The time has come. After months of waiting Tulsa football returns on Thursday. Standing in front of them is the 10th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys. This game will be the 59th time OSU and TU have played an official football game against each other, which makes the Cowboys Tulsa’s 2nd most common opponent. Tulsa has won 22 of those meetings, but hasn’t won in Stillwater since 1951. Is it possible for TU to pull off the upset in Boone Pickens? Maybe, let’s get to this week’s preview.
Last season: Oklahoma State had another 10-win season, their 5th in ten years. Last year’s OSU team was pretty typical of a Mike Gundy squad. They struggled to stop people from scoring points, but won games because of their awesome offense and winning the turnover battle. Oklahoma State had a top 20 scoring offense, a top 10 passing attack, and were 10th in turnover margin.
This season: OSU returns pretty much every key player from that top 20 offense a season ago. The Cowboys begin the year ranked 10th in the preseason poll, and expectation are sky high. Many journalists have predicted them to win the big 12, and a few national writers have even put OSU in the college football playoff.
The Coach: Mike Gundy was raised in Oklahoma, and played QB at OSU from 1986-1989. He took over as head coach at OSU in 2005, and is regarded as the best head coach in Oklahoma State football history. He also has a mullet.
Best players: OSU’s receivers are regarded as the best in the country. Their top 5 WRs are probably better than every receiver in the AAC aside from Courtland Sutton. The #1 guy for the Cowboys though is James Washington (#28). Washington racked up 1380 receiving yards last season, 10th most in the nation. He is a short guy, but his athleticism allows him to play much bigger than his 6-foot frame. Washington is also crazy fast, meaning he is always a big play threat. Last season he averaged just under 20 yards/catch including 3 catches of 80+ yards.
The QB Mason Rudolph (#2) is pretty darn good too. He’ll be a first round draft pick in May, and has a chance to be OSU’s all-time leading passer. Rudolph does struggle with consistency at times, but he threw a NCAA-low 4 interceptions a season ago.
Defenesively, OSU doesn’t have any guys that are top-round NFL talents. The guys to watch will be the two safeties Tre Flowers (#31) and Ramon Richards (#7). These two seniors are lanky ball-hawks, and are the only proven commodities in OSU’s secondary.
Uniforms: OSU’s uniforms are some of the best in the nation. I’m not crazy about all the stuff they do, but for the most part their uniforms are top notch, advantage Cowboys. I also predict that Tulsa will go white-white-blue on Thursday.
Keys to the game
Get the run game going early. Last year vs Ohio State we ran the ball extremely well early on, and actually had more yards after the first quarter than Ohio State did. This will be the key all year for TU, and it holds true for this game.
No early turnovers. Last year we threw an interception on the very first play in Columbus, not good.
Get after the QB. Jesse Brubaker, Kolton Shindelar, Jeremey Smith, Frankie Davis, and Petera Wilson are great pass rushers. Last year TU was top 1/3 in sacks forced and OSU was bottom 1/3 in sacks allowed. We need to take advantage of their offensive line, it is our only way to stop the passing game.
Come out hot. OSU frequently had sluggish starts against mediocre teams last year. Tulsa has the offense to score points early if OSU doesn’t come out ready to go.
Force turnovers. This is paramount to OSU’s success this season, winning the turnover battle has been something they’ve been very good at the past couple years.
Keep things simple in the passing attack. I know going deep is a large part of their offense, but with the advantages that they have at receiver they would be best served to just throw short slants and letting the receivers go to work.
My preview: Last season everyone remembers how OSU lost to Central Michigan, but that wasn’t the only scare the Pokes had at home last season. Iowa State won 3 football games last season, but in middle October they were up 31-14 on OSU with 5:45 left in the 3rd quarter. Texas Tech won 5 games last season, but was a missed extra point away from taking the Cowboys to OT last season in Stillwater. OSU has made a habit of coming out slow at home vs inferior opponents, that is what gives me hope about this game. Offensively for TU we have some unknowns, but Philip Montgomery has been running offenses for a long time. I imagine that we will be able to run the ball well on the ground, and Monty will give single-read passes to whoever is playing QB which will allow them to feel comfortable.
Our defense is the real problem for us here. OSU has pretty much everyone returning offensively, so they probably won’t have many first-game struggles. We will have to be able to put heat on Rudolph, and our young linebackers will be tested in their ability to stop passes over the middle. Our secondary has their work cut-out for them, but an effective zone with a good pass-rush would be Tulsa’s best bet to stopping a 400 yard day for Rudolph.
Prediction: I think that Tulsa will be able to move the ball decently well offensively, but will struggle to score points. OSU will play sluggishly offensively allowing Tulsa’s defense to get a few stops, but at some point the talent will take over and OSU will cruise. OSU 38-16