It's a good thing that Halloween is over because there are all kinds of scary aspects to Oklahoma State's matchup with Kansas State. Did you know that the Oklahoma State Cowboys have won just one time in Manhattan, Kansas since 1988 the year before Bill Snyder took the job at K-State?
Of course, in the division days of the Big 12 the Cowboys only played in Manhattan once every four seasons, but in those years the Wildcats won 23-17 in 1990, 10-0 in 1992, 34-6 in 1994, 52-20 in 1998, 44-9 in 2002, 31-27 in 2006, 44-30 in 2012, and 48-14 in 2014. The lone win was in 2010 season as Brandon Weeden, playing without the suspended Justin Blackmon, led the Pokes to a 24-14 win.
You have to count on the scariest grandpa in football in Bill Snyder, scary because he is diabolical in finding ways to beat you, to come up with a winning plan of X's and O's material. However, I really believe the game on Saturday is less about schemes and more about athletes. Oklahoma State has more than I can remember in recent years, an athletic advantage going in to the game.
You still have to respect the power of the purple on the plains as Kansas State often wins games people aren't sure they can and Las Vegas has the Wildcats as a three-point favorite and the line has held.
Here are the key matchups as we see them for Mike Gundy with an even 100 coaching victories and Bill Snyder with 198 coaching victories:
OSU Slot Receiver #1 Jalen McCleskey
vs. K-State Strong Safety #22 Dante Barnett
Oh boy, a Cowboy offensive playmaker matched up with a Tulsa Booker T. Washington product and a good one at that in Dante Barnett at strong safety. The Wildcats will mix up coverage some but they really are anchored to their base cover four coverage. McCleskey, like most slot receivers, loves to see that coverage as it gives him chances to look for space and gaps in the inside zones of the back end of the defense. McCleskey has really developed into that number two receiving playmaker behind James Washington.
My Call: I think McCleskey gets a few openings and makes good with them, but Barnett is a crafty veteran defender too.
OSU Middle Linebacker #45 Chad Whitener
vs. K-State Quarterback #16 Jesse Ertz
Ertz is on a roll with a 100-yard rushing game in the win over Iowa State, including a key 54-yard run to get things started offensively. He is the leading rusher for the Wildcats but he is tepid as a passer averaging only 134.8 yards a game. He has only throw seven touchdown passes but then again has only been picked off three times this season. He is a good decision maker but limited in his overall repertoire. Chad Whitener is pretty good at dissecting offenses and reading the mind of quarterbacks. Whitener has 52 tackles, a sack, and four pass break-ups. I think Whitener makes good decisions and keeps Ertz and the offense very pedestrian throughout the afternoon.
My Call: Whitener the detective on defense has the advantage.
OSU Punter #29 Zach Sinor
vs. K-State Punter #14 Nick Walsh
We don't feature the opposing punters very often but Sinor is becoming a regular as one of the heroes of the game each week as he has routinely flipped the field for the Cowboys defense and he is off the charts as far as backing opposing teams inside their own 20-yard line. Sinor is averaging 43.2 yards but he could average so much more if he were selfish and just always punted the snot out of the football. His bag of different punting clubs has allowed him to knock 23 of his 39 punts inside the 20. He has just one touchback and shouldn't have had that as it should have been downed on the 3 or closer. He has 11 punts over 50 yards, which proves he can boom it, and he is excellent at playing the wind. Walsh is good with a 42.7 yards average but he is inside the 20 only five times.
My Call: I like Sinor big in this matchup, no matter which way the wind is blowing.
Oklahoma State-Kansas State Prediction
As I said above, I think athletically that Oklahoma State has enough of an advantage to overcome the excellent game planning of Bill Snyder and his staff, plus the Cowboys staff has been pretty salty all season with its own scheming. You could always count on K-State to have at least one major big-game playmaker on offense. I don't see one. You could generally count on the Wildcats to have special teams capable of a big scoring play or an advantage that would lead to a big play. I see Oklahoma State having the advantage on special teams. The Wildcats will be sound defensively and will not give up a lot, but they have been guilty of allowing some big passing plays in the Big 12 play, you know the 80- and 70-yard variety. Mason Rudolph will need to pick his spots, but my guess is that Mike Gundy and Mike Yurcich will let him wind up the right arm a few times.
#18 Oklahoma State 31, Kansas State 31-21
Big 12 Predictions
Record: Week #8 SU 3-1 ATS 3-1; This Year SU 38-15 ATS 25-20
#14 Oklahoma 34, @Iowa State 24
Oklahoma, minus Mixon, is not as potent and Cyclones continue their run of playing everybody close.
@Texas Tech 41, Texas 38
Red Raiders edge Longhorns with both teams looking for two in a row.
@#17 Baylor 31, TCU 17
The Horned Frogs are losing offensive "mojo" fast.
@#20 West Virginia 51, Kansas 10
Mountaineers have an angry demeanor to welcome the Jayhawks to Morgantown.