It may not be a battle of two ranked teams, but No. 12 Texas taking on Oklahoma State in Austin is up there with the biggest college football games in Week 4. Why? You may not guess it at first, but there’s a lot riding on this game for the Longhorns.
Let’s put aside the obvious playoff chatter that still can be heard on the periphery — that Texas’ margin for error has gone down with a loss to LSU. Let’s consider other things, like the fact that Texas has not beaten Oklahoma State at home since 2008. For that matter, Oklahoma State has won seven of the last nine against Texas. Think that’s been lost on the Longhorns? Think again.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 21 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Royal Texas Memorial Stadium — Austin, Texas
TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN
There’s also the matter of Texas clawing its way back into national relevancy. For context — and hat tip to CBS Sports’ own Kyle Porter — the Cowboys have won 124 games since coach Mike Gundy took over in 2005. Starting from that same timeline, the year Texas last won it all, the Horns have won 123 games.
Texas: We’ll get to Oklahoma State’s offense in a minute; the reverse storyline is the biggest one for Texas. Can the Longhorns make critical stops on defense? This was the Achilles heel for Texas in the loss to LSU — most notably on the Tigers’ 61-yard dagger touchdown on third-and-17 in the fourth quarter. Three LSU receivers finished the game with more than 100 yards and quarterback Joe Burrow may as well have been the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft right then and there. Texas got right on defense the following week against Rice, but, you know, it’s Rice. Oklahoma State isn’t lacking in speedy playmakers and Texas will be tested again. The key difference, perhaps, is that Burrow is a seasoned veteran while Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders is a redshirt freshman.
Oklahoma State: The Big 12 race looks like a two-horse competition between Texas and Oklahoma … for now. The Cowboys can make a huge impression on that front with a win in Austin. That hasn’t been a problem for Gundy’s team this decade and this is arguably his most talented offense since the Brandon Weeden-Joseph Randle-Justin Blackmon days. The trio of Sanders, running back Chuba Hubbard and receiver Tylan Wallace is a force that will put stress on just about any defense. If Gundy coaches up in this big-time matchup, like he’s oft to do, we’ll have to respect the Pokes enough to make a run towards the Big 12 Championship Game in December.
Game prediction, picks
The recent history leans in favor of the Pokes, but this appears to be, at least, the best team Texas has had in a decade. DKR is going to be charged and the Longhorns offense is running at a nice, efficient hum. This should be a classic Big 12 shootout, and I like Gundy’s creativity to keep his team within the spread, even though I’ll take the Horns outright. Pick: Oklahoma State +5.5