Tigers, Cowboys Might Just Be This Good
By Paul Myerberg // Oct 22, 2010
Oklahoma State might be very good. We don’t know — the Cowboys haven’t played anybody. Let’s give O.S.U. credit for one thing, however: each of its six games have come against F.B.S. competition. Two were from the Sun Belt, on the other hand. Another came against a Conference USA opponent. Another against Washington State, the worst B.C.S. conference team in the country. Two have come in Big 12 play: Texas A&M and Texas Tech, the latter by an impressive 17-point margin in Lubbock. The Cowboys might just be as good as they’ve looked through six games. We just don’t know yet.
We will come Saturday, when the Cowboys host Nebraska. Who wins when a powerful passing attack meets the nation’s best secondary? They say a good defense beats a good offense and vice versa, but that’s of little help. Here’s what we do know: if O.S.U. can beat Nebraska — beat a team whose strength matches up well against its strength — it’s time to consider the Cowboys a viable Big 12 contender.
For now, Oklahoma State shares a boat with West Virginia, Northwestern and Kansas State: teams with solid records, though it’s unclear how each will fare against premier competition. Missouri, which hosts Oklahoma on Saturday night, is also on this list.
If possible, Missouri’s first half schedule makes Oklahoma State’s look like a run through the SEC: the Tigers have played only one team over .500 — San Diego State — and needed a late touchdown pass to defeat the Aztecs. No, it hasn’t been a good 6-0 for Missouri, though it’s 6-0 nonetheless: the Tigers might not have played anybody, but they’re 2-0 in Big 12 play, atop the North division.
In comparison, Oklahoma State seems like a sure thing; if we compare each team’s common opponent, on the other hand, we see a different story. Each has played Texas A&M: both won, of course, with O.S.U. needing a late field goal in a 38-35 home victory. It wasn’t merely as close on Saturday, when Missouri took a trip to College Station: Tigers 30, Aggies 9, with the game never in doubt.
There’s a difference between those final scores, of course: both teams were successful on offense, but only Missouri could slow down Jerrod Johnson and the Texas A&M offense. The Tigers did so with a little help from Mike Sherman and the A&M offensive coaching staff, but no matter.
The truth is this: Missouri is a realistic Big 12 contender because of its defense, which has been far better than expected — than that I expected, at least. First-year defensive coordinator Dave Steckel — the former linebackers coach — has pushed all the right buttons in Columbia, particularly through the start of conference play. The Tigers have allowed only nine points — combined — in wins over Colorado and the Aggies; altogether, the Tigers have allowed only 10.8 points per game, good for second nationally and best among the B.C.S. conferences.
Yet the problem with that number — and Oklahoma State’s offensive onslaught — is that it’s misleading, at least to a degree: Missouri has yet to face an offense like Oklahoma’s, and O.S.U. has yet to face a defense like the one from Nebraska. For now, the jury remains out on both teams. Come Saturday night, however, we’ll know the answer — both teams might just be this good.
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Tags: Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
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