Saturday College Football Odds & Pick for Tulsa vs. Oklahoma State: How to Bet This In-State Matchup (Sept. 11)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images. Pictured: Spencer Sanders.
- Oklahoma State host Tulsa in Week 2 as an almost-two-touchdown favorite on Saturday.
- The Tulsa offense is predicated on running the ball and faces a Cowboys defense that thrived in Week 1.
- Thomas Schlarp breaks down the matchup and delivers his betting pick below.
Tulsa vs. Oklahoma State Odds
-105o / -115u
|Oklahoma State Odds|
-105o / -115u
It was a tough look for the state of Oklahoma with regards to football in Week 1. Tulsa lost to an FCS opponent, Oklahoma State flirted with a similar embarrassment, and the Sooners didn’t exactly steamroll Tulane.
The Cowboys and Golden Hurricane now meet in Week 2, looking to prove that last week was but a blip on the radar.
Both teams are set to return impact players that were unavailable in Week 1, but for which team will it lead to a better performance?
Tulsa was one of the shocks of the 2020 season, reaching the American Athletic Conference championship game with a 6-3 record on the back of its defense, which ranked 19th nationally with 333 yards allowed per game.
The defense returns 87% of TARP, but the subtraction of 2021 first-round draft pick Zaven Collins was enough to move more responsibility on the offense in Week 1, a load it proved incapable of bearing in a 19-17 loss to UC Davis, one of a staggering six FCS wins over FBS programs in Week 1.
Tulsa was without six players who were suspended stemming from a brawl in the Armed Forces Bowl, including four starters. All six are expected back against the Cowboys.
Golden Hurricane Offense
The Tulsa offense never had to put up insane numbers in 2020, scoring 27.1 points per game, but it wasn’t really an issue for a team that only allowed 21.6 points on average.
While the Golden Hurricane return 70% of Offensive TARP, Tulsa must replace last year’s starting quarterback Zach Smith who passed for close to 2,000 yards in nine games last season.
Junior Davis Brin is the man to do so this year, but his 2021 debut was less than spectacular, passing for 202 yards and two interceptions on 15-of-28 passing.
The strength of Tulsa’s offense is usually running the ball, and it did so to great success against UC Davis, recording 275 yards on 34 attempts. This is normally an ingredient for a win, but what killed the Golden Hurricane were three turnovers, including one on the UC Davis goal line with 4:15 remaining.
Golden Hurricane Defense
Even with the departure of Zaven Collins and two starting cornerbacks, this defense should still be one of the better units in the AAC.
Jaxon Player, one of the best defensive linemen in the league, is a returning AAC first-team selection. Tulsa returns all three starters to its line in its 3-3-5 scheme that ranked eighth and 16th in Rushing and Passing Success Allowed in 2020.
The Golden Hurricane did a fine job slowing the UC Davis run, holding the Aggies to just 88 yards on 46 carries, but quarterback Hunter Rodrigues found success passing for 311 yards on 28-of-35 passing.
Tulsa will need another similar performance against the Cowboys, slowing running back LD Brown down to make Oklahoma State one-dimensional and have to rely on either a rusty dual-threat Spencer Sanders or backup Shane Illingworth.
Oklahoma State was nearly the seventh team to fall to an FCS opponent last week, squeaking out a 23-16 victory over Missouri State, despite opening as 39.5-point favorites.
One of the main culprits for the Cowboys’ tepid offense? Starting quarterback Spencer Sanders was in COVID-19 protocols. Coach Mike Gundy said earlier this week that he remains hopeful that Sanders, the 2019 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, will be back to start against Tulsa.
For the second straight year, quarterback Shane Illingworth was asked to play a heavy role for the Cowboys in Week 1 in place of an absent Sanders. While Illingworth was effective passing the ball against Missouri State, going for 315 yards on 23-of-41 passing, he lacks a second-dimension that Sanders brings to make the Cowboys offense more potent.
On top of throwing for more than 2,000 yards last season in eight full games, Sanders was an effective dual-threat option, rushing for 269 yards. His ability to run frequently forces defenses to keep an extra spy in the box, which in turn opens up the Cowboys passing game.
His rushing ability is made even more important in 2021 in the wake of Chuba Hubbard’s departure for the NFL. Oklahoma State has no real, certified stud at the running back position as LD Brown led all rushers in Week 1 with 23 yards on 14 carries.
It seems counter-intuitive when thinking about Oklahoma State, but the defense was the backbone of the team in 2020 and will be so again in 2021 with 86% of returning TARP.
Last season, the Cowboys ranked No. 1 nationally in third-down defense and among the top 10 in tackles for loss and sacks. The team generated five sacks against Missouri State.
The defense actually played quite well in Week 1, holding Missouri State to 336 yards of offense, but a pair of turnovers by the Cowboys’ offense and a failed fourth-down conversion, frequently put the Oklahoma State defense behind the eight ball and with a short field to defend.
If the Cowboys can eliminate self-inflicted wounds against Tulsa, the Golden Hurricane offense is likely in for a long day trying to effectively move the ball.
Tulsa vs. Oklahoma State Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Tulsa and Oklahoma State match up statistically:
Tulsa Offense vs. Oklahoma State Defense
Oklahoma State Offense vs. Tulsa Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Tulsa vs. Oklahoma State Betting Pick
An obvious X-factor in this game is the availability of Spencer Sanders. The Cowboys are such a more dynamic offense when he plays.
But even if Sanders is held out again, there’s no reason to have much confidence that Tulsa can put up points against one of the stronger defenses in the Big 12. The Cowboys excel at stopping the run, and that’s about the only thing going for the Golden Hurricane on the offensive side of the ball.
I like Oklahoma State to cover — and shop around because the books vary from -12.5 to -13.5 — but what I like even more is the total. BetMGM has the best number on the spread as of Thursday afternoon.
It’s going to be close to 100 degrees with 25 MPH winds in Stillwater on Saturday — not exactly ideal for pushing the pace.
And depending on when news breaks about Sanders’ availability, the total will likely drop even more, so I suggest getting this bet in as soon as possible. Simply put, I just don’t see Tulsa having much success moving the ball. It converted just two of 10 third downs against an FCS team and committed three turnovers. The Cowboys are a whole new rodeo.
It may not be the shootout Pistol Pete enjoys to watch, but at least his Cowboys will be 2-0.