Instant Analysis: Oklahoma State boosts playoff case with upset of TCU
A week after hanging 70 points on Texas Tech, No. 14 Oklahoma State’s high-flying offense delivered another spectacular outing in a 49–29 win over No. 8 TCU on Saturday afternoon. Wide receiver James Washington followed his 200-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Red Raiders last week with another electric performance, finishing with 184 yards receiving on five catches for three touchdowns. Meanwhile, TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin may have lost his chance at this year’s Heisman Trophy after throwing a career-high four interceptions.
Here are three thoughts regarding the first major upset to jar the Big 12:
1. Oklahoma State is for real
The Cowboys’ early-season success appeared to be a mirage due to a fairly easy early slate of games and three narrow wins against middling opponents (Texas, Kansas State, West Virginia). Saturday’s dominant showing against the Horned Frogs legitimized the Cowboys as a serious College Football Playoff contender, and not just because their offense can routinely score 40 points.
Snubbed as a Lombardi Award semifinalist, Oklahoma State defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah compiled another standout performance, routinely chasing Boykin out of the pocket, deflecting passes and keeping the usually smooth TCU offense off-balance. Ogbah’s constant backfield pressure helped force four Boykin interceptions, which led to 21 Cowboy points (Oklahoma State’s 107 points off of turnovers this season leads the Big 12). Linebacker Chad Whitener logged two interceptions, one he raced down to the one-yard-line and another for a pick-six, to put the exclamation point on a strong, if inconsistent defensive performance.
The defense wasn’t dominant—it surrendered 663 total yards even as TCU star wide receiver Josh Doctson missed the second half with a wrist injury—but it held TCU to nine points in the first half and came up with a key red zone stop late in the fourth quarter to clinch the win. Gundy complimented the ‘team speed’ and the pursuit of Boykin, a player the coach admitted isn’t one to be stopped, but limited.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph effectively marshaled the offense and reminded the nation that, while his short-yardage passing could use improvement, he is dangerous when he throws deep. Four of Rudolph’s career-high five touchdown passes were for 48 yards or more, and the Cowboys were able to hang 49 points despite running only 53 plays on offense (compared to TCU’s 109). Gundy commented at the end of the game that the offense still wasn’t running the ball "as well as we should be," but with the ability to score points on such long touchdowns, it doesn’t appear to be hindering the offense.
2. Josh Doctson’s injury could dearly cost TCU
Doctson, the All-America candidate who entered the game with 1,250 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, injured his wrist and the end of the first half and was ruled out after the Horned Frogs exited the tunnel. If that injury is serious enough, Boykin may struggle to find a go-to receiver for the rest of the year.
Kolby Listenbee is one of college football’s fastest players, but hasn’t showcased the ability to be a go-to possession receiver. Aaron Green effectively catches passes out of the backfield, but isn’t designed to be a go-to receiver in TCU’s high-octane offense. Boykin suffered through a host of deflections, drops and misses of what appeared to be otherwise sharp deliveries. If Doctson is out for an extended period of time, the best options appear to be KaVontae Turpin and Shaun Nixon, who finished Saturday with a combined 16 catches and 253 yards, but each struggled with hauling in catchable passes. If the Horned Frogs wish to recover from this loss and make a last-ditch run at a playoff spot, they’ll need another player to step up if Doctson misses serious time.
3. Oklahoma State’s path to the playoff is clear, TCU’s is not
Both the Cowboys and Horned Frogs will enter next week as double-digit favorites (Oklahoma State faces Iowa State, TCU faces Kansas), before each will take on Baylor and Oklahoma in the season’s final two weeks. While TCU has to travel to Norman to try and knock off the resurgent Sooners, Oklahoma State hosts both Baylor and Oklahoma in Bedlam, which is quickly becoming one of the most feared destinations in college football.
With the homecoming tragedy serving as extra motivation for an already talented football team, the Cowboys may be the new Big 12 favorite after logging the conference’s most impressive win of the season.