OSU vs. South Alabama: One player, one problem, one preposterous prediction, one pick

Twenty Ollie Gordon carries Saturday wouldn’t just threaten his career-high yardage total of 136. It would give the Pokes a run-game catalyst they really need right now.

By Published On: September 15, 2023

Mike Gundy had already won 27 games, including two bowls, by the time South Alabama played its first ever football game in 2009. It took another four years for the Jaguars to gain full FBS status, and another 13 for the Jaguars to post a winning FBS record.

That’s right. South Alabama’s first winning FBS season was 2022. It was quite the breakthrough. The Jaguars went 10-3, came within a last-second field goal of upsetting UCLA and wound up in the New Orleans Bowl. 

So while we see a mismatch when these two programs appear side by side, very recent history suggests otherwise. All Gundy needs to see is film of this year’s Jaguars.

This is the best team we’ll play up to this point,” Gundy said two days after winning at Arizona State. “They’re physical. They’re a very aggressive defense. They want to hit you in the mouth. Their linebackers are aggressive. They’ve got some 6-1, 6-2, 300-pound guys that are explosive and powerful. Play hard. They run to the ball and tackle.”

South Alabama isn’t shabby on offense either, returning 3,335-yard passer Carter Bradley and 1,067-yard rusher La’Damian Webb.

Let’s break this baby down…

One player — OSU running back Ollie Gordon: Cue the Cowboys’ win at Arizona State last Saturday night and how it resembled their early 2021 triumph at Boise State. It wasn’t just because of the defense’s second-half shutout.

The Pokes trailed 15-10 when they started their first possession of the second half at their 40-yard line. Gordon gained 2 and 31 yards on back-to-back carries. After a defensive holding penalty, Gordon gained 9 and 5 yards to the Arizona State 3. Then Gunnar Gundy hit De’Zhaun Stribling for a touchdown. OSU was ahead to stay. 

Gordon firing a cold offense hearkened back to Jaylen Warren’s 218-yard outburst at Boise two Septembers ago. OSU had Spencer Sanders entrenched as starting quarterback that night, but he only threw 13 passes. The offense was a mess. Defense and Warren carried the Cowboys. 

It feels like defense must carry the Cowboys the rest of this season, if Gundy’s quarterback rotation is any indication. It feels like that job will be easier accomplished if someone seizes the RB1 position a la Warren in 2021. 

It might help to give Gordon, Elijah Collins and Jaden Nixon more than the nine, eight and seven carries they got at Arizona State. Or the seven, eight and six carries they got in OSU’s opener against Central Arkansas.

Warren carried 32 times at Boise. I’d settle for 20 Gordon touches against South Alabama. He got it 17 times late last season against West Virginia and produced 136 yards. 

Twenty Gordon carries Saturday wouldn’t just threaten that career-high yardage total, it would give the Pokes a run-game catalyst they sorely need. 

One problem — The Cowboys are pressing their luck: Gundy acknowledged it at his press conference this week.

For two weeks we’ve gotten away with not running the ball well in the first half. Our luck’s going to run out eventually. That’s not a secret,” he said. “That’s what the offensive staff has been told. That’s what I tell myself in the mirror. And that’s what I tell the players. Everybody knows it… We know we need to run the ball better.”

What Gundy didn’t say so explicitly is he can’t keep trotting out three quarterbacks and expect to keep winning games. Whether Garret Rangel, Gunnar Gundy or Alan Bowman, someone must distinguish himself Saturday night to stabilize the offense before the Big 12 schedule arrives.

Does South Alabama give either Gordon and OSU’s run game or Rangel/Gundy/Bowman and OSU’s quarterbacks an opportunity? Let’s see…

Tulane popped the Jaguars 37-17 to open the season as QB Michael Pratt went 14-of-15 for 294 yards and four touchdowns, three covering 48, 47 and 47 yards. Tulane’s two lead backs rushed for 68 yards on 17 carries.

South Alabama beat Southeast Louisiana 35-17 last week. SELU QB Zachary Clement went 18-of-24 for 267 yards, a touchdown and an interception. SELU’s two lead backs rushed for 52 yards on 19 carries. 

One preposterous prediction — One of the head coaches at Boone Pickens Stadium Saturday night takes an SEC job after this season: It ain’t Gundy. The days of his SEC dalliances (see: Tennessee, Arkansas and Florida) are over. 

Kane Wommack follows his 10-3 2022 splash by winning nine more games at South Alabama this year. Virginia Tech ends its failed experiment with Brent Pry after a second straight losing season. The Hokies sweet talk Shane Beamer into taking his pop’s old job.

And the 36-year-old Wommack, onetime Arkansas fullback and onetime Ole Miss grad assistant, replaces Beamer at South Carolina. 

One pick: Pokes 33, Jags 20

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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