OSU-Rice: Key Matchups & Prediction

Robert Allen offers his key matchups and prediction for Saturday's game between the 16th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys and Rice Owls at Boone Pickens Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. (Central time).

You may have heard me say this earlier this week, but Oklahoma State was not the fifth-best team in the country. They were overrated last week and a lot of us, me included, got caught up in the post-Georgia euphoria.

I honestly believe that the coaching staff and the team did not. They had a good week of practice and seemed to be prepared. Fumbles, penalties, more mistakes, and a high-powered Houston offense that has run roughshod over a lot of teams did the Cowboys in.

That said, this is still a good football team, one that can and likely will win a lot of games. They will start with this week against Rice.

Honestly, there are no real key matchups as Oklahoma State has Rice out-talented at just about every position, so we will pick out some key matchups where Oklahoma State really needs to improve, for this game and for the rest of the season.

1. Oklahoma State defensive line vs. Rice offensive line
You remember the movie, Top Gun, when Tom Cruise (Maverick) first gets back up in the air after suffering a sideways spin caused by jet wash and subsequent crash that kills his friend and radio intercept officer (RIO) Anthony Edwards (Goose). Thankfully, Edwards would be back in a TV show called ER later on.

Anyway, Cruise with a new RIO is in a practice mission and he won't engage with the enemy fighter. The new RIO is yelling at Cruise to engage and says, 'it doesn't look better than that.' The Oklahoma State defensive line has had loads of problems engaging opposing quarterbacks and they need sacks badly. They have a goal under new defensive coordinator Bill Young of 40 sacks this season after just 15 last season. They had two against Georgia and none against Houston.

Okay guys, in the words of Cruise's RIO, it doesn't look any better than this. Rice has a young offensive line and two quarterbacks trading series that have shown a tendency in trying to win the job of holding onto the ball too long. That is the combination you crave as a d-lineman.

Texas Tech had six sacks last week and OSU should try for that or more on Saturday. Look for Young to "goose it" (pun intended) by blitzing a little early to get it started. This defense has to pressure quarterbacks.

Advantage: Slight to Oklahoma State defensive line, by game's end it needs to be a heavy advantage.

2. Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson vs. Rice defense
What's wrong with Zac Robinson? That has been the cry of Cowboy fans all week from Green Country to the Wichita Mountains and from the Panhandle to "Little Dixie."

Physically, there is nothing wrong but Robinson has just not been the same guy. Okay, you don't want to hear it, but after two hamstring injuries, one to each leg this summer and August camp, Robinson just might be a little gun shy about cranking the RPM to full speed. You can also chalk up almost two weeks of watching instead of taking reps and that will make a difference to just about any quarterback including Peyton or Eli Manning.

Robinson has the right frame of mind and now understands that his team needs all of him, and I expect the personal governor on the engine will come off. Let's hope, knock on wood, say your prayers, that he stays healthy. By the way the shoulder is also not injured. Robinson has a good arm, but not a great one. You just don't always notice when he is doing so many things so well.

Advantage: Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson

3. Oklahoma State offensive line vs. Rice defensive line
You could see a different combination but let's hope you see a different Russell Okung. The Cowboys standout tackle that is still, in my opinion, pound for pound the best player on the team had a bad game, one of his few, last week against Houston. The Arkansas transfer Tyrell Graham surprised him at defensive end.

If Okung clicks back in and the Cowboys shore up the right guard position then this thing can start cranking. There will be no Kendall Hunter, but Keith Toston and Beau Johnson can handle the running chores.

Advantage: Oklahoma State offensive line

OSU-Rice Prediction
The Cowboys need to flex their muscles. They need to beat up on somebody. Rice will not be a willing participant (note that Texas Tech only led 14-3 well into the fourth quarter last week before they blew it open). That is okay because the Cowboys need to blow somebody's doors off that is resisting. We predict they do it.

OSU 45, Rice 17

This Week's Predictions
Other Big 12 Games

@Kansas 56, Duke 6
@Missouri 47, Furman 9
@Oklahoma 31, Tulsa 24
@Virginia Tech 34, Nebraska 20
@Colorado 21, Wyoming 20
@Baylor 28, UConn 24
Iowa State 35, Kent State 10
@Texas A&M 49, Utah State 7
@Texas 38, Texas Tech 20
@UCLA 41, Kansas State 15

Last Week's Predictions
OSU 49, Houston 28 (Houston won 45-35)
@Toledo 23, Colorado 21 (Toledo won 54-38)
Iowa 28, @Iowa State 20 (Iowa won 35-3)
@Nebraska 34, Arkansas State 14 (Nebraska won 38-9)
Texas 49, @Wyoming 7 (Texas won 41-10)
Kansas State 24, @ULL 6 (ULL won 17-15)
@Missouri 35, Bowling Green 10 (Missouri won 27-20)
@Oklahoma 63, Idaho State 0 (Oklahoma won 64-0)
@Texas Tech 38, Rice 17 (Texas Tech won 55-10)
Kansas 27, @UTEP 20 (Kansas won 34-7)

Season Record
Straight: 16-6
ATS: 7-8

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