Louisiana? Louisiana-Lafayette? Whatever. Oklahoma State tries to bounce back from last week’s stunning 59-38 loss at Arizona when it hosts the Ragin’ Cajuns at 11 a.m. at Boone Pickens Stadium.
Will the Cowboys clean up their act?
It’s pretty simple. OSU won’t beat Louisiana-Lafayette–or any team on its schedule, except Savannah State–with 167 penalty yards and four turnovers. Late hits and personal fouls are things disciplined teams can control. The Cowboys need to prove they have addressed and corrected those issues.
Will the pass defense improve?
The Cowboys surrendered 500 yards and 45 points against the Wildcats and did not force any turnovers. The OSU run defense actually wasn’t too bad through three quarters–Arizona had 94 yards on 35 carries–but the pass defense really struggled throughout. The linebackers often were not quick enough–or did not react quickly enough–to adequately cover the middle of the field. The strong safety spot is suddenly a major concern, as is the Cowboys’ nickel package. Those positions in particular need to show major improvement this week.
How much depth is used?
I wrote this week about how OSU’s circle of trust really shrunk when things got tight against Arizona. Even guys like linebacker Ryan Simmons and wide receiver Charlie Moore, who are expected to be major contributors this season, barely played. The reserves should get more time against a mid-major FBS school. Should. If they don’t, that means the Cowboys are on upset alert. However, two guys that provide depth in backup outside linebacker Lyndell Johnson and backup wide receiver Austin Hays will not play because of injury Saturday, and backup inside receiver Torrance Carr is questionable.
Hold onto the football
This means Joseph Randle’s fumbling issues, which have spilled over from last season. In his past six games, he has lost five fumbles. This also means the Cowboys’ case of the drops from last week. Coach Mike Gundy estimated the Cowboys had at least seven against Arizona. Blake Jackson, in particular, needs to prove he can consistently hold onto the football, because that’s been an issue since the spring.
Force at least two turnovers
Defensive coordinator Bill Young will return to the sideline after missing the Cowboys’ first two games while recovering from an undisclosed medical procedure. Time for the Cowboys to start acting like the turnover-heavy unit that Young has built since returning to Stillwater in 2009. OSU has forced just two turnovers through two games so far, and both came against lowly Savannah State.
Starting center Evan Epstein will miss the game with a foot/ankle injury, meaning sophomore Jake Jenkins will get his first-career start. Snaps from the backups were an issue during the spring, but have cleaned up across the board since the start of fall camp. That exchange is obviously critical to the offense.
Uniform prediction: Black helmet, gray jersey, black pants
I don’t think the Cowboys are going to wear the gray jerseys for a conference game. The black-gray-black is honestly the only uniform combo with the gray that I like. So there you go.
Final score prediction: OSU 52, Louisiana-Lafayette 28
If the Cowboys can’t be motivated for this game after last week’s disaster–and the fact that Louisiana-Monroe beat Arkansas last week–then there are serious troubles with this team. Game stays close for the first quarter, then the Cowboys roll.