The key stretch run of No. 18 Oklahoma State’s season starts Saturday night with a trip to No. 15 Texas Tech.
Berry Tramel with a pretty bold statement on who the Cowboys should start at quarterback.
Texas Tech’s passing game will be the stiffest test this revamped OSU defense has faced yet.
Here are our staff picks for the game.
1. Can the Cowboys find a consistent passing game?
Completing just 10-of-26 passes for 78 yards may be enough against Iowa State, particularly when a tailback rumbles for 219 yards and four scores. But Clint Chelf needs to be more accurate in these final five games, starting tonight. It will be interesting to see what Mike Yurcich calls early. Does he let Chelf take shots down the field? Or does he try to start him off with some shorter throws to get his confidence going? Mike Gundy said he expects both quarterbacks to play against the Red Raiders. Does that mean a return of J.W. Walsh’s specialty package? Does that mean a full quarterback rotation? We’ll see. No matter who’s quarterbacking, the Cowboys need to get Josh Stewart involved. He’s the type of guy who can turn those shorter, “easier” passes into a long gain because of his ability to make defenders miss in the open field. OSU’s run game may have turned a corner — with Desmond Roland’s emergence and an offensive line combination that appears set — but this offense needs to be balanced to keep up with a Texas Tech team that scores a ton of points.
2. Does the defense answer the challenge — again?
This Cowboy unit certainly has passed the eye test all season long — and has produced. But this is the first time it faces a truly explosive offense. The Red Raiders’ biggest weakness? They turn the ball over, ranking ninth in the Big 12 in that category (minus-6). The Cowboys’ biggest strength as of late? They’ve returned to their opportunistic ways, forcing 12 turnovers over their last three games, including two turned into touchdowns against Iowa State. If the Cowboy front seven can force freshman quarterback Davis Webb into off-balance throws, the secondary could have chances to make big plays.
3. How much does the atmosphere impact the game?
It’s going to be a rowdy Saturday night in Lubbock. There’s no doubt about that. Does that lead to false start penalties and miscommunication on offense? Does that rattle freshman Ben Grogan if he’s called upon to make a big kick? OSU can take the crowd out of the game with a fast start, or by putting together momentum-swinging plays.
Key matchup: OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert vs. Tech receiver Eric Ward
Tech tight end Jace Amaro is perhaps the Big 12′s best receiver, but Eric Ward is close behind with 46 catches for 541 yards and five touchdowns. That should lead to a fun battle on the outside between Ward and Gilbert, who is enjoying quite the rebound season but hasn’t yet matched up with a guy as skilled as Ward. Another example of how this is a “prove it” game for a lot of Cowboy defenders.
Uniform prediction: Gray helmet, white jersey, gray pants
Berry posted a blog earlier this week about how OSU could confuse Tech with the gray-white-gray combo, because that’s exactly what the Red Raiders wore last week in Norman. I don’t think that’s exactly why the Cowboys will go with this look. This is just the best use of the gray elements we’ve seen so far, and we’re running out of road opportunities for the Cowboys to wear it.
Final score prediction: Texas Tech 31, OSU 24
This should be an entertaining game throughout, but I like Tech to stage a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter.