Getting to know: Oklahoma State football
A young Kansas football team will have its hands full this weekend in the first home Big 12 game of the year.
Oklahoma State, a trendy Big 12 contender thanks to a high-powered offense, enters this week’s matchup with a 2-0 (1-0 Big 12) record. The offense hasn’t been as good as advertised through two games, though the Cowboys have actually been carried by their defense thus far.
But that might make OSU even more of a threat, to be honest, especially if the offense hits its stride. Oklahoma State is one of only 10 programs to post a winning season every year from 2010-19. The team is 58-31 in Big 12 Conference games since 2010, a mark that ranks second in the league during that span.
Because of all that, this will be a tall task for a KU team relying on a lot of young players during its 0-2 (0-1 Big 12) start to the season. The Jayhawks played a total of 24 freshmen and sophomores last weekend in their lopsided loss to the Bears.
That experience disparity is evident in this week’s point spread, too. According to FanDuel’s Sportsbook, Kansas is a 22.5-point underdog in its home matchup with Oklahoma State. OSU has won 10 consecutive meetings against KU, a streak that should almost certainly continue this weekend based on that spread.
Kickoff is slated for 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
BREAKING DOWN OKLAHOMA STATE:
Quarterback — Sophomore Spencer Sanders might be back under center for the Cowboys this week. Freshman Shane Illingworth served as the signal caller in his place last weekend in the team’s win over West Virginia. Sanders, the 2019 Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year, set an OSU freshman record by throwing for 2,065 yards last fall.
Sanders is an aggressive passer who often is looking to make plays downfield. He is capable of moving around in the pocket to extend plays for those deep shots, too. This aggressiveness can lead to turnovers, but it will be interesting to see if he takes a leap in that area with more experience under his belt.
Running backs — This player needs no introduction, but Chuba Hubbard will be KU’s primary focus on the defensive side of the ball this weekend. Hubbard finished last season as the FBS leader in rushing yards, rushing yards per game, 100-yard rushing games, 200-yard rushing games and all-purpose yards per game. His 2,094 rushing yards in 2019 marked the 16th-highest season total in FBS history.
Hubbard’s patience and vision are two of his better traits, as he figures to be one of the top prospects in next year’s rookie running back class.
Receivers — Senior Tylan Wallace leads Oklahoma State’s talented receiver unit. He ranks second among active FBS players with 2,689 career receiving yards, which ranks sixth in OSU history. Wallace led all Power Five players with 112.9 receiving yards per game before his injury in 2019. Senior Dillon Stoner, junior Braydon Johnson and senior Landon Wolf are some of the key receivers behind Wallace.
Offensive line — From left to right: Redshirt freshman Jake Springfield, redshirt junior Josh Sills, redshirt senior Ry Schneider, redshirt sophomore Hunter Woodard and redshirt senior Teven Jenkins are slated to start for OSU on the offensive line. Both Springfield and Woodard earned their first career starts last weekend against West Virginia. Sills is a graduate transfer from West Virginia.
Defensive line — Cowboys have plenty of depth along the defensive line, but the four starters listed in the game notes are Trace Ford (DE), Brendon Evers (DT), Cameron Murray (DT) and Tyler Lacy (DE) ahead of this week’s matchup. Murray already has six stops through two games to lead the defensive line, while notching two tackles for loss and one sack in the process. Lacy has four tackles, and Ford was credited with a strip-sack against West Virginia.
Linebackers — A pair of seniors are slated to start at the two linebacker positions for Oklahoma State. Amen Ogbongbemiga is coming off a career-best 13-tackle performance against West Virginia. He also led the team with 15.5 TFL and five sacks just a season ago. Malcolm Rodriguez has a team-high 17 tackles on the year after pacing the defense with 103 total stops last year.
Secondary — It will be interesting to see who redshirt senior Rodarius Williams matches up with this weekend. Through two games, Williams ranks No. 2 in FBS with five pass breakups. He was PFF’s National Defensive Player of the Week following his last game, in which he didn’t give up a single yard in 50 coverage snaps.
Jarrick Bernard-Converse, who has started 24 consecutive games, is the team’s other cornerback. Kolby Harvell-Peel, Tre Sterling and Tanner McCalister are all expected to start in the OSU secondary as well.
SPECIAL TEAMS — Redshirt sophomore Alex Hale is the team’s starting kicker this season. He has made his first five field goal attempts thus far, which includes a long of 44 yards. Punter Tom Hutton is a 30-yard-old true sophomore, who was recruited by ProKick Australia.
VEGAS SAYS… KU opened as a 21.5-point underdog, and I suggested that the cover might be in play earlier this week. That was simply because the total of 54.5 points would imply that Kansas doesn’t really have to score much to stay within three touchdowns.
But the more I think about it, the less confident I am that Oklahoma State’s offense will be contained for the third game in a row. This feel likes a get-right spot for the Cowboys on their way to entering the Big 12 title game discussion.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 49, Kansas 20