The Cowboys won their 21st consecutive home opener last week, welcome the Central Michigan Chippewas to Stillwater as they look to improve to 2-0 on the season. Oklahoma State is a heavy favorite, but make no mistake, their MAC opponent is experienced, has a talented quarterback, and is capable of pulling off the upset should the Pokes not remain focused.
Date/Time: Saturday, Sept 3, 11:00 a.m. CDT
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, Oklahoma)
Forecast: Partly cloudy skies. High around 80F. Winds N at 10 to 20 mph.
TV: Fox Sports 1
Betting Line: Oklahoma State -20.5
Last week the Cowboys rush offense showed the first signs of life in over a year. The Cowboys played all five running backs, and Barry J. Sanders scored his first touchdown in a Cowboy uniform. No running back had more than six carries. It is an encouraging sign from a squad that ranked 107th on the ground last season.
The Cowboys should look to keep the focus similar to last week: start fast, score early, and get the early takeaway to feed momentum.
The defense will need to contain Chippewa senior quarterback Cooper Rush. He has 68 career touchdown passes, but made his mistakes in their season opener. He was intercepted twice and sacked against FCS opponent Presbyterian. If the Cowboys can keep him uncomfortable, we saw last week the Pokes are an opportunistic bunch – as are most Glenn Spencer defenses.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Get up early – It is an early kickoff, but there is no reason for the Cowboys to let Central Michigan stay in the game by coming out sluggish. Mason Rudolph needs to take control early and avoid making mistakes. Silly mistakes and turnovers could keep the Chippewas in a game they would otherwise have no business being in. The Cowboys don’t want to be put on upset alert after the first quarter.
Contain Cooper Rush – Last year, the Cowboy defense held rush to 28 of 41 passing with 225 yards and one touchdown on the ground in a 24-13 win. NFLDraftScout.com ranks Rush as the No. 4 quarterback prospect of the 2017 draft. The Cowboy defense needs to hold Rush to low numbers like they did last year, or else the Cowboys could be scratching their heads after the game.
Limit turnovers – We’ve already hinted at this, but Central Michigan wants to follow in the footsteps of Western Michigan, a MAC neighbor who upset Northwestern last week. If the Cowboys give them extra possessions throughout the game, they’re hurting themselves by keeping the defense on the field, which keeps their potent scoring offense on the sidelines.
The Big 12 is notorious for early kickoffs, but Boone Pickens Stadium should be rocking, with this being a bigger game than last week. The Cowboys will need the fans to be rowdy early to give them energy and help jump out to an early lead.
Oklahoma State is favored big, and they should win big. The Cowboys have bigger goals this season, and they shouldn’t let the Chippewas get in the way early. Look for the Cowboys to go to 2-0 on the year with a 52-21 victory.