Thanks to the big missteps by Stanford and Boise State last week, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are suddenly in the driver’s seat for a berth in the BCS National Championship Game. Simply put, if they win out they are in.
The first step in that challenging process—this trip to Iowa State for a Friday night showdown—is definitely not the most difficult. Or at least it shouldn’t be. By the time you are undefeated with double-digit wins, however, there is no longer such a thing as an easy win.
The biggest challenge Oklahoma State might face here is to keep focused on the task at hand. The Cowboys have a week off after this game and then their massive Bedlam showdown with Oklahoma looms.
That prospect is more exciting than a Friday night in Ames against an outmatched squad. That means that this is a good chance for us to see what kind of control Mike Gundy has over this team as the pressure and intensity heighten.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State Betting Storylines
Brandon Weeden is as hot as any quarterback in the country right now. He’s 28 years old and is playing just like what he is: a man among boys.
He’s leading the second-highest-scoring offense in the country, and his last couple of weeks of outstanding performances has put him right into the Heisman picture.
Stopping an offense that is averaging just fewer than 52 points per game is hard for defenses. It will almost certainly be too much of an issue for the Iowa State defense. That unit is ranked just 90th in total defense.
The Cyclones are much better against the pass than they are against the run, but they aren’t great on either front, and Oklahoma State has a respectable running game as well.
In short, we know the Cowboys are going to be able to score a whole lot of points here. The question, then, is simple: Can the Cyclones score enough points of their own to keep this thing interesting?
The simple answer is probably “no.”
They did score 41 points two games back, but that was against a hapless Texas Tech team that decided to end its season the second the game against Oklahoma ended. Last week it managed just 13 against a lousy Kansas team.
The Cyclones are averaging 24 points per game on the season, but that is skewed somewhat by 21 points they scored in overtime against Iowa.
They have actually scored more than 24 points in regulation time just twice—a 49-26 loss to Baylor and the 41 points against Texas Tech. This isn’t a dynamic or particularly impressive offense.
Critics will argue Iowa State could have a solid day because it is up against a suspect defense—Oklahoma State sits 102nd in the country in terms of total yards allowed. That’s a totally lazy argument for a few reasons.
First, the pressure isn’t nearly as intense on a defense when the offense is so consistently strong, so this defense isn’t going to be as intense as they could be. Second, when an offense scores so many points so quickly the defense can relax. As a result you often see opponents pile up some yards and some points after the game is all but over. Finally, when you look more closely at the defense you’ll see that this is more of a bend-but-don’t-break defense—it sits near the bottom of the pack in yards allowed, but is pretty much average in points allowed.
The one thing that could make this interesting is that Iowa State has had an extra week to prepare. It isn’t traditionally the most creative offense in the world, but with an extra week it may be able to work out a few wrinkles to catch the Cowboys off guard.
I’m not holding my breath, but anything is possible.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State Betting Odds and Trends
The Cowboys are heavily favored in this one—by as many as 27.5 points, according to college football odds. Nearly 90 percent of bets have been placed on the Cowboys and the line has been moving upwards, so things are reacting about as expected. The total opened at 66 and has slowly been climbing.
These two teams met up in 2008 and 2009, with Oklahoma State winning and covering both times. Oklahoma State is 8-2 ATS in its last 10, and 20-6-1 ATS in its last 27 road games. Iowa State is just 2-6 ATS in its last eight conference games.
College Football Predictions: Oklahoma State at Iowa State Picks
I won’t over-think this one. Oklahoma State is by far the better team, it has traveled well, it has handled the pressure well so far, and it has had a lot of success against Iowa State in the past.
It is a very good bet that the Cowboys will cover the spread here.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks website.