Position breakdown: Oklahoma State

Cowboys passing attack will stress an inconsistent secondary

Oklahoma secondary might not be the Sooners’ biggest weakness, but it is the only real issue on the defensive side of the ball.

It was an inexperienced group at the start of the season, and so far, nothing has really changed.

Oklahoma State doesn’t have the horses to put constant pressure on the Sooners, like Baylor does, but there are a few players that can change the game.

Running back Tyreek Hill and freshman receiver James Washington rank at the top of that list of players who can put stress on the Oklahoma secondary.

“Like they have everybody,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “They’ve got good receivers spread out and do a nice job getting them downfield. They’ve done it through the years and it will always be that way. About everyone you play is trying to do that.”

What sets Oklahoma State’s weapons apart from the rest of the conference is pure speed.

Hill is an All-American track star, and Washington has a listed 4.4 40-yard dash time.

The biggest question comes from how the Cowboys’ biggest weapons will get the ball. Freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph makes the second start of his career.

“I thought he showed a lot of poise, he showed that the moment wasn’t too big for him,” Stoops said. “He handled the offense at the line of scrimmage well, and he made some nice downfield throws. I thought he threw the ball really well.”

Stoops and the Oklahoma defense won’t try to defend Rudolph any differently, saying that they won’t do anything differently facing a young quarterback.

“I don’t look at exploiting the quarterback as much as you’re trying to defend the offense and that is being great against the run game, try to get, not just a young quarterback, but any quarterback, try and get him into long-yardage situations,” Stoops said. “To me it’s just defending an offense and not one individual.”

That is the key position battle this week. Here’s a look at how each team compares across the board:

Quarterback: Trevor Knight has been ruled out this week, which means the two starting quarterbacks in the 101st Bedlam have three combined starts. There’s a chance that both Mason Rudolph and Cody Thomas could be starters next year. For now though, both are in the infancy of their careers. So look at the basic lines. Rudolph: 13-for-25, 281 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Thomas: 13-for-33, 172 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Weather had something to do with it, but Rudolph’s numbers are just better for Oklahoma State.

Running backs: Oklahoma State comes equipped with a talented running back duo. Tyreek Hill can break open a game at a moment’s notice, and Desmond Roland is averaging 64.3 yards per game. But, there isn’t much to look at outside of Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine, who is coming off and FBS record-setting performance. Perine leads the Big 12 in rushing yards per game (129.8) and touchdowns (10.4 points per game). He ranks ninth in the country in yards per game and is sixth in rushing touchdowns. Oklahoma has quite a freshman running back.

Wide receivers: Sterling Shepard’s status is still up in the air. He’ll give it a go on game day, like he has the past two games, but there’s still no guarantee that he’ll play. Once again, if Shepard can go, he’s the best receiver on the field. Oklahoma State freshman receiver James Washington is starting to shine. He has touchdowns in consecutive games and at least three catches in four straight. If Shepard misses the game, the Cowboys have the better group. But Shepard plays for Oklahoma.

Tight end: Blake Jarwin has been a decent option for Oklahoma State, although he’s caught just four passes this season. Jarwin also isn’t even the best Blake at his position group. Blake Bell has continued to make strides for Oklahoma. He’s also made Bedlam his own person showcase. Just wait and see what he does Saturday.

Offensive line: Oklahoma has allowed only six sacks all season, the most by three. The Sooners have the eighth-highest rushing yards per game average (265.4) and are six in the country in yards per carry (6.3). Is there really any doubt that Oklahoma has the best line in this game?

Defensive line: No player in the Big 12 Conference averages more sacks or tackles for loss against Oklahoma State sophomore defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. He averages a sack per game, one of only eight players who can stake a claim to that achievement. His 1.5 tackles for loss per game is ranked in the top 15 in the nation. Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips might be the best defensive lineman in the game, but the most disruptive lines up for Oklahoma State.

Linebackers: The Sooners’ defensive line loses its luster because it makes room for the Oklahoma linebackers to make plays. That’s why Eric Striker is free to roam, and Dominique Alexander rolls up tackles every weekend. Oklahoma State still has its own playmakers – Ryan Simmons and Jordan Sterns both average 7.7 tackles per game. Oklahoma just has a better crop of talent.

Secondary: When the interceptions stop, Oklahoma’s inadequacies in the secondary shine horribly bright. Thanks to a rainy mess last week against Kansas, the Sooners are no longer the worst pass defense in the Big 12 Conference. Thanks to a match-up against Baylor, Oklahoma State now has the worst pass defense in the conference. Oklahoma has the most Pick 6’s in the conference, too.

Special teams: There might not be a player that can truly neutralize Alex Ross’ impact, but Tyreek Hill might be close to that guy. Enter Nick Hodgson, who has 65 touchbacks in 78 kickoffs this season. That’s how you neutralize Hill. Oklahoma has the man to do it.


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