Ollie Gordon, RB
The biggest reason for the run Oklahoma State has gone on in the Big 12 since a tough non-conference slate Gundy’s squad is the meteoric rise of star sophomore running back Ollie Gordon. The leading rusher in the nation has put this Oklahoma State team on his back as he’s rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns in Big 12 play.
The arc of the Oklahoma State season has essentially revolved around two things. First, is Oklahoma State deciding to give the ball to Gordon roughly 30 times per game during Big 12 play. Once Oklahoma State started feeding Gordon relentlessly, they started winning games. It was as simple as that as the Pokes are undefeated this season when Gordon gets at least 20 carries.
Oklahoma State’s offense has largely revolved around getting Gordon the football a couple of dozen times at least on the ground and occasionally in the receiving game, and they have used that to open up the rest of the offense. Once they get Gordon running the ball downhill consistently, they’ll mix in a few different RPO plays and play action in the passing game.
The way Oklahoma State likes to run the ball with Gordon is mostly off-tackle in zone blocking schemes. In certain ways, Oklahoma State’s reliance on the zone run game off-tackle is similar to how Sark likes to run the ball with the outside zone.
Gordon is at his best when he can see a lane opening up and get downhill to the second level, where he uses his size and athleticism at 6-foot-1 and around 215 pounds to make tacklers miss. Big plays start to occur once Oklahoma State starts consistently opening up running lanes for Gordon.
A crazy stat is that Gordon leads the FBS in breakaway rushing yards (defined by PFF as yardage on designed runs of over 15 yards, with over 900 on the season. He also ranks fifth in the Power Five in breakaway percentage (57.2).
That means Gordon gets well over 50 percent of his rushing yards on attempts on explosive plays.
The plan for Texas in this matchup against Gordon and the Oklahoma State offense seems pretty simple: play at least six or seven men in the box and limit explosive plays from Gordon. The part about limiting explosive plays is easier said than done against arguably the most explosive running back in the nation this season.
There is also the possibility that Texas will try to match up against Oklahoma State 6-on-6 up front in run defense. Texas is the best run defense in the Big 12 with light boxes this season (averaging just 4.3 yards per carry against). And Oklahoma State will find it more challenging to run the ball against this stellar group of Texas defensive linemen and linebackers.
It will ultimately be up to Gordon to find the right holes and/or cutback lanes to generate explosive plays against the best run defense in the Big 12. Gordon vs. Texas’ defensive front is the matchup everyone wants to see in the Big 12 Championship Game.