Game of the Week: Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
Bedlam week is finally here and generating as much excitement as ever. With No. 8 TCU’s loss to No. 15 Iowa State last week, No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 11 Oklahoma State now sit at a four-way tie atop the Big 12 standings with the Horned Frogs and the Cyclones.
Both teams are still very much in the hunt for the College Football Playoff, but they are well aware that another loss could eliminate them from contention.
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has not disappointed in his first year taking over for the legendary Bob Stoops. The Sooners may still have the best win of the entire season so far with their week two upset victory over the now No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes on the road.
Oklahoma State came into this season with arguably the highest expectations it has had in head coach Mike Gundy’s 11-year tenure. Many still believe that this year’s Oklahoma State team may be the best he has ever fielded, including his 2011 team that may have played for the BCS National Championship if not for a stunning late regular season loss at Iowa State.
The quarterback matchup is as enticing as it gets with two Heisman Trophy candidates in Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph.
Mayfield broke the single-season NCAA record in passing efficiency last season and he is on pace to surpass that mark again this year. The former walk-on, senior quarterback ranks first among power-five quarterbacks in completion percentage (72.5 percent), yards per attempt (11.1) and passer rating (199.7).
Rudolph, on the other hand, has continued to add to his remarkable career in his senior season. He currently leads the NCAA in passing yards with 2,268, is second among power-five quarterbacks in yards per attempt (10.4) and fourth in passer rating (175.5).
Mayfield may garner all the headlines for the Sooners, but they have a very deep stable of running backs to complement him. True freshman Trey Sermon, and sophomores Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson, have all rushed for over 400 yards behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation. Adams also is averaging 10.4 yards per carry.
Mayfield has a plethora of options on the outside at his disposal as well. Mark Andrews has emerged as one of the best tight ends in college football with a team-leading 599 yards and four touchdowns so far.
Oklahoma may have lost Nick Basquine to an Achilles injury in preseason camp, but receivers like CeeDee Lamb, Marquise Brown, Jeff Badet and Dimitri Flowers have all been super reliable.
Oklahoma State sophomore running back Justice Hill has already totaled 836 yards this season after a 1,100-yard true freshman season a year ago. Hill was injured against West Virginia last weekend and his status is uncertain for this weekend. If he is not able to go, freshman J.D. King is a viable replacement. King ran for 142 yards and a touchdown in replacement for Hill last week.
The true bread and butter of Oklahoma State’s offense, however, is its wide receiving corps, which is one of the most talented the sport has seen in years.
James Washington has already eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards on the year, which marks the third season in a row he has done so. He also ranks eighth in the country in yards per catch with 22.3. Marcell Ateman is an outstanding possession receiver with 6-foot-4 size and big-play ability, while the speedy Jalen McCleskey is a perfect complement. Then there’s LSU-transfer Tyron Johnson and redshirt freshman Dillon Stoner and the Cowboys have an embarrassment of riches on the outside.
As explosive as both offenses are, the defenses are rather pedestrian units, like most Big 12 defenses. However, the Cowboys have been pleasantly surprising on this side of the ball at times. Gundy’s defense will give up yards, but it ranks 16th in the nation in defensive passing efficiency and 25th against the run.
Oklahoma’s defense has been a different story. The Sooners rank just 44th against the rush, and have been abysmal defending the pass since the season-ending knee injury to Jordan Parker in the beginning of the season. They now rank just 99th in the FBS in defensive passing efficiency and 57th in total defense.
Gundy has lost to Oklahoma in eight of the last ten years and has the pieces this season to change the narrative. This could be the first of two matchups between these two teams this season, as they could easily match up once again in the Big 12 championship game at the end of the season.
There will be a lot of points scored in this game, as both quarterbacks are primed to put up huge numbers on Saturday.
It should be a wildly entertaining shootout, but Oklahoma State will make one more key defensive stop than Oklahoma and add a statement win to their resume. The Cowboys, behind Rudolph and these wide receivers against Oklahoma’s porous secondary, will end Oklahoma’s playoff hopes in a thrilling shootout.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 49, Oklahoma 45
Will Desautelle is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.