By Tyler Cagle, Sports Writer
After a week that saw four top 10 teams upset, college football is getting more exciting each week. With only three more weeks of the season left before bowl season, teams must make a statement in order to gain ground in the postseason.
At least 10 teams have a realistic shot at making the playoffs and with a bevy of top matchups headlining this weekend, here’s a look at the must-watch games:
No. 10 BAYLOR at No. 6 Oklahoma State (6:30 p.m., FOX)
After losing to the Oklahoma Sooners last weekend at home, Baylor has perhaps even a tougher task ahead of them. The Bears must travel to Stillwater to take on an undefeated Oklahoma State team that looks like they are just know rounding into form.
Baylor has not won a game in Stillwater since 1939 and in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, they must come out on top. Oklahoma State will not go down easy though, as they performed tremendously on both sides of the ball against TCU two weeks ago.
OSU head coach Mike Gundy’s two-quarterback system has somehow worked well for the Cowboys, a rare sight at any level of football. Mason Rudolph has served as the starter for the majority of the season and has performed well, throwing for 3,161 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Backup J.W. Walsh has been tremendous with his duel-threat ability. Walsh has thrown 335 yards and 10 touchdowns on the year along with 10 more scores on the ground. Walsh’s stats do not show his importance to the Cowboys’ offense, as his chance of pace from Rudolph keeps defenses guessing.
Defensively, the Bears must step up their pressure and quarterback contain. Against the Sooners, Baylor’s secondary was forced to run all over the field while Baker Mayfield extended plays with his legs.
The Bears must also get pressure on the Cowboys’ quarterbacks, forcing them to stick with either Rudolph or Walsh for the entirety of the game. If the Bears can get a few sacks early against OSU and force the Cowboys to run the ball, they should have no problem dealing with the Oklahoma State offense.
For Baylor, freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham expects to play after suffering a back injury against the Sooners. Stidham has been tremendous since taking over for Seth Russell and with Corey Coleman as your number one receiver, just about any ball thrown his way will be caught for a score.
However, the Bears will need to step up their running game. After ranking second in the nation, Baylor has faltered on the ground, barely eclipsing the 100-yard mark in consecutive weeks.
The rushing attack was a huge part of the Bears success early on in the season, as it opened up the long pass game that Baylor is so well known for. If the Bears can gain at least 200 yards rushing, they should be in a great position to win the ball game.
The Bears will be hungry after their recent loss to OU and Art Briles usually gets his players back on track quickly. Expect a usual Big 12 game with fast paced offense and fireworks everywhere.
Baylor 49 Oklahoma State 45
No. 18 TCU at No. 7 Oklahoma (7:00 PM, ABC)
The Horned Frogs have only one loss on the season but they have played less than decent in the last two weeks. After getting handled by Oklahoma State, the Horned Frogs were on the brink of defeat last week against Kansas.
Of course much of that had to be attributed to the injury of Trevone Boykin, who is still questionable against the Sooners. After an offseason full of hype, TCU has been relatively disappointing this season.
Trevone Boykin surely lost his Heisman hopes with his terrible game against the Cowboys and with top receiver Josh Doctson on the mend, the Horned Frogs have little chance to defeat a hot Sooners squad without the pair.
OU comes into the game riding perhaps the best five game stretch in the nation this season. After losing to Texas, the Sooners have been one of the nation’s top teams, averaging 55 points per game.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield has been terrific on the other hand, throwing for 1,489 yards and 20 touchdowns in the last five games. With Mayfield playing out of his mind and a Sooner defense that is statistically the best in the Big 12, Oklahoma is getting hot at the right time.
TCU 31, Oklahoma 41
No. 9 Michigan State at No. 3 Ohio State (2:30 PM, ABC)
Once again, the Spartans and the Buckeyes find themselves playing for the Big Ten East title. The Buckeyes will have their first true test against the Spartans, who will be the first ranked opponent that the Buckeyes have played all season.
For the Spartans, their success on offense starts and ends with senior quarterback Connor Cook. Cook has been the best quarterback in the Big Ten this season, throwing for 2,482 yards and 21 touchdowns.
The Spartan ground game is also highly efficient, as three Spartans have rushed for over 390 yards this year. On the outside, Aaron Burbridge takes over where Tony Lippett left off last season.
Burbridge has caught 65 balls for 1,021 yards and 6 touchdowns. Burbridge alone accounts for over 40 percent of the Spartans receiving yards and his versatility plays a key role in the Spartan offense.
The Buckeyes also have plenty of talent to go around as well. With talents such as J.T. Barrett, Ezekiel Elliott, and an athletic group of receivers, Ohio State has the potential to explode at any time in the game.
Quarterback issues, turnover troubles, and drama abound have caused the Buckeyes to be less than impressive this season. If they don’t get their act together, they could find themselves losing not only to the Spartans but also a spot in the college football playoffs.
Although the game will be played on Ohio State’s home turf, the Buckeyes’ home field advantage has proven to be faulty in recent memory. Expect a good game with both defenses struggling to contain the opponent’s offenses and watch out for Connor Cook; This game could jolt him into the Heisman conversation.
On the other side, Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott could also rise to the top of the Heisman polls. After rushing for 100 yards in 15 straight games, Elliott is the only consistent player for the Buckeyes. If he can find daylight early and often, it’ll be a long night for Michigan State.
Michigan State 24 Ohio State 21