Oklahoma State Still Perfect Against the Spread
by Trevor Whenham - 10/31/2008
Last year the Jayhawks were the last college football team to fail to cover a game. They were perfect against the spread right up to the last game of the season against Missouri. This year just one team, Oklahoma State, a team Kansas covered against last year, has the ability to do better than that. The Cowboys are the only perfect ATS team remaining in the country. They are 7-1 straight up, but 7-0 ATS. As they have compiled that record the team has become one of the better stories of the season. They were supposed to be solid, but they are much better than that. They beat Missouri much easier than they should have been able to, and they earned as much respect against Texas as a losing team can.
The Cowboys have shown that they can cover pretty much any kind of spread you throw at them. They have won outright as two touchdown underdogs, and they've covered as 26-point favorites. They've barely covered spreads, and they have blown others out of the water. There is only one thing they haven't done yet - cover in low scoring games. They have scored at least 24 points in every game, and better than 50 four times. They are averaging the sixth highest number of points in the country (in a ridiculous show of strength, four of the five teams ahead of them - Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech and Missouri - are from the incredibly explosive Big 12).
So, how is the team doing it and, more importantly, can they keep doing it? There is nothing bettors value more than a consistent team, so is this one, or has it just been lucky? Here's a look:
Offense - When you think of a team that scores as well as these guys do you assume that they have a great passing attack. The teams above them in points scored all have one. At 58th in the country in passing yards, however, the Cowboys are just barely in the top half. What has got this team to where they are is rushing prowess and a solid passing game. Running back Kendall Hunter has 1,121 yards and 10 touchdowns. Keith Toston has 516 yards and eight scores. Both are averaging more than 6.5 yards per carry. Like so many great running teams these days, the two backs have different styles, so defenses have to adapt every time a different one touches the ball. On top of those two, running back Beau Johnson is competent, and QB Zac Robinson isn't afraid to tuck and run, either. This is a team with many ways to burn you on the ground.
Despite their ability to run, this team is no Navy. You know this team is going to run a lot, but unlike the Midshipmen they don't have to run on every down. Robinson is more than adequate as a QB. He has 1,690 yards passing and 15 touchdowns. He's efficient, too - he's completed 69.4 percent of his passes, he averages a gaudy 10.6 yards per attempt, and he has just four interceptions. He's essentially a poor man's Chase Daniel. The only real knock on the offense is their lack of receiver depth. Sophomore Desmond Bryant is an absolute machine, but he is pretty much alone. With 885 yards receiving and 11 TDs he has accounted for well over half the team's receiving yards and nearly three quarters of the touchdowns. If a team can find a way to shut down Bryant, or if he gets hurt, then the Cowboys are cooked. That makes their pursuit of perfection more tenuous.
Schedule - The Cowboys have passed two big tests, beating Missouri and giving the Longhorns their biggest scare of the year. That's the good news. The bad news is that they have two more big tests left. They play Texas Tech in two weeks, and the finish off the year hosting the Sooners. Unless Texas Tech self-destructs against Texas this week, the Cowboys will be underdogs in Lubbock, and they probably will be at home against Oklahoma, too. In both games, though, the spread should be relatively small. That means the Cowboys will have to play them tight. That won't be the case in the other two games - Oklahoma State should be able to cruise by Iowa State and Colorado. It would seem that the worst-case scenario would be for the team to wind up 9-2 ATS. A clean sweep certainly isn't impossible unless the oddsmakers are really unfair. It doesn't' seem like this team is overachieving.
Defense - The Cowboys don't have a great defense. They are ranked 64th overall - in the bottom half of the country. Fortunately, the rest of the conference, or at least the teams that matter, don't play defense, either. Missouri and Kansas are worse defensively, and Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech are only marginally better. If this team doesn't manage to cover then it won't be because of their defense. The Big 12 is all about scoring, scoring, and scoring some more.