It’s Homecoming weekend, which means that a lot of people target this weekend to try and come back to Lawrence and catch a football game. Given the up and downs of this Kansas team, it’s hard to know what to really expect. To help prepare us for this game, I reached out to Phillip Slavin over at Cowboys Ride For Free, the SB Nation site that covers the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: Coming into the season, I heard many conflicting reports of expectations for this team. What were your expectations for the Cowboys and how have they lived up to them so far?
CRFF: Yes and no. I predicted the team to go 8-4 this season before it started. Technically, they’re still on track for that, as I had them losing to Boise State and beating Texas Tech. That said, I am significantly less confident in this team at the moment, and specifically the offense. I think it’s more than just “Taylor Cornelius can’t throw a deep ball” or “the offensive line stinks” (it’s not that bad by the way). I still think this Cowboy team is more likely to win 8 games than 5, but we will just have to see how they rebound this week and moving foward.
RCT: With the exception of last week, this seems to be a really high-powered OSU offense. Who are the key players on that side of the ball?
CRFF: No. 1, 2, and 3 is Justice Hill. The best running back in the Big 12 has looked like it through four games. He has 388 yards and 5 touchdowns on just 46 carries. Behind him are three guys who could start for a lot of teams; J.D. King, LD Brown, and Chuba Hubbard the Canadian speedster. They will be utilized in the running and passing game.
Speaking of the passing game, true sophomore Tylan Wallace is the next great OSU wide receiver. And by next I mean, now. He’s become quarterback Taylor Cornelius’ go-to pass catcher. But he’s not the only one, with reliable Dillon Stoner and uber-athletic Tyron Johnson also out there ready to go.
RCT: Given the OL and QB problems that KU has had this year, the most important part of the OSU defense might be the line. How much should KU fans be worried about them?
CRFF: Well, Oklahoma State leads the nation in sacks with 19 through four games and is fifth in tackles for a loss with 38. And it’s not just the line, it’s also the ends and the safties that get brought up to get involved in blitzes and pressure. Boise State hd four fumbles they recovered in that game that could have made it an even bigger win for the Cowboys. If the Kansas QB can’t get the ball out quickly or the O-line doesn’t do a good job, there could be a LOT of Cowboys in the backfield on Saturday.
RCT: The biggest storyline of the game is probably the battle of the two best running backs in the Big 12, Justice Hill vs. Anthony “Pooka” Williams. Who do you think has the edge, both in this matchup and for the rest of the season?
CRFF: I really like Pooka, but I’m not convinced he’s better than David Montgomery at Iowa State just yet. That being said, he’s going to be a stud for the next few years. I am excited to watch him on Saturday. The question is, does either back get enough carries in this game? If Kansas is down big early, will the Jayhawks be able to run the ball much? On the flip side, Coach Gundy has seemed hesitant to really let Hill work, holding him to just 11.5 carries a game. I think Hill has the edge in this game, based on experience and a slightly better offensive line. But to be honest, I’m just going to enjoy watching them both!
RCT: Prediction Time! Do you give the Jayhawks any chance to win this Homecoming game?
CRFF: Oh it’s Homecoming? I’m sorry. I’ve gone back and forth on how I feel about this game. Early in the week I was thinking it would be a 34-17 win by OSU. But as I’ve moved further past the Texas Tech loss, I’ve started leaning a little more OSU. I’ll say it’s close for a quarter, but ultimately OSU wins big, 41-13 Cowboys.
RCT: BONUS - It seems pretty certain that Kansas is going to be looking for a new coach and staff next season. Name one guy on the staff at Oklahoma State who you think would excel on the new staff, either in their current role or in a new spot.
CRFF: Well, there’s no one in particular I would like you to have, so let me go out on a limb and say offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich as the next Kansas head coach. No, he hasn’t been a head coach before, and Kansas fans probably wouldn’t be super pumped, but he has put together some amazing offenses at Oklahoma State, can recruit some QBs, and he loves Legos! He’s likely going to be a head coach somewhere after this season. Why not Kansas?
A big thanks to Phillip for helping us out. Don’t forget to check out the questions I answered for him over on CRFF.