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Kicking the Tires: Oklahoma State Cowboys

K-State took a gut-punch loss to Baylor last week. The Wildcats look to recover at home against Oklahoma State.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, I hate it when my predictions are right:

Playing on the road is a different deal, and who knows what the team’s mentality is right now. If they play with the fight they showed in the second half against Texas, then they could get a win in Waco. Anything less, and this will probably be a bitter, crushing loss.

So now K-State is 2-4 and still hasn’t played either Oklahoma school, TCU, or a Texas Tech team that’s suddenly … decent? In any event, it’s almost impossible to see a path to bowl eligibility for K-State now.

That said, Oklahoma State has had a few struggles since its big home win over Boise State. The Cowboys followed up that game with a blowout loss in Stillwater to Tech, then somehow allowed 48 points to Iowa State’s previously anemic offense last week in yet another home loss. So Oklahoma State is struggling, but is it enough to lose on the road to a K-State team that’s even more dysfunctional?

Players to Watch


Passing: Skylar Thompson, 62-110-3, 56.4%, 750 yards, 6.8 yards/attempt, 5 TDs, 125.0 yards/game

Rushing: Alex Barnes, 104 carries, 607 yards, 5.8 yards/carry, 5 TDs, 101.2 yards/game

Receiving: Isaiah Zuber, 36 receptions, 445 yards, 12.4 yards/reception, 3 TDs, 74.2 yards/game

Oklahoma State

Passing: Taylor Cornelius, 117-192-6, 60.9%, 1,830 yards, 9.5 yards/attempt, 16 TDs, 305.0 yards/game

Rushing: Justice Hill, 101 carries, 643 yards, 6.4 yards/carry, 7 TDs, 107.2 yards/game

Receiving: Tylan Wallace, 35 receptions, 628 yards, 17.9 yards/reception, 4 TDs, 104.7 yards/game

Outside of the Pokes’ baffling power outage against Texas Tech, they have been elite on offense. The only thing really holding OSU back has been turnovers. Cornelius has thrown six picks in six games, and the Cowboys have lost four fumbles this year. Losing Jalen McCleckey to midseason transfer hasn’t helped, either. McCleskey is still fifth on the team in receiving production, despite not playing for two weeks.

Linebacker Justin Phillips leads Oklahoma State with 42 tackles and 6.5 TFL on the year. Calvin Bundage also returns at linebacker and has another 7.0 TFL. Defensive end Jordan Brailford has eight sacks on the year. Interestingly, all that disruption up front has not translated much into turnovers for OSU. The normally aggressive Pokes defense has only four interceptions.

Advanced Stats

Thanks as always to jeffp for the charts.

K-State’s offensive run game numbers look a lot like the better versions of Tom Hayes’ bend-but-don’t-break defense. The Wildcats aren’t very efficient running the ball, but when they get the opportunity for a big play, they make the most of it. OSU is basically the opposite; pretty good on an every-down basis against the run, but susceptible to giving up big plays. Carry us to freedom, Alex Barnes.

The Wildcats rank below 100th nationally by every advanced passing stat, while the Pokes are about average across the board, with one big exception. That’s in sack rate, where Brailford is carrying the OSU defense. K-State’s offensive line is 116th nationally by the same stat, so Skylar Thompson will have to get the ball out quickly. I’m sure our comparative advantage running the ball won’t prevent us from calling 50/50 downfield passes into triple coverage to Dalton Schoen, though.

Offensively, OSU is pretty efficient and very explosive running the ball, while K-State’s defense would make Tim Tibesar proud with all its sub-100 ratings against the run. Justice Hill will probably run wild against K-State’s porous front. When Mike Gundy gets bored with Hill gashing us for big gains, he’ll probably let Cornelius fling it around a bit, something he does rather well. OSU is top-25 in passing efficiency, and is near-elite in generating big plays off the pass. Interestingly, K-State is a top-10 defense at preventing such explosive passing plays, but are getting gashed on an every-down basis.


Something doesn’t add up about the projections for this game. Oklahoma State ranks 21st by S&P+, while K-State is 97th. And yet, Vegas is only giving the Wildcats seven points in this one. Yeah, it’s at home, but that doesn’t explain what really should be at least a two-touchdown line. For its part, S&P+ predicts Oklahoma State will easily cover the seven.

Is there a path to victory for K-State here? If so, then it’s pretty difficult to see. The Wildcats will need to avoid turnovers and other mistakes, which isn’t something they’ve done well to this point. OSU is somewhat turnover prone, so it’s possible the Pokes will help us out. In a world where OSU didn’t have such a potent rushing attack, then I’d have some optimism that K-State could slow down OSU enough to have a chance. But I don’t have that much hope.

Cowboys 38, Wildcats 17