Start Time: Friday, September 8th, 7:00 PM EST
Announcers: Adam Amin (play-by-play), Dusty Dvoracek (analyst), Molly McGrath (sidelines)
Location: Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Series: First ever meeting
Odds: Oklahoma State (-28) 66.5 total
South Alabama Outlook
It was an impressive first half performance for the Jags in Oxford as they would enter halftime trailing the SEC West program by only three. However, things got ugly in the third quarter as USA gave up four touchdowns including two 70-plus yard receptions and a kickoff return touchdown. Take out this quarter and the Jags outscored the Rebs by four.
The offense will be entering week two with a ton confidence after recording 25 first downs and 374 total yards against an SEC defense. Cole Garvin was steady in his first start as he led an offense that went turnover free in its opener. The offense wasn’t explosive but Garvin was very accurate as he completed over 60% of his passes to 10 different receivers. His decision making was why he won the quarterback job and he consistently put the USA offense in good situations.
Xavier Johnson did not have a great senior season debut as the Ole Miss front seven limited the star running back to 33 yards on 11 carries. However, junior college transfer Tra Minter emerged as a potential playmaker as he flashed some burst as he posted 83 yards on 12 carries. Behind a solid offensive line, this group could be due for a special season.
The secondary got torched last week in Oxford for 425 yards as Shea Patterson and the Ole Miss offense all had career days. But the front seven was strong against the run as the Jags held the Rebs to 102 yards on 29 carries. The Jags were able to produce two sacks so there is something to build off of as they have another huge challenge awaiting them this week.
Oklahoma State Outlook
The Cowboys enter 2017 as a darkhorse contender for a Playoff spot as Mike Gundy enters his 13th season as the head coach at his alma mater. In three of the past four seasons, the Pokes have finished with double-digit wins as they’ve slowly become one of the most consistent programs in the country.
The offense leads the way for the Cowboys and it all starts with quarterback Mason Rudolph. The senior from South Carolina became a full-time starter at the end of his true freshman season and is coming off a very impressive 28-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a junior. Rudolph is already popping up on mock drafts and he’ll be one of the first quarterbacks taken off the board come April. He has all of the tools and now is a master of the Oklahoma State offense that loves to throw the ball around the park.
At Rudolph’s disposal, he has two excellent weapons in running back Justice Hill and wide receiver James Washington. Hill broke onto the scene as a true freshman last season and provided this offense with a dynamic player at the running back position. Hill posted over 1,100 yards in his rookie season and should emerge as a star in college football this fall. In the opener against Tulsa, Hill posted 132 yards on 15 carries and in this offense he’s going to rack up all kinds of crazy numbers.
Then on the outside Rudolph has, perhaps, the best wide receiver in the country. James Washington is back in Stillwater for his senior season after going over a thousand yards in back-to-back years. Rudolph throws the best deep ball in the country and Washington is a big reason for that as he’s a threat to take it to the house whenever he touches the rock. I’m convinced Washington gives opposing defensive coordinators nightmares.
There is no question this is one of the best offenses in the country, but the key for Gundy’s squad getting back to double-digit wins will be on the defense. Glenn Spencer is entering his fifth season as the Oklahoma State defensive coordinator and there is some nice talent returning in the back seven.
Safeties Tre Flowers and Ramon Richards are the strength of the defense as the two combined for 13 pass break-ups and three interceptions last season. Chad Whitener is a rock of the defense from his middle linebacker position and he should lead the Pokes in tackles. But the questions this defense has are on the line of scrimmage.
The defensive line starts four upperclassmen upfront including junior college transfer DeQuinton Osborne at tackle. This new front four was unable to produce hardly any pass rush in the opener against Tulsa, so there are still questions to be answered there. This unit should be challenged by an experienced South Alabama offensive line and I expect Spencer gets exotic with blitz packages to try to force a lot of turnovers this fall.
Once again it’s a very difficult match-up for South Alabama as they take on another electric Power Five passing game for the second week in a row. However, this week will be a different animal as Rudolph and Washington are as dangerous as they come. However, we know USA’s history playing Power Five opponents and we’ll see if Joey Jones can come up with some type of magic on Friday night.
I think this is going to be a sleepy spot for Oklahoma State and I’m calling for the Cowboys to come out slow out of the gates. The Jags get out to an early lead as Tra Minter and Xavier Johnson have some early success on the ground. But as the game goes on, the potent Oklahoma State offense takes over behind Justice Hill and a few deep passes to James Washington.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 44, South Alabama 23