I really like the writers at Cowboys Ride For Free, our Oklahoma State-centric sister site on the SB Nation platform.
That being said, screw Oklahoma State.
It’s not really their team - they have some really great players who seem like decent human beings off the field. And it’s not their coach - Mike Gundy’s mullet is glorious and can be nothing but respected. And the school itself is a pretty amazing community that has endured real tragedy over the years and shown a spirit of unity and pride in every instance.
But dammit, every time we travel to Stillwater, something bad seems to happen. And because of an odd Texas A&M based schedule quirk, we’ve had to do it a lot. Last year, Stillwater took Josh Doctson away from us, as he was felled by a broken wrist on a weird fall/tackle. The prior trip, the Horned Frogs came out of the gate flat, and we would later learn that some bad chicken may have been at least partly to blame. And way back in 2012, the Frogs led until late in the third, but went scoreless after scoring the first two TDs of the game and were routed in the second half. But in 2016, the Cowboys come to Fort Worth, and the unranked Horned Frogs will be looking to knock off 13th ranked OSU. Cade Webb of Cowboys Ride For Free was kind enough to answer a few questions and tell us what we might expect for the early morning kickoff.
Melissa: Let's address the elephant in the room, right out of the gate: you cost us four games of Josh Doctson and we haven't forgiven you. In fact, every time TCU goes to Stillwater, something bad seems to happen. Why you do that?
Cade: Well ... Such is life. I was disappointed to see Doctson go down the way he did last year against OSU. He's a great talent and was handing it to the Pokes during the first half of those games. Hopefully this year's edition of OSU/TCU is injury free.
Melissa: In all seriousness, Oklahoma State has quietly climbed into the top 15 of the rankings after suffering early season losses both in and out of conference. How good is this team and what is their ceiling for the season?
Cade: I have no idea how good this team is. It seems like the trademark of the last two seasons for OSU has been their ability to get up for the big games, and their inability to not play down to their competition. Last week we saw Texas Tech nearly beat OSU in Stillwater, but three weeks ago we saw OSU muscle around a then-undefeated West Virginia. I think this team is as talented as any team in the conference, but their ceiling is what they want it to be. I'm not sure that's a good thing.
Melissa: TCU played their best game of the season two weeks ago against Baylor, finally showcasing their dangerous running game and an aggressive defense. If you were Gary Patterson and co, how would you scheme against OSU on both sides of the ball? Don't worry I'm sure he won't read this or anything...
Cade: I think the blueprint to beat OSU's defense is simple. Be able to run the ball from your base set and mix up the play calling in order to keep them off balance. OSU has struggled in defending the run this season and they've also had troubles with the pass at times. It doesn't seem like they have trouble with both at one time, so I think OSU has to pick their poison. If I'm TCU, the Pokes are getting a heavy dose of Kyle Hicks.
Melissa: TCU fans are very familiar with the combination of Mason Rudolph and James Washington, but they may be surprised to learn that Mike Gundy has finally found a bit of a running game to complement his dynamic duo. What can you tell us about the OSU run game in 2016?
Cade: I actually think the running game is the best that it has been since 2013. While that's not exactly saying much, I've been very impressed with how the offensive line has matured, especially of late. OSU ran for over 200 yards last week against Tech and they did it from their base set. Justice Hill, true freshman, has been a game changer for OSU. He is faster than any other back on the team and he is very shifty. He's rushed for nearly 800 yards on the season and is 3rd in the Big 12 in rushing. For a true freshman, I think you've got to be impressed with that. Chris Carson is the complimentary back in this offense and comes in for the majority of short-yardage runs.
Melissa: Emmanuel Ogbah is gone, PRAISE BE. And it seems the defense is a little less effective for it, allowing nearly six yards per play and 450+ yards a game. The Cowboys are allowing more than 30 points a game in Big 12 play, which puts them squarely in the middle of the pack. Is it concerning to fans or are they playing well enough to win?
Cade: Well, up to this point, the defense has played well enough for OSU to be 10-0. The defense didn't lose the CMU or Baylor games. The offense turned the ball over three times in Waco and that was the difference. While OSU's defense is incredibly average, they have played just good enough to win. We all wish the defense would be better, but as of now they've done enough. They'll need to play better to get a win this week.
Melissa: Is there one player on offense and one on defense that needs to be a difference maker or on Saturday for the Cowboys to come away with a win?
Cade: We would be remiss if we didn't talk about Mason Rudolph. He is playing the best football of his career and is getting better every week. If he can build on what he's done over the last few weeks, he'll make a major difference in this game. On offense, aside from Rudolph, keep an eye on Justice Hill. He's played incredibly well for a true freshman and has game changing ability in the open field. On defense, look out for Vincent Taylor. The star DT is a legitimate Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year candidate and has had an incredible junior season. He clogs up the middle with his size, but he is fast enough to get into the backfield and sack the quarterback.
Melissa: What is your prediction for the game?
Cade: Readers, avert your eyes... While I do believe that TCU has improved and has gotten healthier lately, I don't think they're suddenly a top 3 team in the conference. The Baylor win was quite impressive, but Baylor is officially in meltdown mode. I think OSU is the hotter team and they've got more to play for on Saturday, with a win placing the Big 12 title within reach for them. OSU thrives on turnovers, and I think Kenny Hill obliges. I'll take Oklahoma State to win 34-27.
Melissa: Eskimoe Joe's: over, under, or properly rated?
Cade: Great question. I love their sweet pepper bacon cheese fries like everyone else, and their burgers are above average. That said, I'm not crazy about anything else on their menu. I would say Joe’s is properly rated simply for how incredible their cheese fries are.
Thanks to Cade for his time, and be sure to check out my Q&A on CRFF here.