A No. 18 ranking in the first CFB Playoff Rankings for the 6-2 Cowboys should have them fired up going to Manhattan. Oklahoma State is an officiating mistake away from being a one-loss team, and had been getting no respect. However, if they want that respect to continue, then they need to beat K-State on Saturday. A team coach Gundy and the Pokes have struggled against in the past.
Bill Snyder has his Wildcats right where he wants him. He can see win No. 200 in the distance, just two away. Not many are talking about the Wildcats, but they’ve quietly won three of their last four contests and are getting better offensively each week. Oklahoma State will provide a solid test to see just how far this team has come.
Date/Time: Saturday, Nov. 6, 2016, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Bill Snyder Family Stadium (Manhattan, Kansas)
Forecast: Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 74 F. Winds SSW at 10 to 15 mph.
Betting Line: KSU -2.5
Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-2, 4-1)
OSU has played well since its loss to Baylor, dominating Texas, Iowa State, Kansas and previously unbeaten West Virginia at home. The play of Mason Rudolph was key in those wins. Rudolph, who’s protected the ball well all season, didn’t commit a turnover in any of those four games. He’s playing to his potential. When Rudolph is on, he’s hard to stop.
The Cowboys are continuing to develop an honest to goodness ground game. They aren’t going to ‘wow’ anyone with rushing stats, but their run game is light years ahead of where it was last season. Freshman running back Justice Hill’s ability to cut through the defense and bust out for a long run has proven great for the offense. Hill is on pace to rush for 1,000 yards this season. The ability to run the football has helped open up the Cowboy offense, and make it easier for Rudolph and the passing game.
Defensively, Oklahoma State poses a threat to anyone in the conference. They will give up a big play or two, but have proven time and time again that their ability to create turnovers isn’t just a fluke. Last week cornerback Ramon Richards dropped an interception early in the game against WVU, but made up for it in the second half with an interception that he took inside the WVU 10 yard line. Three different times in that game the defense gave the Cowboys offense the ball with 10 or fewer yards to go. That’s a game changer, and the secondary has played better as a unit as the year goes on. They’ll look to exploit the shaky K-State passing offense.
Keys to the Game for OSU
Don’t Turn The Ball Over – It goes without saying, but the Cowboys play better when they don’t turn the ball over. If Rudolph can continue to make good decisions in the pockets and the cowboys’ running backs can hold onto the football, a lot of points will be scored Saturday.
Exploit Jesse Ertz – Ertz performance this season has been sup-par for the Wildcats’ offense. OSU has a chance to take away the threat of a passing game if the secondary continues to play well. If OSU’s defense can make the K-State offense one-dimensional, it’s going to be a long day for Bill Snyder and Co.
Rudolph To Washington – Rudolph to Washington is one of the best QB-WR duo’s in the country. It’s nearly unguardable, and if you let them get going early it’s going to be a long day for a defense. The Pokes also have a deep receiving corps which makes it hard for defenses to focus solely on Washington. Look for Rudolph to look for Washington early and often.
Kansas State Wildcats (5-3, 3-2)
Jesse Ertz has imposed his play as the season’s progressed, but coach Snyder is still looking for more out of his QB. Last week, Ertz rushed for a career-high 106 yards in a win at Iowa State. Ertz has a chance to have a big passing game against a sometimes vulnerable OSU secondary, so look for Ertz to rely on his arm more this week.
The defense struggled in the second half against ISU, letting the Cyclones outscore them 16-0 in the fourth quarter. The Cyclones recovered an onside kick to start the second half, and a poor quarterback Jacob Park pass with seven minutes left in the game resulted in a near tie game. The defense has dropped off after a strong start, and will need to be better this week.
Quietly, Kansas State is 5-3 and one win away from a bowl game. With a game against Kansas looming, the Wildcats may feel comfortable with where they are at, but make no mistake, they want to get into a good bowl game. Bill Snyder is also two wins away from No. 200 in his career. His team will be ready to play come Saturday.
Keys to the game for K-State
Run The Ball – OSU’s defense showed it is weak against the run against WVU. K-State has one of the better rush offense in the conference, so look for the offense to run the ball 40-50 times if they want to have offensive success on Monday.
Create Turnovers – K-State needs to make OSU uncomfortable and turn the ball over. If the K-State defense can capitalize on every opportunity the Cowboys give them, there is a great chance the Wildcats will be bowl eligible come Saturday evening.
Don’t Get Beat Deep – OSU’s receivers can all be a vertical threat, and unless K-State wants to be playing from a deficit from the start, they need to be the deepest players on the field at all times. You can give OSU small stuff, but don’t let Washington catch one for an 80-yard touchdown on you.
If I was betting on this game, I’m putting my money on OSU. The Cowboys are coming in hot, and if they win out have a chance to be Big 12 champs. OSU 35-31.