The Jayhawks return home for the annual homecoming game, this time against conference foe Oklahoma State. KU is coming off a disappointing Big 12 opener in Waco at Baylor that saw the ‘Hawks fall by a 26-7 score.
OSU returned just 44% of its offensive production and 54% of its defensive production from 2017. Despite that, things were going great in Stillwater until Texas Tech showed up last week and stunned the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State Schedule
vs Missouri State, W, 58-17
vs South Alabama, W, 55-13
vs Boise State, W, 44-21
vs Texas Tech, L, 41-17
How They Rank
Following the conclusion of all the games from Week 4, OSU is ranked #15 in S&P+ (out of 130). Their offense is ranked #20 and their defense is ranked #34.
Conversely, Kansas finds itself down at #88, with the #121 offense but the #30 defense.
In the preseason, Oklahoma State was given an 84% chance to beat KU by S&P+. That number is up to 89.3%. S&P+ predicts a 21-point OSU win, 35-14.
F/+ has a very similar outlook, predicting a 22-point OSU win and giving the Cowboys an 89.4% chance for victory.
ESPN’s FPI gives Oklahoma State an 84.2% chance of victory.
Vegas has the line set at -17 as of the time of this posting.
Players to Watch
So far in 2018, OSU has a 52/48 run/pass ratio. Redshirt-SR Taylor Cornelius put in his time behind Mason Rudolph and taken the reigns of Mike Gundy’s offense for 2018. Cornelius is completing 59.4% of his passes at an 8.9 yards per attempt clip, with 8 TDs to 4 INTs. Cornelius definitely has the ability to scramble if necessary, as he’s picked up 71 yards and 2 TDs on the ground this year as well.
As expected, JR Justice Hill has led the Cowboys in rushing, picking up a whopping 8.4 ypc on 46 attempts through 4 games.
At receiver, SO Tylan Wallace leads OSU with 26 catches for 442 yards and 2 TDs.
JR linebacker Calvin Bundage leads the team in tackles with 30, but that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. Bundage has caused havoc in the backfield to the tune of 6 TFL and 1.5 sacks. However, Bundage played on basically one leg versus Texas Tech, with Mike Gundy telling reporters on Monday, “I wish he would have come out earlier.” His status for Saturday is still uncertain.
If Bundage can’t go, his cohort, SR LB Justin Phillips, is still someone to be reckoned with, as he has 24 tackles, including 4.5 TFL.
Additionally, the Cowboys will have sack masters in DE Jordan Brailford (11 tak, 6.5 TFL, 5 sk) and DE Jarrell Owens (10 tak, 3.5 TFL, 3 sk). Those aren’t just a result of playing Missouri State and South Alabama, either; of those 8 combined sacks, only 3 came in the first two games of the year. Of note: Brailford has already matched his sack total from 2017.
Keys to the Game
- Throw the ball down the field. I don’t care if it’s Bender, Kendrick, Stanley, or the waterboy, get the ball down the field and make OSU play an honest defense. Kansas has no chance if OSU is able to put 8 men in the box and dominate the line of scrimmage the way Baylor did.
- Still gotta run the ball. If both running games get going, this could be a quick game! Kansas definitely has the talent at running back to keep up with OSU, but that talent has to be put in position to be successful.
- Field position, and I don’t mean punting. Football games come down to turnovers. KU didn’t record a single turnover against Baylor, and consequently, never started a drive beyond its own 25-yard line last week. Once again, if the field position situation doesn’t improve, KU will be trying to dig out of a hole on every possession, and you saw how well that went last week against the Bears.
This can’t be good for Kansas. The Cowboys seemed like they weren’t missing a beat despite a bunch of new starters on both offense and defense, and then they laid an egg against Texas Tech last week. Oklahoma State’s offense couldn’t stay on the field (3-13 on third downs) and its defense couldn’t get off the field (Tech won TOP 41:17-18:43).
We’ve seen Kansas struggle against quarterbacks who are able to make plays outside of the pocket - Nicholls and Baylor both used the QB run game to move the ball. To make matters worse, KU has to contain Justice Hill, something that hasn’t been done yet this year.
And while the Cowboy defense got shredded to the tune of 621 yards last week, Kansas doesn’t have the downfield passing game to keep OSU honest. This one could be a laugher, folks. Oklahoma State 44, Kansas 17.