Every year in college football, there's a team that grabs my attention early, and then falls completely off the radar until brought forcibly back to my attention. This year, that's Oklahoma State.
After opening the season with a closer-than-expected loss to Florida State, the Pokes ripped off five straight wins and achieved a top-15 ranking. Okie State was 3-0 in Big 12 play, but left Fort Worth bruised and battered* after a 42-9 loss to the Horned Frogs.
*In fairness, every team that goes to Fort Worth leaves battered and bruised.
Much like Texas Tech last year, Oklahoma State's early success was schedule driven. After the FSU loss, the Cowboys beat up on Missouri State and UTSA before opening with the conference slate with the three worst teams in the conference.
With those games behind them, the Pokes have lost two straight by a combined score of 76-19. The Cowboys are 5-3 and need one win among a closing schedule that includes games at K-State, against Texas, at Baylor and at Oklahoma to get bowl eligible.
Players to Watch
Passing: Jake Waters, 127-196-3, 64.8 percent, 1,655 yards, 8.4 yards/attempt, 9 TDs, 236.4 yards/game
Rushing: Charles Jones, 82 carries, 388 yards, 4.7 yards/carry, 9 TDs, 55.4 yards/game
Receiving: Tyler Lockett, 43 receptions, 488 yards, 13.7 yards/reception, 4 TDs, 84.0 yards/game
Passing: Daxx Garman, 123-225-9, 54.7 percent, 1,735 yards, 7.7 yards/attempt, 11 TDs, 247.9 yards/game
Rushing: Desmond Roland, 131 carries, 512 yards, 3.9 yards/carry, 7 TDs, 73.1 yards/game
Receiving: David Glidden, 28 receptions, 387 yards, 13.8 yards/reception, 1 TD, 48.4 yards/game
Those are not the offensive numbers I'm accustomed to seeing from Oklahoma State.
Before writing this preview, I could not have named a single Cowboy on the entire team other than Garman, J.W. Walsh and Tyreek Hill. These aren't the Pokes of Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Dez Bryant, to put it mildly.
K-State Advanced Stats
Success Rate: 45.8% (31st)
Rushing S&P: 55th
Passing S&P: 46th
Standard Downs: 62nd
Passing Downs: 27th
Drive Rating: 30th
Success Rate: 42.1% (77th)
Rushing S&P: 7th
Passing S&P: 38th
Standard Downs: 23rd
Passing Downs: 14th
Oklahoma State Advanced Stats
Success Rate: 38.5% (98th)
Rushing S&P: 91st
Passing S&P: 39th
Standard Downs: 73rd
Passing Downs: 49th
Drive Rating: 59th
Success Rate: 35.0% (17th)
Rushing S&P: 30th
Passing S&P: 35th
Standard Downs: 40th
Passing Downs: 31st
All unofficial signs out of Manhattan point toward continued cautious use of Jake Waters. Against Texas, Waters had only five non-sack carries, which I'm confident is a season low for him. He's clearly banged up and we're saving him as much as possible for the closing TCU/West Virginia/Baylor gauntlet. The Pokes are solid on defense and do a very good job of keeping teams off schedule, as that top-20 Success Rate shows. That concerns me, but K-State's been better on Passing Downs than Standard Downs all season anyway, so it's not like winning a game that way would be anything new.
Oklahoma State is probably in for a rough day on offense. They can't stay on schedule and live and die by the big play, which is the one thing K-State emphasizes, and is very good at, taking away. This could be very much a repeat of last weekend on defense for K-State. Travis Britz and Valentino Coleman will look to eat up blocks to keep Jonathan Truman and Dakorey Johnson free to make plays. The Cowboys have been terrible running the ball this year anyway, which should free up the safeties to ensure they don't get beat deep. Stuff the run, blanket the field on pass plays and get after the quarterback on third-and-long. This defensive formula is as predictable as the sunset by now.
With Waters limited at quarterback and a stout defense facing another offensively challenged team, this is another good bet for the under. It would be nice if K-State could capitalize on early opportunities in this one and put the Cowboys in a big hole early, unlike last week's field goal-fest against Texas. But I'm not betting on that, either.
K-State 31, Oklahoma State 10