That stretch of the season begins this weekend.
The No. 8 Horned Frogs (8-0, 5-0 Big 12 Conference) head to Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Saturday to take on the No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys (8-0, 5-0) in a Big 12 match-up of two undefeated top 15 teams. It will be the third time since entering the Big 12 that the Frogs have traveled to Stillwater, a place where they have not won since 1991.
“They’re a very good team, even better up in Stillwater,” Patterson said. “Coach Gundy and his staff have done an unbelievable job. They’ve played a little like us; they had to win some games on the road, including a close one against Texas and then a close one at home against Kansas State.”
Now in their 11th season under the leadership of head coach Mike Gundy, the Cowboys have been one of the biggest surprises in the nation this season, and the Frogs will have their hands full as they journey north to the Oklahoma Plains.
As has been the case all year, the Frogs’ offense must once again excel as it faces the most complete team they have played against this season in Oklahoma State.
Coming off an explosive 616 total yards of offense against West Virginia in Fort Worth last Thursday, the Frogs have all the momentum they need.
Quarterback Trevone Boykin, who was named a Davey O’Brien award semifinalist on Monday, will look to inch closer to Andy Dalton’s TCU record of 10,314 career passing yards. Boykin passed the 10,000 yard mark in the win against West Virginia.
Wide receiver Josh Doctson will look to build upon his team-leading total of 14 touchdown receptions on the season. Doctson enters the contest as only the second player in the last two decades to record six straight games with at least 100 receiving yards and multiple touchdown receptions, joining former Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree.
Doctson and Boykin were both named Maxwell Award Finalists earlier in the week, which recognizes the collegiate football player of the year. Doctson said after the victory over West Virginia the chemistry between both the two and the entire offense is at an all-time high.
Patterson said Tuesday that the two have the hearts of players who will do whatever it takes to prove they are elite.
“Trevone wants to show everyone he is the best,” Patterson said. “That’s why he is the way he is. He’d play even if the game was in the parking lot. The same can be said for Josh and quite a few others.”
Oklahoma State’s offense is no joke either, though. The Cowboys put up 70 points in Saturday’s victory over Texas Tech in Lubbock.
The Frogs will be up against a unit led by a duo of quarterbacks, sophomore starter Mason Rudolph and senior reserve J.W. Walsh. Rudolph is playing his first full season as starter after starting as a freshman for the final few games of the 2014 season.
Rudolph has a 10-1 career record as starter and has totaled 2,482 passing yards this season with an average of 310 yards per game.
Walsh, primarily a running quarterback, boasts one of the strangest stats of anyone in college football this season, as he has only been on the field for 58 snaps but has been responsible for 96 of the Cowboys’ points this season.
The Cowboys’ offense is also highlighted by junior running back Chris Carson and senior wide receiver Brandon Sheperd.
Carson, who transferred from Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, during the off season, leads the team with 95 carries from 365 yards this season.
Sheperd is riding a 23-game reception streak and is coming off a 2014 season which saw him lead the team with 737 receiving yards. Sheperd also averaged 18.9 yards per catch last season, which is good for third best in the conference.
The Frogs’ defense seems to have finally found its groove going into Saturday’s contest, holding opponents to 10 points over its last six quarters played and recording second half shutouts two weeks in a row. All 10 points came in the second quarter of the game against West Virginia.
The Frogs are also the only team in the Big 12 this season that has shut out its opponent for at least three quarters in three conference games.
While the Frogs have had their slips on defense, allowing 52 points to Texas Tech and 45 to Kansas State, the unit has allowed only a 50.7 completion percentage and seven touchdown receptions this season. That trend of preventing points scored off the aerial attack will have to continue against Oklahoma State’s formidable offense.
The presence of seniors such as defensive tackle Davion Pierson, defensive end Mike Tuaua and safety Derrick Kindred has helped provide the Frogs with leadership they lacked earlier on when the defense was slammed with injuries and departures.
“The leadership just keeps growing with guys coming back, and the same guys starting and playing together each week has helped a lot,” Patterson said. “Against Texas Tech I think Derrick was the only starter we had from the Peach Bowl last season.”
Senior leadership on both sides of the ball will be pivotal on Saturday, when the Frogs take on what Patterson calls “the best defensive front” they have faced up to this point in the season.
The Cowboys’ defense has held five of its last seven opponents to less than 200 passing yards, and the unit has also scored four touchdowns over the last three games. A large reason for that is the squad’s success at getting to the quarterback.
Oklahoma State’s defense is ranked second in the nation in sacks, averaging 3.75 per game. The Cowboys also rank fifth in tackles for loss, averaging nine per game.
The charge is led by defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who has been named defensive player of the game three times this season and Big 12 Defensive Player of Week twice. Ogbah and his counterpart, defensive end Jimmy Bean, combine for the fourth best sack duo in the country.
Final Thoughts and Predictions
This game should be a wild one. It is the only matchup in the nation this weekend between two undefeated Power-5 conference teams, and the stakes are high.
For one team, the dream of a trip to the College Football Playoff will all but come to an end in Stillwater on Saturday. The message that you have to go undefeated in the Big 12 to have a shot is now loud and clear after the two undefeated squads came in ranked lower than multiple one-loss Power-5 teams in the first CFP rankings of the season on Tuesday.
The Frogs have the offensive edge, but the Cowboys’ defense is just as competitive and maybe more experienced than the Frogs’ defensive unit. It is huge that the Frogs have the confidence from holding their opponents to just 10 points over the last 90 minutes played, but nothing will come easy to them against Oklahoma State and their unique quarterback situation. After all, the Cowboys put up 70 points against Texas Tech compared to TCU’s 55 on Sept. 26.
The offense will in all likelihood have to win this game for the Frogs. That won’t be as easy, though, given the talent Oklahoma State’s defensive line has. The Frogs rely on the air-raid style offense, but that all starts with protecting Boykin. If the Frogs aren’t able to contain the defensive line, they will need a lot more of those types of runs from Boykin that earned him a high five from Dana Holgorsen last week.
Prediction: TCU 38, Okla. St. 33