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The Film Room Previews: The Oklahoma State Cowboys

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It's Halloween, let's get spooky.

The Oklahoma State Cowboys come to Lubbock this Saturday as an undefeated team. They've been in many close games so far this year, and have came out on top in all of them. They might not be as good as their record, but ultimately, winning is the only thing that matters. I personally think they have many of the pieces of a dominant team that simply haven't played well at the same time. Their defense, particularly their defensive line, is incredibly tenacious. On offense, they employ a running back by committee that is proving to be very effective. Mason Rudolph is an effective starter, but in the red zone, veteran QB J.W. Walsh really shines. The bottom line is that this is a very good football team that has yet to reach their full potential.

WEEKLY PLAYLIST:

Gone Too Soon - Daughtry

DEFENSE: 4-3

Oklahoma State runs a very basic 4-3. Their big playmaker is very obviously Emmanuel Ogbah, star defensive end. The kid is a bona fide stud, and should go very high in the draft. Their defensive end combination is lethal, as the attention that Emmanuel Ogbah requires frees up the rest of their talented defensive line to make plays. They employ man combination coverages and other things specifically designed to confuse young QBs. Our offense is very potent, so we still should score points. I just wouldn't expect as many of them this week. If LeRaven Clark can handle Ogbah, we should be able to run the ball effectively, as well as really open up screens. If he can't, it might be a long day.

OFFENSE: Balanced Spread

The "Pistol" formation OSU runs particularly intrigues me. It's utilized as a more spread out version of a Strong-I Formation, while still spreading the field so that their receivers have space to work with. Much like us, they enjoy their slant patterns that open up deep fade routes. As stated previously, in the red zone they switch up quarterbacks from Mason Rudolph to the dual threat guy, J.W. Walsh. This is an offense that hasn't hit it's full potential yet. Against our defense, they might not need to in order to come out of Lubbock with a win.

WHY I'M WORRIED:

The Cowboys look to be much improved after coming out of their bye week. Yeah, they played Kansas, but they definitely pass the eye test. We face another offense with playmakers that could make our defense look foolish. There definitely are players on their defense that could make our offense look foolish. They have the talent to beat us soundly.

WHY I'M NOT WORRIED:

Lubbock. On. Halloween. Despite the tribute that we are showing to our OSU friends in the midst of their tragedy, I expect our students to show up and be rowdy (albeit more respectfully than they normally are). Not to mention the fact that we just play better at home. Lubbock is the Bermuda Triangle of football. High-flying offenses and stout defenses enter the South Plains and simply disappear until they leave. Everything i've heard out of practice this week indicates that we're heading back to the basics of football, and I couldn't be more happy about that.

HOW WE MATCH UP:

Right off the bat, expect the OSU offense to come with tempo, and to get into our red zone quick. Our defense is made to give up the small chunks of yardage, and OSU's offense exploits that concept well.

These aren't some of the slant patterns we'll see, but Texas is running a defense similar to what we run. Oklahoma State likes this stack formation with their WRs on 3rd and long plays, and they generally run the same combination of routes to either side. Most often they'll have one slant towards the middle, two outside stop routes, and a deep post route. The confusion on such a simple play comes from the fact that due to the formation, the defense doesn't have a clue who's running what until it happens.

I fully expect OSU to hit several of these over the middle specifically. Our linebackers (and our defense in general) do not excel at anything, but they are good at playing sideline to sideline on screen and RB flares, and have struggled over the middle in the past. The most notable case of this was our inability to cover Josh Doctson. Much like Baylor, OSU doesn't much tailor specific plays to the defense they're facing. They do what they do, and they dare you to try and stop it. Now if the running game is going well, yeah they're going to run it more. Those running plays will be plays that we've already seen before though, and that fact is one that will help us a little. I believe that they're not going to try and pull out anything crazy to beat us, they're just going to give us stuff they've already shown.

Here, we see a glimpse of the OSU run game.

Oklahoma State is going to use a myriad of backfield formations, under center, shotgun, and their pistol look. The only thing is, they're all essentially the same: 2-back gun. The locations of the RB and the FB/other RB are what gives away what they're trying to do. On this play, they have #47, a H-back/TE hybrid, incredibly close to the line of scrimmage, a QB under center, and a tailback. This formation is no different than their Pistol look. The Texas defense plays well off the edge, so they needed their H-back closer to the line of scrimmage to block the weak side edge player. If they're in the pistol or the shotgun, the formation would still be balanced. Placing the QB under center gives the Pokes a chance to fool Texas into thinking that they're going to run to the strong side. The WR positioning also plays into this, but they're less of a giveaway than the two RBs.

For example, in most of the OSU plays i've watched, a 2-back gun look is most likely a sweep. A pistol or under look most often is an inside zone or a trap, like what we see here with the H-back trapping the Longhorn's edge player. The pistol and under looks are most dangerous for us because of our defense's tendency to over pursue. In what i've seen, the Cowboys use a lot of weak-side and read-option looks, especially when JW Walsh comes in at QB. Given our tendencies, we might make yet another team's RBs look like superheroes.

When JW Walsh is in, the Cowboys have one of two formations: 2-back gun or "Full House". Regardless of the formation, it's nearly always an option. Either that option is a pure running option or a pass-run option, very akin to what Oregon and Marcus Mariota ran to near perfection. OSU is lethal in red zone situations, and a big part of it is the way Walsh operates the option. The kid's incredibly good in short yardage situations. Once again, OSU is going to pull out some trap looks, and we have problems with those.

If we ever needed Gibbs to switch it up, it's this week. We can't let OSU get into the red zone. This week we can't "bend but not break". The strength of OSU's offense isn't getting to the red zone. It's what it does when it gets there.

The Cowboy's defense is based on calculated gambles. This isn't to say that they aren't very good, rather that they try to put a lot of pressure on teams with smart run blitzing and stellar sideline-to-sideline play.

The Cowboy's RDE plays this perfectly. His assignment is to be the edge player, but also get a piece of the tackle as the tackle heads up to the second level to block the linebacker. He squeezes the gap so well that the Longhorn's tackle isn't able to take a proper angle to block the linebacker, rendering the option a moot point. OSU plays incredibly well horizontally, and that's going to make most of our running game with Justin Stockton very difficult. I could easily see him used as a pass catcher only this week. This isn't to say that Kliff can't scheme up something to affect this, like a WR crackblock, but if I was in this position, I would steer far away from the vast majority of our running plays that attempt to beat people to the edge.

However, if we catch OSU in a run blitz, we might have some effective sweep plays.

Unlike the Sooner's run blitzing, the Cowboys attack the run from deeper in the field. If this was Oklahoma, this coverage wouldn't be disguised, and the safety would be sneaking up to the line of scrimmage as the play starts. He starts so far back that it actually works in Texas's favor. He has to push so hard vertically to get to the play that the running back can easily avoid him with a horizontal move and a pretty average block. OSU loves to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, and that can cause them to give up big chunks of yardage at times.

THE VERDICT:

OSU is definitely beatable. Their weaknesses are ones that we can easily exploit if we're on our game. However, the same can be said of us, because the areas we struggle in they excel in. We cannot allow OSU to march the field on us at will. If we give them success between the 20's, we will lose this football game and it will not be pretty. I expect us to come out fired up and ready to play in front of a raucous Jones Stadium crowd, but we're going to need more than momentum to win. It's going to take an excellent, not flawless gameplan and great execution from our players. Based on those facts, I think that Tech plays very well and gives the Pokes a heck of a game, but I don't think we come out with a win in this one.

FINAL SCORE PREDICTION:

Texas Tech 45, Oklahoma State 48.