By scoring on its first seven possessions at Pittsburgh last week, Oklahoma State and its Heisman Trophy candidate Mason Rudolph made a statement that the No. 7 Cowboys are a serious contender for a Big 12 and even a national title. The next step to accomplish both begins Saturday when equally high-powered and 15th-ranked TCU visits in the conference opener for both teams.
In the first half against the Panthers, Rudolph racked up a school-record 423 yards passing with five touchdowns and the Cowboys set a record for total yards in the first half with 516 in building a 49-14 lead at the break - the most points against a Pitt team in a half since Ohio State put up 52 in 1996. Rudolph is completing 72.3 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns versus one interception while averaging 378.3 yards per game in roughly three quarters per contest as the Cowboys have scored 54 points per contest – fourth in the nation. “The guy’s a workaholic,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy told the Oklahoman. “He’s crazy over his footwork, his release, his study, the game plan. … He understands everything like a coach. He’s totally committed to being a student of the game.” TCU, which ranks seventh in FBS in scoring at 49 points per game, moved up five spots in the poll after rallying from a 12-point first-half deficit to SMU for a 56-36 victory behind 365 yards and four TD passes by Kenny Hill.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Oklahoma State -11.
ABOUT TCU (3-0): Hill has completed 75 percent of his 84 passes this season – ninth best in FBS – and his QBR rating of 87.6 yards is eighth best. Due to Hill’s passing and a ground attack led by Darius Anderson (262 yards, 6.2 per carry) that averages 5.4 yards per attempt, TCU leads the nation in third-down conversion percentage at 65.8 (25-of-38). The Frogs’ defense gave up 463 total yards and some big plays against SMU but ranks second nationally with three defensive touchdowns.
ABOUT OKLAHOMA STATE (3-0): Rudolph, who has been sacked just three times, ranks second in FBS in QBR (92.7) behind Oklahoma signal caller Baker Mayfield and fifth in passer rating (210.3). Justice Hill ran for 91 yards on 11 carries with two touchdowns against Pitt, while receivers Jalen McCleskey (seven receptions for 162 yards and three TDs), James Washington (five, 124, zero), Dillon Stoner (five,100, one) and Marcell Ateman (four, 109, one) became the first FBS foursome since 2005 to surpass 100 yards receiving in one game. Washington is averaging 28.2 yards per reception on 13 grabs this season and 19.9 over his four-year career.
1. The Cowboys beat the Horned Frogs 31-6 last season behind 334 yards rushing and 207 more through the air by Rudolph, as Hill was limited to 166 yards passing and threw two interceptions.
2. Oklahoma State has won five of the last six games in the series and is 15-10-2 all-time.
3. TCU has the third-best road record in FBS since 2009 (34-10) and is 14-9 since joining the Big 12 in 2012.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 45, TCU 31