Life in the Big 12 is…interesting.
Last Saturday, the Cyclones squared off with one of the most feared and dynamic offenses that we’ve seen in college football. Their numbers are preposterous and their explosiveness is alarming.
All of that is still true, but the Cowboys down in Stillwater actually one up Baylor in explosive passing plays. How is that for a fright on Friday?
When it comes to Oklahoma State’s offense, they have been going big or going home and they sure haven’t gone home often. Daxx Garman now and J.W. Walsh previously this year have been torching defenses with the deep ball.
The Cowboys have run 221 plays from scrimmage this year and 15 of them have been passes completed for at least a gain of 25 yards. That is a 25 yard gain on 6.78 percent of their passes (eighth most in FBS). For comparison, that Baylor offense that we’ve all talked about, the Bears connect on pass plays of 25 yards or more on 5.26 percent of their plays from scrimmage (32nd most in FBS).
But how does the Cyclone defense matchup? Not as poorly as you may guess. The ISU defense has allowed nine passes of at least 25 yards so far this season while they have faced 233 snaps. That means the opposition notches a 25 plus yard gain through the air 3.86 percent of the time. That is 44th best in FBS. It is probably a pretty fair number based on the schedule too when you consider that even though their first three opponents were big on chucking it deep, ISU also played Baylor to even things out.
That passing explosiveness isn’t to say the Oklahoma State offense is better or more efficient scoring, but they can certainly stress a defense with their explosiveness; perhaps more so than the juggernaut from Waco. The offense is still pretty salty in Stillwater.
The Cowboys are averaging 2.79 points per possession which is 31st in the country. Meanwhile they play at a pace that can leave many defenses woozy as they rack up an average of 14.25 possessions per game, top 20 in FBS.
But what about when we flip the script on the explosive plays between the Cyclones and Cowboys? Well, ISU as you can probably imagine, is lighting the world on fire as 3.38 percent of their plays have been passes of 25 yards are more. But perhaps a struggling OSU secondary can aid in an improvement for Iowa State in this area. The Cowboys are in the bottom 25 of FBS in explosive pass plays allowed with 5.24 percent of plays resulting in a pass for 25 yards are more.
It provides a bit of an opening for a spotty Cyclone offense that has had a hard time getting going in spots. The struggling ground game has been the topic de jour this week and the Okie Lite stats alone don’t yield additional optimism.
The Cowboy defense has allowed opponents to gain a minimum of four yards on rushing plays just 34 times in the 229 snaps they have played. That results in a gain of four yards on just 14.85 percent of rushes and is the sixth best mark for defenses in college football.
That will hinder an improved offensive attack for ISU that is averaging just 1.88 points per possession (90th) while getting an average of just 12 drives per game (largely a result of three slow moving running teams in NDSU, Kansas State, and Iowa where Iowa State had just 31 total possessions).
The result in Stillwater may well come down to the explosive play on both sides and if ISU can somehow manufacture some ground yards. I get the feeling that Wally Burnham will do his best to scheme out the Cowboy running attack first with a close second coming to eliminating the deep ball.
This may be the first time in a while the Cyclone cornerbacks see added help over the top from their safeties; but only if ISU can somehow slow down the run with fewer guys committed than it recent weeks. Up to this point opponents are gaining a minimum of four yards on 30.04 percent of running plays putting ISU at 98th in the country in that stat.
Conversely, can ISU break their mold and find more success down the field as the Cowboy defense seems to allow? Sam Richardson will need some time but we’ve seen some instances this year of guys like Dondre Daley and Allen Lazard coming down with excellent catches.
To win the game ISU will likely need to find some luck and secure some turnovers as they hope to force Garman in to baited deep balls and windows that he shouldn’t been throwing into. But again, whether the defense comes to play or not the Cyclone offense will be the lynchpin of any success that is had.
They have to move the ball and they have to score points when the opportunity is present. Paul Rhoads has a pretty swell record in road games kicking off at 11 am with wins like Nebraska in 2009, a ranked Texas in 2010, and a ranked TCU in 2012. We seem about due for another one of those nice surprises.