The keys for the respective defenses are clear for No. 7 Oklahoma’s visit to No 21 Oklahoma State on Saturday at Stillwater, Okla.
For the Sooners, it’s about slowing down running back Chuba Hubbard, a Canadian who’s leading the nation in rushing and turning in the second-best season by a running back in school history behind Barry Sanders’ epic 1988.
For the Cowboys, it boils down to how they contain Jalen Hurts, the graduate transfer quarterback who has been one of the most dynamic dual threats in college football this season.
For both, it’s easier said than done.
Hubbard was held out of the end zone last week for the first time all season but still played a huge role in Oklahoma State’s win at West Virginia with 194 yards of total offense.
He has had at least 100 yards rushing in nine consecutive games, helping keep the Cowboys’ offense afloat even after season-ending injuries to wide receiver Tylan Wallace and more recently quarterback Spencer Sanders.
“He’s got a great combination. He’s got breakaway speed, power, he’s caught the ball all year, made several plays in the passing game … and he’s had a lot of attention on him every week and has still been able to produce,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “He’s certainly one of the best backs we’ve had in the league in a long time.”
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said there was a big difference in the Sooners’ offense this season under Hurts.
“They’re a Wishbone team, guys,” Gundy said. “They’re just lined up in the spread.”
Gundy ticked off a series of numbers, signifying Oklahoma’s quarterback carries from both the old Wishbone success under Barry Switzer and its current golden age of quarterbacking with back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners in Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray and now under Hurts.
Hurts’ 180 carries this season was by far the biggest number Gundy read. The QB either has kept the ball or passed it on more than 61 percent of Oklahoma’s offensive plays this season.
In last week’s win over TCU, Hurts carried 28 times and threw 21 passes in 89 offensive plays.
“You gotta give the guy credit,” Gundy said. “He’s taken hit after hit after hit after hit.
“The more I watched (film), I kept thinking there’s only one guy that ever touches the ball, and it’s him. It’s triple-option just disguised in spread is all it is. So, we gotta stop the quarterback, we gotta tackle him, we gotta get him down.”
Both defenses have played well lately, though Oklahoma’s has been much more up and down lately.
The stakes of Saturday’s game are big on both sides. For the Sooners, there remains an outside shot at making the College Football Playoff.
Oklahoma State is hoping to improve its bowl standing while also knocking its biggest rival out of playoff contention.
–Field Level Media