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OSU football: Player to watch, prediction and pick for Oklahoma State-Texas

October 22, 2017

If Oklahoma State defeats Texas Saturday, the Cowboys will improve to 5-0 in Austin since 2010.

It will make Mike Gundy 5-2 on the Longhorns’ home field. And when you take a look at those seven games, you’ll notice a trend -- one that could give you an indication of who will win Saturday.

The team with the stronger, more established quarterback wins.

2015: Mason Rudolph (and J.W. Walsh) vs. Jerrod Heard

2013: Clint Chelf vs. Case McCoy

2011: Brandon Weeden vs. David Ash

2010: Brandon Weeden vs. Garrett Gilbert

2008: Zac Robinson vs. Colt McCoy

2006: Bobby Reid vs. Colt McCoy

There’s not a complicated answer to why Oklahoma State has had more success in the last decade against the Longhorns than it has in its history. The answer is above.

Player to watch

Turning the attention away from quarterbacks and to the defensive side for OSU, the Cowboys are faced with a different kind of assignment Saturday.

Oklahoma State must be able to soundly tackle a 230-pound quarterback and 250-pound running back.

That makes it feel like a game where Chad Whitener will play a big role.

Whitener is second on Oklahoma State in tackles this season behind only Tre Flowers. But after 7.5 tackles for loss in each of the past two seasons, he’s sitting at two through six games.

Whitener said this week he has seen an increased emphasis in practice on forcing turnovers against Texas -- something Mike Gundy preached in a team meeting this week. As the quarterback of the defense, and a Texas native, Whitener might have a hand in making that happen.

Prediction

Texas holds Justice Hill below 100 yards.

The one area where the Longhorns seem to hold an advantage heading into Saturday’s game is with their run defense, which has held their last five opponents to 2.9 yards per carry.

Linebacker Malik Jefferson has been monstrous against the run. Texas’ entire linebacking corps, including Naashon Hughes and Anthony Wheeler, has been solid.

And though Oklahoma State has run the ball well in most games this season, consider the yards-per-carry-allowed ranks of its opponents:

Tulsa: 129th (out of 130)

South Alabama: 42nd

Pittsburgh: 98th

TCU: 9th

Texas Tech: 21st

Baylor: 125th

Credit for the performance against Texas Tech (221 team rushing yards), TCU stifled OSU on first down runs. Hill still likely gets plenty of work as long as the game is close, but his 100-yard streak ends at three.

Pick

Stating the obvious: Every game here on out is important for Oklahoma State, which can’t afford to lose another game if it wants to remain in College Football Playoff contention.

Saturday feels particularly important, especially for the OSU defense. On a rate basis, OSU’s defense has been pretty good this season, 24th nationally. And it has allowed less than 30 points in five of six games (one of Texas Tech’s touchdowns came on a pick-six).

With West Virginia and Oklahoma, two top-15 offenses, up next on the schedule, the defense is about to face its biggest tests. But first, it must keep developing against Texas.

I’ll buy in against a Texas team that doesn’t have a dominant aerial attack. OSU’s offense plays well, but its defense works in tandem to deliver a win.

Pokes 38, Horns 24

Other picks around the Big 12 …

Texas Tech (-7) 42, Iowa State 34

Oklahoma 37, Kansas State (+14) 27

TCU 42, Kansas (+39) 13

West Virginia 38, Baylor (+9) 31