Guerin Emig: Last week, Alan Bowman targeted Brennan Presley. Assuming BYU noticed Presley’s 15 catches against Houston, the Cougars will focus their coverage on him, giving Rashod Owens ample one-on-one opportunities he is due to take advantage of.
Before leaving Houston last Saturday, Mike Gundy sized up the Big 12 race, barely considering tiebreaker scenarios, and said: “I know that if we keep winning, it gives us the best chance in the end.”
A short while later Kansas State won at Kansas, Texas won at Iowa State and regardless of the Big 12’s tiebreaker language, Gundy’s comment held up.
If the Oklahoma State Cowboys defeat BYU in Saturday’s regular season finale, it gives them a terrific chance to play for a Big 12 championship Dec. 2 in Arlington. Best I can tell, the only scenario that keeps OSU from that destiny after beating BYU is if OU was to beat TCU Friday afternoon, Texas was to lose to Texas Tech Friday night and K-State was to beat Iowa State Saturday night. Then, I think, Texas plays K-State for the title.
Let’s not get sidetracked by those long odds. Let’s focus on the Cowboys handling business Saturday as 17-point favorites, and earning their Big 12 shot in the process.
Here’s how that breaks down…
One player: Rashod Owens
BYU will do what everyone else does defensively against Ollie Gordon: crowd the line of scrimmage to jam him up. Alan Bowman’s response won’t differ. He’ll come out throwing to keep that defense honest.
Last week, Bowman targeted Brennan Presley. Assuming BYU noticed Presley’s 15 catches against Houston, the Cougars will focus their coverage on him.
That should give Owens ample one-on-one opportunities he is due to take advantage of.
He went from a career-high 9 catches against Kansas Oct. 14 to 6 at West Virginia Oct. 21 to 3 against Cincinnati Oct. 28. Then Bowman relocated him in Bedlam Nov. 5 and he wound up with a career-high 10 grabs.
Owens has made 6 catches at UCF and 3 at Houston since. Follow the pattern. Give him a career-high 11 receptions Saturday.
One problem: BYU will bring it
Kalani Sitake opened his press conference this week with a review of BYU’s 31-24 loss to OU last Saturday.
“After being able to evaluate it a little more and watch film, I’m really pleased with the guys’ effort and belief. They stayed in it,” the Cougars’ eighth-year head coach said. “Obviously we didn’t make enough plays to come out with the victory, but there’s a lot of things to be proud of.”
BYU had dropped the three previous games by a combined score of 117-26. Their FBS ranking in 10 different team categories was in the 100s. They were 24-point underdogs in a game kicking off at 10 a.m. local time.
And they played hard enough to win. They would have upset the Sooners had they called a better play at the OU 2-yard line and avoided a calamitous 100-yard interception return for a touchdown by Billy Bowman.
The Cougars are still struggling. They are still ranked in the 100s in 10 FBS categories. They aren’t certain whether Jake Retzlaff or Kedon Slovis is starting at quarterback Saturday.
But there is plenty of pride behind that “Y” logo, and a sixth win and bowl eligibility to attain with an upset in Stillwater.
OSU isn’t the only team with stakes in Saturday’s game.
One preposterous prediction: 4-pack of picks
The last time these two teams played was at the 1976 Tangerine Bowl. BYU figured to have a critical edge at quarterback with Gifford Nielsen matched up against Charlie Weatherbie, an option runner more than a pocket passer.
OSU’s defense had other ideas.
Milton Kirven, Gary Irons, Jerry Cramer and Chris Dawson all intercepted Nielsen, Dawson returning his 36 yards for the game’s first points, and the Cowboys prevailed 49-21.
Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium, the Pokes honor their past with four interceptions, two against Retzlaff and two against Slovis. Senior Nathan Latu honors fellow defensive tackle Dawson with a pick six.
“I can’t get over the fact that it’s my last home game. It’s hitting me pretty hard,” Latu said this week. “It means a lot, so I’m going to go out there and do what we do, play hard and get the win.”
While Gordon can’t match Terry Miller’s 173-yard, 4-touchdown performance in the ‘76 Tangerine Bowl, the combination of Bowman-to-Owens on offense and those ball hawkers on defense is enough to push OSU over the top.
One pick: Cowboys 32, Cougars 23