Oklahoma State has hit the Easy Button in its first three victories, outscoring opponents by the average margin of 54-17. For the Cowboys’ top players, the fourth quarter has been Coaches Decision – No Need To Participate.
The mastery of its domain has helped Oklahoma State rise to No. 6 in the rankings and stamp itself as a bona fide College Football Playoff contender. Big 12 Conference play starts Saturday when No. 16 TCU – which has posted an impressive victory at Arkansas – visits Stillwater as double-digit underdogs.
Gary Patterson, who can be cagey with his comments, hints that he thinks the Frogs’ accustomed underdog role plus the Cowboys’ lack of 60-minute tests could provide an edge.
“If there’s any advantage to me going into the ballgame, we’ve played two teams that have had a high level of something, going into the ballgame,” Patterson, whose team overcame an early 19-7 deficit to dismantle SMU, 56-36, said this week. “I think that’s the only advantage that we have going into Oklahoma State – going in that we’ve had to be in two battles. Basically, they’ve only had to play until halftime.”
Saturday’s game is a preview of what could be a wildly entertaining Big 12 season. Aside from bottom feeders Baylor and Kansas, the other eight teams possess varying amounts of skill and power. Near the end of the season’s first month, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have separated themselves but their margins could quickly evaporate as the schedule unspools.
The Showdown In Stillwater will be a fascinating contrast of the Cowboys’ offense (first in the Big 12 in scoring, second in total offense) and the Frogs’ defense (first in total and rushing defense, third in scoring defense). Patterson is one of college football’s top defensive minds while Oklahoma State’s offense might have the nation’s best collection of skill players.
Senior quarterback Mason Rudolph has placed himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion. He’s fourth nationally in passing yards per game and fifth in passing efficiency. Last Saturday at Pitt, in what was expected to be a challenging game for the Cowboys, Rudolph threw for 423 yards and five touchdowns – in the first half.
“(Rudolph) knows what we’re trying to accomplish on offense,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy told USA Today. “No matter what level you’re playing at, peewee all the way through the NFL, if your quarterback gets it and he’s experienced you’ve got a chance to win.”
TCU’s defense must slow the Cowboys’ offense – but that might mean “holding” it to five touchdowns. Patterson acknowledged that the Frogs’ offense will need to be productive.
Which brings us to the “other” senior quarterback in this game. Kenny (Once Known As Trill) Hill has been outstanding thus far. After an inconsistent junior season following his transfer from Texas A&M, Hill has been accurate and productive. He’s 15th in the nation in passing efficiency and completing 75 percent of his attempts. And while TCU doesn’t have a warehouse full of offensive weapons like Oklahoma State, it still has plenty of playmakers and a quarterback who knows how to utilize them.
“I think Kenny Hill’s playing with more confidence,” Gundy said. “They’ve always had good skill guys. Hill is playing better, they’re in a lot of empty (backfield) now, trying to spread people out and let him make quick throws or use his running abilities to make plays.”
While Oklahoma State has the home field, that might not be an advantage. Since joining the Big 12, TCU is 14-9 in league road games and has won five of their last six road games (overall). However, the Frogs are 0-3 in Stillwater.
“That’s what TCU thrives off of, is being the underdog,” Frogs senior cornerback Ranthony Texada told The Dallas Morning News. “And that’s what TCU is.”
End of an era
Few schools have had the president/athletic director/head football coach trifecta last as long as Oklahoma. When Bob Stoops was hired in December 1998 by athletic director Joe Castiglione, president David Boren had been in place since December of 1994.
Four months after Stoops made his stunning retirement announcement, Boren followed suit. Wednesday in Norman he announced that he would step down on June 30 – so long as a successor is in place by that time.
University presidents tend to be nomads and anonymous souls – unless the school’s athletic department breaks NCAA rules. The 76-year-old Boren, a former governor and U.S. Senator for the Sooner State, was as high profile as a Kardashian, especially during the last decade.
No one in the absurd history of the Big 12's expansion/contraction/realignment saga provided more fodder than David Boren. He'll be missed.
— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) September 20, 2017
For better or worse, he made the last half dozen years interesting as the Big 12 saw the departure of four original schools, added two new schools and debated its future. Here are three of the most popular singles from Boren’s greatest hits album:
- As Texas A&M was in the process of leaving for the Southeastern Conference and the Big 12’s future was in doubt, Boren rattled his sabre and increased speculation OU might leave for the Pac-12. That bombast – including a news conference at the same time as the Missouri president was conducting a news conference – might have been the last nudge Mizzou needed to join the SEC.
- In 2015, Boren questioned if the Big 12 was “psychologically disadvantaged” because it only had 10 teams. Later that year, the Sooners made the CFP to temper OU’s psychological issues. However, his comment roiled a league that was busy putting out fires.
- In 2016, Boren pushed for the conference to consider expansion. That led to a clumsy all-comers circus where over two dozen schools campaigned for acceptance. After three months, reality finally set in and the Big 12 decided to stand pat.
Nature abhors a vacuum. When Texas lost veteran leadership at president and athletic director, Boren’s ego had no problem filling the void in terms of Big 12 issues. His departure now calls into question what will happen next. Oklahoma’s selection of its next president could well impact the future of the Big 12 when its television contracts end in 2024-25.
FYI, OU’s search for a new president will have significant ramifications for future of Big 12 and OU’s future conference affiliation.
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) September 20, 2017
Breakfast with the Big 12
One of Boren’s recent accomplishments in his role as a member of the Big 12’s board of directors was pushing for the reinstatement of the conference championship game. On the day Boren stepped down, the time and date for this season’s game was finalized.
Why so long? It’s the Big 12, folks. Nothing is easy.
Fox will televise the game and will alternate years with ESPN. This year’s game will be at 12:30 ET on Dec. 2. There was considerable legal wrangling before all parties were satisfied and the lawyers had enough billable hours to afford another yacht.
Big 12 gonna be playing their conference championship game when the west coast is watching cartoons. I love it
— Jake Nazar (@ATVS_JakeNazar) September 20, 2017
On Dec. 2, aka Championship Saturday, the SEC is slated for 4 p.m. ET on CBS, the ACC for either 8 p.m. ET on ABC or 7:45 ET on ESPN and the Big Ten is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on Fox. The Pac-12 championship game will be played on Dec. 1 and televised by Fox.
If the Big 12 had played its title game on Friday, it likely would have been a 6 p.m. ET kickoff and, obviously, in prime time. That, however would have given us more Pac-12 After Dark – the Pac-12 game would have kicked off at 9:30 ET and the Pac-12 would again be asking half the country to stay up past its bedtime to see its showcase game.
The early kickoff for the Big 12 does give it a national window without competition from another game but it also makes the league an entree instead of the main course. In recent years, the Big 12 has found itself slotted into the noon ET and 3:30 ET windows for games that typically are regionally telecast. Prime time has been no time for the Big 12 as Big Ten and SEC games dominate the night games.