3DownNation’s CanCon Game of the Week: Tulsa at No. 11 Oklahoma State

Photo courtesy: Peyton Aufill, Oklahoma State Athletics

Last week’s CanCon Game of the Week was a bit of a snooze fest.

Both offences stalled for three quarters before Syracuse finally succumbed to the more talented North Carolina, allowing a fourth quarter onslaught to cover the massive spread.

Our 3DownNation picks were solid across the board, nailing six out of the seven Canadian involved games. The only hiccup was a Coastal Carolina upset of Kansas, aided by a stellar performance from Canadian Enock Makonzo. We also missed out on our against-the-spread pick due to a lackluster final frame from the Orange.

Week Three presents a much broader slate and our feature contest is philosophically different. While last week’s game was all about the quantity of Canadians on the field, this week it’s all about quality. Two of the finest Canadians in all of football make their 2020 debut on Saturday — it’s time to get excited.

Tulsa at No. 11 Oklahoma State (-23.5)
Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
Saturday, September 19 at 12PM EST/9AM PST
Where to View: 

Are you ready for an offensive explosion?

If not, I suggest you avoid this game at all costs. Oklahoma State enters the 2020 season with an arsenal of weapons that looks ripped straight from an action film. There is dual-threat quarterback Spencer Sanders, who won Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2019 with 2,065 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and 768 rushing yards.

There is 2018 All-American receiver Tylan Wallace, who racked up 908 yards and eight touchdowns in just eight games last year before a knee injury. There are secondary targets Dillon Stoner, Braydon Johnson and Washington State transfer Tay Martin, all of whom finished in and around the 500-yard mark last year.

And then there is Chuba Hubbard.

There is no question who’s the star on this Oklahoma State team and it’s the running back from Sherwood Park, Alberta. With track speed and impressive vision, Hubbard is primed to ascend to the status of the best running back in college football.

Choosing to return to school for his redshirt junior season, Hubbard has to prove that he can do more than break big runs. NFL scouts want to see him as a pass catcher and pass blocker, evaluating whether he can truly be an every-down player at the next level. The process of deciding where Hubbard will be valued in the 2021 NFL Draft begins Saturday.

In 2019, Hubbard topped all of college football with 2,094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. His first big statement of the season was against Tulsa, rushing for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Hubbard would finish the year eighth in Heisman Trophy voting and claim the Cornish Trophy as the NCAA’s top Canadian.

Only five starters on defence from that game will suit up for Tulsa in the rematch, but this isn’t expected to be an improved group. Linebacker Zaven Collins is their top returning player, making 106 tackles from the weak-side (WILL) linebacker position last year, but the team has lost middle linebacker Cooper Edmiston, top pass rusher Trevis Gipson and the leader of the secondary in Reggie Robinson.

Expect Hubbard to make his presence felt early and often once again to get into the Heisman conversation.

Offensively, Tulsa is much better off. Senior quarterback Zach Smith returns following a 2019 campaign where he threw for 3,279 yards and nine offensive starters are back with him. Among them is his favourite target, Keylon Stokes, who broke for 1,040 yards and six touchdowns as a junior.

They won’t be restricted to simply passing the ball, either, thanks to a ferocious and multi-faceted rushing attack. The Hurricanes’ stable of running backs boast a combined 4,541 career yards and 51 touchdowns — second in the nation to top-ranked Clemson. The leader of that group is Shamari Brooks, a 1,000-yard back in 2019 who was named to the Doak Walker pre-season watchlist along with Hubbard.

Dealing with all that from the middle of the Cowboys’ defence will be the other Canadian on Oklahoma State’s roster. Often overshadowed by his teammate’s stardom, Amen Ogbongbemiga is in the conversation for the title of best Canadian in the NCAA not named Hubbard. Last season, the physical middle linebacker led his team in both sacks and tackles for loss and finished second in tackles with 100 on his way to being named the Cowboys’ defensive MVP.

The second-team All-Big 12 selection is the team’s undisputed defensive leader going into his senior season, serving as a team captain. As a senior, the Calgarian will need a big year to raise his NFL draft stock. CFL teams will be watching closely as well.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Ogbongbemiga spent his early years in the football hotbed of Houston, Texas before heading north for high school. He plays with a ferocity rarely seen in a national thanks to those early experiences. That trait got his brother Alex drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 CFL Draft after a relatively lacklustre college career, but Amen is the far superior player.

Obgongbemiga was the third-ranked player on 3DownNation‘s preliminary 2021 CFL draft rankings. He should go very high in next year’s draft no matter how many NFL teams come calling.

Ogbongbemiga forms one of the Big 12’s best linebacking duos with Malcolm Rodriguez and they should get plenty of work mopping up the Tulsa run game. The Cowboys also boast a tremendous secondary, chaired by projected All-American safety Kolby Harvell-Peel.

The group around him is an experienced bunch, especially cornerback Rodarrius Williams, the brother of Cleveland Brown Greedy Williams, whose streak of 36 consecutive starts is the longest among FBS defensive backs.

This should be a high-scoring affair from start to finish and Tulsa seems unlikely to slow the Oklahoma State attack. This game was already delayed one week because Tulsa was limited to just 21 practices over their 38-day training camp due to COVID-19 stoppages. The spread is massive, but it won’t be shocking if this one gets out of control quickly.

Pick straight-up: Oklahoma State
Pick against the spread: Oklahoma State (-23.5)

Other Week 3 NCAA games featuring Canadians

Campbell at Coastal Carolina (-26)
CanCon: Enock Makonzo, LB, JR (CC), Wilt Gabe II, DE, SO (CC)
Pick: Coastal Carolina

Austin Peay at No. 13 Cincinnati
CanCon: Bruno Labelle, TE, SR (Cin)
Pick: Cincinnati

Syracuse at No. 25 Pittsburgh (-21.5)
CanCon: Matthew Bergeron, OL, SO (Syr), Geoff Cantin-Arku, LB, SO (Syr), Patrick Davis, OL, SR (Syr), Ben Labrosse, DB, FR (Syr), Damien Alford, WR, FR (Syr), Tyrell Richards, LB, JR (Syr), Jared Wayne, WR, SO (Pitt), Liam Dick, OL, FR (Pitt)
Pick: Pittsburgh

Houston at Baylor (-4.5)
CanCon: Olivier Charles-Pierre, NT, SR (Hou)
Pick: Houston

Liberty at Western Kentucky (-14)
CanCon: John Kourtis, OL, SO (Lib)
Pick: Western Kentucky

Boston College at Duke (-6)
CanCon: Ezechiel Tieide, WR, SO (BC)
Pick: Duke

Charlotte at No. 12 North Carolina (-29.5)
CanCon: Patrice Rene, CB, SR (UNC)
Pick: North Carolina

The Citadel at No. 1 Clemson
CanCon: Ajou Ajou, WR, FR (Clem)
Pick: Clemson

Louisiana Tech at Southern Mississippi (-5.5)
CanCon: Gabe Siemieniec, PK, SR (LTech)
Pick: Louisiana Tech

Texas State (-6) at Louisiana Monroe
CanCon: Samuel Obiang, DT, SO (TexSt)
Pick: Texas State

Wake Forest at NC State (-2.5)
CanCon: Daniel Joseph, DE, SR (NCSt)
Pick: Wake Forest

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.