After 114 years of playing collegiate football, for only the fourth time in history the Oklahoma State Cowboys are playing the final stretch of the schedule and they are involved in the competition for a national championship.
Let's review. In 1945, during the World War II years, Jim Lookabaugh had the then Oklahoma A&M Aggies 8-0 and ranked sixth in the poll heading to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans to play unranked St. Mary's. The problem for trying to squeeze in the mythical national championship conversation was one that Oklahoma State could face the last week of the season. The Aggies played their final game of the regular season to go 8-0 on Nov. 24 as they beat OU 47-0. Other teams played on that next Saturday and the first Saturday in December leaving Oklahoma A&M slightly out of sight and forgotten.
Pat Jones' first season as head coach the Cowboys went to Norman for Bedlam on Nov. 24 with OU ranked second in the AP poll and OSU ranked third. In the UPI poll, the Cowboys were second and OU was ranked third. The 9-1 Cowboys lost to the Sooners 24-14 to fall to ninth in the polls before a dramatic 21-14 win in the Gator Bowl over South Carolina.
It was 2011 and the Cowboys were breathing down the neck of the polls at 10-0, and while the SEC was campaigning for a rematch of their midseason battle of field goals 9-6 in Tuscaloosa between top-ranked LSU and once-beaten Alabama the BCS title game looked like a Les Miles vs. Mike Gundy reunion until Iowa State and a tragic event the night before a rare Friday night game set up a huge Iowa State effort and a 37-31 double overtime Cyclones upset of the unbeaten Cowboys. OSU was second in the nation, the highest-ranked team Iowa State has upset on its home field. The Cowboys went on to finish third in the polls after beating Stanford 41-38 in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl.
This team still has a long way to go but anytime you are in the conversation and the competition for a national championship it is some kind of special. The Cowboys have a rare chance to go back and "somewhat correct" their mistake from four years ago. They can at least avoid making the same mistake again. Then it will be time to move on to a two-game set for the Big 12 Championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff.
OSU-Iowa State Key Matchups
Oklahoma State outside linebackers #10 Seth Jacobs and #20 Jordan Burton
vs. Iowa State quarterback #7 Joel Lanning
Lanning is a threat to run the football as he is a dual-threat guy which means somebody or some bodies on the Oklahoma State defense will have to contain the sophomore. Last week Burton and Jacobs both did a good job of helping to keep Trevone Boykin contained and if you can halt the TCU quarterback then limiting Lanning should not be a huge issue. You just want to make sure that Lanning doesn't have any kind of career game or plays at an inspirational level that could vault the Cyclones into another monumental upset over the Cowboys.
Oklahoma State defensive end #38 Emmanuel Ogbah
vs. Iowa State RT #72 Brock Dagel
The Emmanuel Ogbah destruction tour continues, and even though he did not rack up a lot of statistical numbers last week in the win over TCU his influence was evident to all that watched the game. Ogbah deflected the first Boykin pass of the game and was seen chasing the Horned Frogs quarterback throughout the contest. Iowa State has a mostly senior offensive line that has been a major part of their its on offense and the outstanding season redshirt freshman running back Michael Warren (Lawton native) has had. One trend that has to be disturbing for the Cyclones is the 11 sacks opponents have had in the last three games (Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma) and Ogbah and his defensive line teammates will be eager to help add to that trend on Saturday. Ogbah really can't be totally controlled at this level because I think he is that good.
Oklahoma State wide receiver #28 James Washington
vs. Iowa State right cornerback #34 Nigel Tribune
Let's face it, the Big 12 is in a competition to see if there is anybody out there that can cover James Washington. So far we haven't found anybody that seems to be able to do it consistently and Iowa State has struggled some on the back end of their defense. Watching tape on the Cyclones, I'm going to guess that freshman Brian Peavy is not going to get the consistent assignment of covering the ultra athletic, red-hot Washington. I'll nominate junior Nigel Tribune for the duty. He is a veteran and is a little bigger although the best scenario will be safety help over the top. That is typically not something that Iowa State does on early downs or much at all. Oklahoma had success throwing the ball deep and TCU got to the Cyclones consistently in Ames earlier this season and my guess is that between Washington, Marcell Ateman, chain mover David Glidden, Austin Hays, and all of the Cowboys receiver corps will be in good shape.
OSU-Iowa State Prediction
Don't panic. I know I only have the Pokes picked by a couple of touchdowns plus. The spread, which I really don't pay too much attention to, is in that neighborhood. More important in my calculations is that Iowa State is still playing to get bowl eligible even though the Cyclones have to win out. The Cyclones have a tradition of always having a supportive crowd, of playing very hard. I expect Oklahoma State will play hard and play well. The Cowboys have showed no signs of the moment being too big to them and I think they will handle it well. I think the Cowboys will keep Iowa State at arms length on the scoreboard but won't ever be able to totally distance Iowa State on the board.
#8 Oklahoma State 36, @Iowa State 20
Big 12 Predictions
Last Week: (Straight Up) 5-0 (Against the Spread-Not all games have point spreads) 4-1
Season: (Straight Up) 52-7 (Against the Spread-Not all games have point spreads) 30-24-1
Kansas 14, @#16 TCU 48
Texas 20, @West Virginia 34
Kansas State 27, @Texas Tech 45
#12 Oklahoma 35, @#6 Baylor 45