How Oklahoma State’s protection made the Cowboys the Massive 12’s finest Faculty Soccer Playoff hope
No. 6 Oklahoma State enters Saturday’s tough sport in opposition to Texas as the one undefeated group within the Massive 12, however even because the Cowboys have created some pure separation with their unblemished 4-Zero report, coach Mike Gundy is aware of the margin is slim.”There’s not a number of distinction in seven or eight groups on this league,” Gundy mentioned, “simply not hardly any in any respect.”He is proper: Eight groups within the Massive 12 have two or extra losses — together with Oklahoma and Texas, which have each misplaced twice. The Cowboys have an opportunity to tell apart themselves additional, as they’re within the midst of a season-defining, four-game stretch that may shortly reveal whether or not they need to be taken significantly as a Faculty Soccer Playoff contender — or considered an afterthought.The Cowboys took a small however essential step ahead with final week’s win in opposition to then-No. 17 Iowa State, however ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index solely offers the Cowboys a 48.6% probability to beat Texas at dwelling on Halloween. If Oklahoma State loses, the convention’s probabilities to ship a group to the CFP will drop to 2.5%.2 RelatedOklahoma State is an underdog in two of its subsequent three video games, which incorporates back-to-back street journeys in opposition to ranked opponents, No. 16 Kansas State and No. 24 Oklahoma. In keeping with FPI, there’s solely an 11% probability the Cowboys make it to Thanksgiving undefeated.”It is clearly simply take one sport at a time proper now, however there is no query the subsequent three video games are going to be actually powerful and outline the remainder of the season,” receiver Dillon Stoner mentioned. “We’re simply going to fret about Texas proper now and prepare to play them, and play them to the most effective of our capability, however behind our minds, we all know who’s ready after this.”The Cowboys’ success to this point stems largely from a quick, veteran protection that runs two deep at virtually each place and leads the league and ranks eighth nationally, permitting 12 factors per sport. Oklahoma State additionally has a robust working sport, led by Heisman hopeful Chuba Hubbard, and the offense bought a lift final week with the return of quarterback Spencer Sanders from damage.Gamers and coaches additionally level to a group chemistry that grew stronger over a considerably turbulent summer time as this system went via a self-evaluation prompted by a nationwide outcry for recognition of social injustices and the Black Lives Matter motion.”It actually helped our group come collectively as a gaggle, and it helped our teaching workers,” Gundy mentioned. “It allowed me to see some issues I hadn’t seen. I have been a head coach right here 16 years. We have had a number of success within the classroom, we have had a number of success socially and on the sector. What I discovered was, in the event you do not watch it, then what occurs is, you grow to be an actual creature of behavior. That is what occurred to me, and these guys type of made me conscious of some stuff. Within the massive image, what it did was it allowed all of us to develop, and that is been an enormous a part of our gamers coming collectively in a season.”Oklahoma State security Kolby Harvell-Peel, proper, has two interceptions this season, together with one in opposition to Iowa State. Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesOklahoma State has the intangibles, it has the expertise and depth — and nonetheless a lot to show. In keeping with FPI, there’s an 88% probability the Massive 12 champion may have a number of losses; no different Energy 5 convention has greater than an 18% probability to have a multi-loss champion.”We’re an excellent soccer group,” Gundy mentioned. “Proper now, we’re not an excellent soccer group. We have been an excellent soccer group as a result of we have stayed targeted, we have practiced nicely, the fellows have come collectively, and all of these issues are such a giant, massive a part of school soccer. I by no means coached within the NFL, so I do not know what it is like, however I do know in school soccer, these areas are very key substances to success, so we’ve got to remain the course.”Gundy mentioned his largest concern is protecting everybody inside the program from listening to reward and expectations from outsiders and the media. Apparently, his quarterbacks bought the message. They got here up with a slogan they name “FTN,” which stands for: Overlook the Noise.”It is actually simply saying it doesn’t matter what occurs outdoors of this stadium or outdoors this locker room, on the finish of the day we’ve got to go to apply every single day,” Sanders mentioned. “We’ve to offer it 100 % every single day, we’ve got to work onerous each single day, regardless of who the opponent is. We should not need to wish to work more durable this week as a result of we’re enjoying Texas. We wish to work the identical each week and get higher each week.”Whereas the offense continues to work to hit its stride, the protection has been above common, notably on third and fourth downs. The Cowboys have held their opponents to a third-down conversion charge of .193, third finest within the FBS, and so they rank fourth in fourth-down protection.Mike Gundy is in his 16th season as head coach at Oklahoma State, his alma mater. Sarah Phipps-USA TODAY SportsDefensive coordinator Jim Knowles attributed that to expertise and gamers being in the proper locations in order that when he calls performs, they execute them — one thing that has notably tough when blitzing.”I really feel like we’re going to have the ability to match up with anyone,” Knowles mentioned. “By ‘match up,’ we’re going to have the ability to compete. I do not know if we’re dominant in any space. I feel our protection has been fairly dominant — time will inform about that — however I really feel like we’ve got a preventing probability in each sport. That offers this system confidence. You at all times believe after we’re enjoying constantly.”Whereas Oklahoma State has stolen the highlight within the Massive 12, Texas can nonetheless attain the convention championship sport — and its probabilities of doing so will soar from 33% to 52% with a win Saturday.Texas coach Tom Herman mentioned he expects to see a number of fronts and blitzes from the Cowboys’ protection, however the problem can be defeating their man protection — which is one thing the Longhorns have been “a bit hit and miss with” up to now few weeks. Herman mentioned Oklahoma State will outnumber the run and dare quarterback Sam Ehlinger to throw it.”They’re enjoying elite protection, elite not simply in our league, however within the nation,” Herman mentioned. “Once you’ve bought talent place gamers like they’ve, which can be one contact away from a home name, these are two key substances to a championship recipe, and so they certain do appear like it proper now.”Choose the winner of 10 school soccer matchups every week. Play straight up or confidence. Make Your Picks
Profitable the Massive 12 title would not assure a CFP semifinal spot, although. Oklahoma State’s place within the playoff image, at the same time as a convention champion, would rely partly on the ultimate information of every Energy 5 winner. If the Cowboys are undefeated, it could be tough for the choice committee to maintain them out of the highest 4, however the minute Oklahoma State loses a sport, the whole Massive 12’s playoff hopes will nosedive.Gundy mentioned that when he was requested about stress early in his profession at his alma mater, he resorted to coachspeak, downplaying it with feedback like, “There is no such thing as a stress, it is irrelevant, that is what we do.”Now, in his 16th season with the Cowboys, Gundy has a special, perhaps extra seasoned perspective.”I feel the longer you undergo a season, and also you play nicely, there’s extra stress,” he mentioned. “Our job as a training workers, my job particularly in main these guys, is to instill high quality info in them about what really issues and issues that may issue into the sport on Saturday.”These issues, he mentioned, are conditioning, minimizing errors — notably penalties — and turnovers, and profitable on particular groups.”Annually every group, throughout the season you may have a special focus,” he mentioned. “Proper now, we’ve got to watch out about listening to individuals inform us how good we’re.”It solely takes one Saturday to alter that notion.