LJWorld.com weblogs Conference chatter
Oklahoma State football undervalued from start; will Kansas be able to hold OSU offense?
Before the season, the Oklahoma State football team wasn't thought of as a legitimate factor in the Big 12 South race.
The Cowboys entered the year without the services of pivotal skill players from a year ago: quarterback Zac Robinson, running back Keith Toston and wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Surely, a rebuilding year in Stillwater, Okla., was a reasonable conclusion. A brief look back at preseason publications: Lindy's predicted OSU fifth in the South this season; Athlon also pegged the Pokes fifth; nationally-recognized and respected predictor Phil Steele actually had the Cowboys dead last in the South. So did I.
Oklahoma State is 9-1 (5-1 Big 12) and in first place in the Big 12 South with two games remaining. If the Cowboys beat Kansas next week in Lawrence and Oklahoma in two weeks at home, they would represent the South in the Dec. 4 Big 12 Championship in Arlington, Texas. Okie State has never won the South division.
OSU is easily the surprise team in the Big 12 this season. I'd even go as far to say the Cowboys are the surprise team in the country.
Who would have thought quarterback Brandon Weeden would be this good? Not me. The 27-year-old junior, who played minor league baseball with the New York Yankees farm system before his stint with the Cowboys, leads the NCAA with 3,391 passing yards (339 per game). He's first among BCS conference quarterbacks with 27 touchdown passes.
Who would have thought wide receiver Justin Blackmon would look like Dez Bryant, version 2.0? Not me. Warning: bold statement coming. Blackmon is the best receiver in college football this season. He leads the country in receiving yards (1,430) and touchdown catches (16). No one's been able to keep him out of the end zone. He's scored at least one touchdown in every game he's played this year.
To put Blackmon's dominance into perspective, the second-highest total for receiving yards in the country is 1,246 by Greg Salas of Hawaii. That's 184 yards fewer than Blackmon. And Blackmon even missed a game earlier this season when he was suspended on a DUI complaint. Smartest guy? Clearly not yet. The sophomore has quite a bit to learn if he wants to make millions.
But these are monster numbers. And they're not a fluke. I've watched Blackmon numerous times on TV and marveled at the way offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen incorporates him into the offense. Through simple crossing patterns over the middle. With deep passes. Off of flea-flickers. It's imaginative and quite brilliant. Blackmon is typically all over the field.
Blackmon torched Nebraska's Prince Amukamara, considered the Big 12's top pro prospect for next season by ESPN's Todd McShay, for five catches, 157 yards and two touchdowns on Oct. 23.
Furthermore, coming into Saturday, Texas had the No. 2 pass defense in the country, surrendering only 134.2 yards through the air per game. Blackmon eclipsed that total by himself, going off for nine catches, 145 yards and a score in OSU's 33-16 triumph in Austin, Texas. Blackmon beat another Big 12 cornerback with an NFL future, Aaron Williams, this past weekend on a 67-yard deep ball down the right sideline for a score.
Not a cornerback in the country, even a few with a future in the NFL, has stopped this guy.
And it's not just Blackmon. Who would have thought Oklahoma State's offense would be the most potent in the Big 12 and score at the enormous clip of 45 points per game? Again, not me. The Cowboys are third in the country in scoring offense.
One of the reasons OSU has the best offense in the Big 12 is because of its balance at the skill positions, which is becoming a staple of coach Mike Gundy's teams. Sure, there's Weeden to Blackmon, but it's not all that simple. Senior running back Kendall Hunter leads the Big 12 with 1,356 rushing yards (135 per game) and 16 touchdowns.
Stop one aspect of the Cowboys' attack, and the Cowboys still likely put up a respectable number on the scoreboard. OSU's lowest scoring output of the year was 24 points at Kansas State on Oct. 30, but that's the one game Blackmon missed due to suspension.
At full strength, the Cowboys' lowest output was 33 points on Saturday at Texas. Even then, Weeden passed for 411 yards (one score), Hunter rushed for 102 (two scores) and Blackmon totaled 145 yards receiving (one score).
Gundy gave up his play-calling duties this season and gave that responsibility to Holgorsen, in his first year at Oklahoma State after serving as offensive coordinator at Houston. That move has paid off, and Gundy should garner serious consideration for national coach of the year.
Next up for Oklahoma State: an 11 a.m. battle against Kansas on Saturday in Lawrence. The game will be televised on FSN.
I'm curious as to the thoughts of KU fans heading into this game. Does KU have a realistic chance to win? If so, how many points must the high-powered OSU offense be limited to?
The good news for Kansas: It should have more opportunities to score than it did this past weekend in a 20-3 loss at Nebraska. Oklahoma State's defense gives up 27.20 points per game, middle-of-the-pack in the Big 12.
Asking KU's offense to match OSU in a big-time shootout, however, is unrealistic and not a formula for success. Should KU have a chance on Saturday, it will be up to the defense to keep the Jayhawks in the game.
Another group of interesting storylines made its way through the Big 12 this weekend, including Colorado's first victory under interim head coach Brian Cabral, Oklahoma State's first victory over Texas in 12 years, Missouri protecting its home field against K-State and Texas A&M winning its fourth straight game and staying alive in the chase for the Big 12 South title.
For my reaction on these storylines and reaction on my picks from week 11, check out the latest episode of Conference ChatterTV:
Here's the latest edition of the Sorrentino Scale. The number that follows in parentheses is what the team was ranked last week:
1 (1). Nebraska (9-1): Finally, a team stays atop scale for two straight weeks. Nebraska didn't look impressive against KU and tends to play down to its competition (17-3 victory over South Dakota State; 31-30 overtime victory over Iowa State; 20-3 over KU). Only thing keeping Huskers on top of Scale is their victory over Oklahoma State from Oct. 23. NU will be tested next week at red-hot Texas A&M.
2 (2). Oklahoma State (9-1): Big 12 South could come down to Bedlam game (vs. Oklahoma) in final week.
3 (3). Oklahoma (8-2): Sooners must play better away from home. Next two games (at Baylor, at Oklahoma State) will provide opportunity to prove themselves on road.
4 (4). Missouri (8-2): QB Blaine Gabbert recaptured swagger vs. K-State.
5 (7). Texas A&M (7-3): Aggies still have chance to win South. Must win vs. Nebraska, at Texas to have chance at it, though.
6 (5). Baylor (7-4): Bears on two-game slide.
7 (6). Kansas State (6-4): Two-quarterback system (Carson Coffman, Collin Klein) in effect in Manhattan. Ah. There isn't much in football I dislike more than two-QB systems.
8 (8). Iowa State (5-6): Senior QB Austen Arnaud (injured left knee) out for remainder of season. Sophomore Jerome Tiller to take over. Must beat Missouri at home to reach bowl game.
9 (9). Texas Tech (5-5): Red Raiders oddly finish with Weber State and Houston at home. They should reach bowl game.
10 (10). Texas (4-6): Florida Atlantic next up at home, but Longhorns are 1-4 in Austin this year. Should be a gimme game, but with this UT season, who knows?
11 (11). Kansas (3-7): KU defense will be put to ultimate test this upcoming Saturday.
12 (12). Colorado (4-6): Interim coach Brian Cabral off to good start.
That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.