OSU-Houston Matchups

First, this is one of only three games this weekend matching remaining unbeaten teams in college football (the others are Michigan-Wisconsin and Louisville-Kansas State). It is also a rare setup where both sides look at the game as a measuring-stick contest. Houston is trying to measure itself against the Big 12, while OSU is trying to measure just how much better the Cowboys are than a year ago.

These kind of games create pressure on both sides. All things being equal, and I really don't think they are, that scenario often favors the team that handles the pressure the best.

The Cowboys are better on defense than the Cougars, and also better in the special teams than Houston. On offense the Cougars are more polished with what they do, but in talent Oklahoma State is equal or better. Now can Houston win? Yes they can, but only if Oklahoma State contributes to the Cougars cause. Turnovers and sound play in the special teams, which will come out in the Cowboys favor, are a must. That said here are the key matchups.

OSU Offensive Line vs. UH Defensive Front
Houston has only beaten one team from a BCS conference since Art Briles became head coach. That team is Mississippi State and the Cougars have beaten them twice. The common denominator for teams that have defeated the Cougars is that they have all had 200 or more rushing yards. We know the Cowboys stable of backs is definitely up to that task. The question is if the offensive line can forge holes to get through Houston, which lost one of its best tacklers on the back end of their defense in strong safety Rocky Schwartz. Schwartz went down with an ACL injury last week against Grambling.

The Cougars have a pair of solid defensive tackles. This is where the preseason move of David Koenig to guard, and inserting Brady Bond at tackle, will help. Koenig will help with jumbo nose tackle Marquay Love. Everything off-tackle and wide looks good and I think there will be success inside as well. It would be nice to see big Julius Crosslin in during the fourth quarter pounding on a tired Houston defensive line.

Solid Edge to OSU

OSU Defensive Line vs. UH Quarterback Kevin Kolb and Offensive Line
Kolb is an accomplished quarterback who knows this offense so well because he has been operating it since he was back at Stephenville High School. Therefore, it doesn't take him long to get rid of the football. The Cowboy defensive line, deep and talented, doesn't have to rack up a lot of sacks, but they do need to make Kolb feel their presence. If the Cowboys get up on the scoreboard the profile of the Cougars offense will change and they will look more downfield and that's when the sacks begin. The depth for the Cowboys at defensive tackle and defensive end is such a weapon.

Edge to OSU

OSU Secondary vs. UH Wide Receivers
This is where the Cowboys are most vulnerable, but you have to realize that the Houston offense is not a vertical offense as much as it is horizontal. The passes are much more dinks and dunks than they are deep fades and streaks. Houston does run a lot of verticals but they are primarily to create space in the first 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The Cowboy corners can run with those Houston receivers deep, but they will also have to be ready to react - along with the safeties - and come back and help with containment on all of the short stuff. If the Cowboys bust out to a lead then those verticals become much more serious as a threat and the pass rush really needs to flex their muscles.

Even

PREDICTION
If the Cowboys win the turnover margin and perform up to standard in the special teams then they win.
Oklahoma State 34, Houston 20

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