Oklahoma needs this win.
A once promising season now threatens to become mediocre for the Sooners if they don't beat Oklahoma State on Saturday. Not too long ago, this team looked like it could be the best in the Big 12, but then it lost to Kansas State. It looked like it could be one of the best teams in the nation, until it completely fell apart against Notre Dame.
Count this as the Sooners' final opportunity to prove their worth against a ranked opponent.
Oklahoma State, for its part, has had a similar problem. It has been great against the lesser opponents, especially offensively—but when confronted with a challenge in the form of a team ranked in the upper half of the BCS, it has struggled.
But then again, the Cowboys have been good for an upset or two before. Look what they did to Texas Tech last week. They may be favored, but the Sooners will have to be prepared to battle for this win.
Where: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.
When: Saturday, Nov. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
According to OddsShark, Oklahoma is the nine-point favorite over Oklahoma State, as it should be—it's the higher-ranked team playing at home. But nine points seems to be a bit generous, considering these two teams objectively seem to be pretty even. They've both struggled against ranked opponents; they both are excellent offensively until they run into a good defense.
Oklahoma, however, has a couple of bigger wins on its resume, the biggest of which came back on Oct. 13 against Texas. Maybe the Sooners peaked too early, but whatever the case, this marked their biggest win of the season. A 42-point victory in the Red River Rivalry is something to brag about, and OK State doesn't have a comparable win.
The most impressive victory on the Cowboys' resume was last week's home win over Texas Tech, but their losses—at home to Texas and on the road against Arizona and Kansas State—are more disappointing than the Sooners' two, against two of the best teams in the nation in K-State and Notre Dame.
These two teams have very similar resumes, and although nine points may be a bit generous, Oklahoma should be able to pull this one out.
OddsShark has the over/under at 72 1/2, which is pretty massive but fair considering these two offenses are two of the most explosive in the nation.
Oklahoma State, especially, has really been able to lay some beatings on its opponents in 2012—and even in defeat, its offense has never truly been stymied. Though it hasn't quite matched its opening-day performance, when it put up 84 points against Savannah State, this team has averaged 45 points in its last four. In defeat, the Cowboys have still averaged about 35 per game, and overall, their 45.4 per-game average is third best in the nation.
The Sooners aren't too bad, either, scoring 40.8 per game, good for ninth in the nation. When this team wins, it tends to win big: It has scored 50 or more points four times this season, and particularly in its last three, it seems to have hit a stride—though the 50 points it put up against West Virginia proved to be just enough for a one-point victory.
Neither of these teams boasts the best defense in the world, so it's not a stretch to believe that there are going to be a ton of points scored on Saturday.
Oklahoma State Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- TE Justin Horton is out for the season with an undisclosed injury
- WR Tracy Moore (ankle) is out indefinitely
- QB J.W. Walsh (knee) is out for the season
- WR C.J. Curry (shoulder) is out for the season
- CB Jonovan Griffin (knee) is out for the season
- LB Jeremiah Tshimanga (knee) is out for the season
Oklahoma Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- WR Justin Brown (head) is questionable for Saturday
- TE Taylor McNamara (shoulder) is out for the season
- OL Nila Kasitati (knee) is out for the season
- FB Marshall Musil (knee) is out for the season
- WR Jaz Reynolds (suspension) is out for the season
- DE Chaz Nelson (knee) is out indefinitely with an MCL injury
- DB Trey Franks (suspension) is out for the season
- OL Tyler Evans (knee) is out for the season
Right now, most of the projections have Oklahoma heading to the Fiesta Bowl or the Sugar Bowl, where the Sooners are going to face a team that will probably present another substantial challenge on par with K-State and Notre Dame. But still, it's getting there that counts, and losing to OK State would obviously put a big wrench in those plans.
This is a team that has already shown tremendous struggles scoring against, and beating, the best teams in the nation, and losing to yet another ranked opponent—especially a lower-ranked opponent—would be devastating to them. Right now, the Sooners need to win in order to hold strong in the BCS picture.
Oklahoma State, meanwhile, will most likely end up in the Wild Wings Bowl or in the Alamo Bowl, but it stands to improve its stock with a big win over a top-15 team. The Cowboys potentially have a lot to gain from a win this weekend, as long as they can hold on next weekend, too, against Baylor, which just scored a huge upset over Kansas State.
But focusing on the present: The Cowboys are one of the teams that still have the potential to make a couple of sizable leaps in the BCS standings, so if they want to do so—and end up at a better bowl—beating Oklahoma is a necessity.
Keys for Oklahoma State
There has been one instance this season when the Cowboys had trouble scoring, and it was on Oct. 13 at Kansas. They still managed to win, and it was because they managed to stay strong defensively with time running out in the fourth quarter.
They weren't perfect that day—far from it. They led 20-0 heading into the fourth quarter but allowed two touchdowns early in the frame, allowing it to become a game again. But the Cowboys held strong as the Jayhawks drove down the field once again with just minutes remaining, and forced a critical fourth-down incompletion to put an end to the rally. With all of the momentum fully in the Jayhawks' favor, the Cowboys impressively stood strong.
Because both of these teams are so capable of offensive fireworks, the winner of this game could easily come down to whichever team manages to make fewer mistakes at the very end of the final frame. Whatever OK State did at the end of that Kansas game to make sure it didn't blow it—it needs to do that again against the Sooners.
Keys for Oklahoma
When the Sooners have lost this year, it's been close. Even though their 30-13 loss to Notre Dame looks lopsided, it was a game until very late in the fourth quarter. Same goes for the game against Kansas State: The Sooners seemed to have that one in the bag until a fourth-quarter collapse.
Against K-State, Oklahoma held a 13-10 lead heading into the final frame, but after allowing two touchdowns in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the quarter, they were completely deflated. Against the Irish, the game was tied at 13 with just over five minutes remaining. The Sooners allowed 17 points before the whistle blew and shot themselves in the proverbial foot with turnovers.
The Sooners' mission is twofold: Not only do they need to find some way to hold strong on defense down the stretch, but they need to put that stellar offense to good use and score early and often, especially against a team like OK State that doesn't have a great defense. Not only will that take the pressure off them a little bit in the fourth quarter, but hopefully, it will swing the momentum far enough in their favor so that this won't come down to the last couple of possessions.
This is going to be a shootout. Both teams have excellent offenses and mediocre defenses, and this game is going to come down to which unit can put up a better fight. The Cowboys allow an average of 26.1 points per game; the Sooners allow 22.5.
Neither defense has been impressive lately, so it's hard to say which one of them is going to step up—but whereas the Cowboys are on a high at the moment after taking down West Virginia and Texas Tech in succession, the Sooners have to be feeling a bit more vulnerable after scoring a one-point win over West Virginia and knowing they've already blown it big-time on a couple of occasions this season.
Given their upset potential and all that they have to gain from a win, it seems like the Cowboys could actually pull this one out.