Iowa State vs. Oklahoma State Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds
Spread: Iowa State -7
Game Time: 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Where to Watch: FOX
Iowa State Cyclones vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys Prediction
Saturday’s Oklahoma State-Iowa State game in Ames has a decent chance to decide who gets to play Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship. The league’s two Oklahoma schools are the last unbeaten in conference play (and overall, as it happens), while ISU and Baylor are right behind with one loss apiece in league play. Oklahoma’s M.O. is the same as ever: to score points in such bulk quantities that it doesn’t need much defense to win. For the two teams meeting Saturday in Ames, the approach at this point is much different.
OSU has reinvented itself over the last few years as a program that specializes in defense. Iowa State has ridden that formula to become the second-best team in the league over the last couple of seasons. But the teams have arrived at their present identities in different ways. Oklahoma State is now a defense-first team for the simple reason that its offense is no longer anything special in the Big 12. At the same time, ISU plays a more deliberately complementary style of football where ball control and playing from ahead make life easier on the defense.
Despite Iowa State being the better team and playing at home, I think the Pokes are a smart play getting an entire touchdown and extra point on the road. Iowa State should be able to eke out a win, but the Oklahoma State defense can make life annoying enough on Brock Purdy, Breece Hall, and company to keep the final margin within a touchdown.
I don’t know if Iowa State has really figured out an offensive identity this year. The Cyclones are 43rd in FBS in yards per throw, but 17th in yards per rush, and they’ve toted the ball more efficiently of late than they did when they struggled against two extremely different Iowan opponents in the season’s first two weeks (Northern Iowa and Iowa). Of course, how much you read into nice rushing days against Kansas and Kansas State is up to you. They’ve been throwing the ball quite a lot for a team that’s been a lot better when not putting it in the air, and Quarterback Brock Purdy has been fine but hasn’t taken much of a step forward after a breakout in 2020.
Oklahoma State’s defense is not a good one to face when your offense is still working out kinks. The Pokes are balanced and have made it hard on opponents that have different offensive strengths. Only one team has exceeded seven yards per throw against this unit, and only one team has exceeded eight yards per pass. Most recently, Texas and Heisman candidate running back Bijan Robinson managed 24 points on 5.3 yards per play. The Pokes have been especially brutal against the run, letting up an even 3 yards per carry, the 11th-smallest mark in FBS. Breece Hall has had a hard time getting out of neutral against defenses much less tenacious than Oklahoma State’s. It doesn’t feel like he’s due for one of his most prolific afternoons.
I also don’t think Spencer Sanders and the Oklahoma State offense are going to do a whole lot against an Iowa State defense that’s much more disciplined than the lackadaisical Texas defense they saw last weekend. But OSU will remain mega-run-happy rather than have Sanders test ISU’s secondary a lot, and that in and of itself is fairly helpful to the cause of an underdog covering. Neither team moves at a breakneck pace, and a bunch of runs back into the line should keep the clock moving and put the onus on Iowa State to do something it isn’t really built to do: score points quickly. Given that Iowa State doesn’t actually have any incentive to cover the spread and will simply try to sit on the game if it has a late lead, I feel even better about taking seven points with the unbeaten underdog Cowboys.