OSU-Colorado: Key Matchups & Prediction

Colorado head coach Gary Barnett has had a hard time this week talking about the Oklahoma State offense. Coaches are sworn to not bad mouth upcoming opponents. Coaches will compliment their opposition the week of a game for fear of providing motivating bulletin board material or saying something that someday bites them in the rear with a fellow contemporary. You never know where you will need a favor down the road, and the college coaching community is a small world.

Barnett has been stuck saying things like, "On offense they have talent, but they really don't have their identity just yet," or "Robbie Reid is going to be a good quarterback and grow and mature. I just hope it happens three or four weeks from now instead of this week."

Those are fairly hallow remarks, but the OSU offense has given Barnett little choice. I guess he could have said, 'Boy, their field goal kicker sure has good hair.' Deep down I can tell you that the OSU offense scares Barnett. Come on, play along.

OK, Robert, why does the OSU offense, 93rd in the nation in total offense and averaging a Big 12 worst 19.3 points a game, scare Barnett? The answer is Bobby Reid, D'Juan Woods, Luke Frazier, Brandon Pettigrew, Michael Hamilton, Tommy Devereaux, Ricky Price, Jeremy Broadway, and an offensive line that is better than it played against Arkansas State. Oklahoma State is not lacking talent, but in many cases it is inexperienced. The scheme is not a wild invention. It has been in use and it has worked in the past and is presently working at other schools. At some point in time it is going to work in Stillwater, and what scares Barnett is he doesn't want to see it be this Saturday.

I am not telling you it will be this Saturday. Honestly, I think it will be more like November, but in the meantime it will improve in increments. If those improvements are big enough the offense (in it's various stages of development) can combine with a defense that I think is no fluke and better special teams play (everything they have done without the penalties) to win a few games. Little or no improvement in the offense may cause OSU to lose the first two crucial games of the Big 12 schedule this week against Colorado and next week against Missouri.

Either way Saturday holds some mystery and surprise. That should make it interesting for those attending the Cowboys first Big 12 game of the season and Mike Gundy's Big 12 head coaching debut. Again, that is what has Barnett just a little fearful of his team's trip to Stillwater.

Now the matchups...

OSU OL vs. CU Defensive Front
The Cowboy offensive line threw a clunker against Arkansas State with the penalties, the missed blocks and a poor effort. It was like they didn't take Arkansas State seriously. It's hard not to take 6-1, 290-pound Samoan Vaka Manupuna seriously. Manupuna will pop your head off at the shoulder if you don't. Colorado also has a strong linebacker corps. The Cowboys must give Reid and Company a chance by getting the front, especially the down linemen, blocked or the offense will have little chance to show improvement. It will be a long Saturday afternoon because even if you beat Colorado up front the Buffaloes will physically beat you up. It's a sacrifice situation, but when you realize the physical beating comes whether you block them or not then blocking becomes the better alternative.

OSU Linebackers vs. CU Backfield & Tight Ends
Colorado's offense is very simple in that they have a key that unlocks their playbook and success on every Saturday. Barnett is "old school" in that he wants to run the ball. No option here. No reverses. Barnett's team runs the power play right at you – a big fullback leading a tailback through the hole, the fullback blows up whoever is in the hole and the tailback runs through it into the secondary. When they can do that one thing everything else falls into place. Success on the power leads to isos, sweeps, and play action passes both short and long. The Cowboys four senior linebackers - Paul Duren, Lawrence Pinson, Pagitte McGee and Jamar Ransom - understand and they are ready to take out the fullback and destroy the tailback. If they do that then CU becomes very easy to defend.

OSU Defensive Line vs. CU Offensive Line & Joel Klatt
The big guys up front for the Cowboys have to assist by tying up the blockers and keeping them off the linebackers. But eventually the Buffs will throw and when they do Ryan McBean, XLK, Nathan Peterson and company need to beat their blocks and join with the blitzer(s) to thoroughly harass Joel Klatt. An experienced quarterback, Klatt will still make poor decisions and spit out interceptions when pressured (the Miami Hurricane showed that last week).

OSU Special Teams vs. CU Special Teams
Tough chore for OSU because Colorado is well coached on special teams. What other team has 12 different punt formations? The Buffs also have the best specialist tandem in the league with kicker Mason Crosby (58-yard FG at Miami) and punter John Torp (49 yard average). The Cowboys counter with Bruce "Sunshine" Redden at kicker and freshman Matt Fodge doing a good job punting. The "X" factor is the return game. Oklahoma State has broken off big returns in every game only to see many brought back on penalties. Eliminate the penalties and the return game could deliver the matchup and go a long way toward delivering a Cowboy victory.

Let me first note that I felt this would be a win back in August, and I am still going to give the verdict to the Cowboys, but this is a toss up between two teams that still have more questions than answers. The winner will be the team that answers more questions in a positive way on Saturday. Colorado needs to know if it can pass the ball better. OSU needs to know if it can pass the ball better. Colorado needs to know if it can do a better job of rushing the passer. OSU needs to know if it can quit turning the ball over. Colorado needs to know if it can quit turning the ball over. OSU needs to know if they can stop penalties that have stalled drives and brought back some excellent returns. Colorado needs to know if it can cut out the silly penalties on defense (ie. lining up offsides). OSU needs to know if Mike Hamilton or somebody can break the "chunk run" for a touchdown. Colorado needs to know if it can stop the pass. OSU needs to know if it can score more points. See what I mean. It's real simple on this one - the team with the most correct answers and the first one to hit 20 on the scoreboard wins.
Oklahoma State, 23-20

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