this season, there have been few turnover opportunities forced. Like Case McCoy, J.W. Walsh does not have a strong arm. But it will hardly matter if we concede a 7-10 yard cushion to Oklahoma State's receivers.

This just looks like a bad matchup overall for the Wildcats. Even if the rumors about using Daniel Sams at positions other than quarterback are true, we've passed the point of the season at which we can reasonably expect to see radical change. Maybe we see shotgun or diamond formation with both Waters and Sams in the backfield and run a bunch of zone reads with pass options off of it, but the better bet is we don't. This feels like another game where we do just enough to keep it competitive, but still end up on the wrong end of a meat-grinder.

Oklahoma State 34, K-State 24

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