The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 12th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys attempt to move one step closer to a Big 12 North title, as they invade Austin this weekend for a showdown with the Texas Longhorns.
Mike Gundy's Cowboys have played at an extremely high level this season, winning eight of their nine games thus far. OSU has won two straight games since its only loss, including a critical 55-28 victory over Baylor last week to give the team some breathing room atop the divisional standings. At 4-1 in league play, the Cowboys control their own Big 12 fate, with games at Kansas and at home against rival Oklahoma following this contest.
The post Colt McCoy era has been tough to swallow this season, especially in- conference where the Longhorns sport a 2-4 record and reside in the Big 12 North basement. Mack Brown's team has lost three straight games coming into this contest, including last weekend's 39-14 setback at Kansas State.
Texas has dominated this series, winning 22 of the 24 all-time meetings, including 14-of-15 in Austin. Texas has won 12 straight overall in the series and hasn't lost to OSU since 1997.
There is no shortage of offensive talent for Oklahoma State this year. It is a pick-your-poison unit with great balance. The running game is netting nearly 200 yards per game (195.7) and is fueled by the rushing exploits of All- American candidate Kendall Hunter, who has rushed for 1,240 yards thus far (6.1 ypc) with 14 TDs.
The scary thing is that the ground game plays second-fiddle to the passing attack and very few teams pass the ball better than the Cowboys. OSU is averaging 353.6 yards per game through the air, thanks to QB Brandon Weeden and his efficient play. Weeden has completed 67.2 percent of his passes, for 2,982 yards and 26 TDs. It certainly helps to have the nation's top wideout running routes in the form of Justin Blackmon. The 6-1 sophomore has been incredible this season, hauling in 75 balls, for 1,285 yards and 15 TDs.
Mack Brown has nothing but praise for the pitch-and-catch combo of Weeden and Blackmon.
"They've got an older quarterback in [Brandon] Weeden that played pro baseball. Justin Blackmon is every bit as good as [Michael Crabtree]. He is just an amazing player. Those guys are playing as well as anybody in the country."
The OSU defense has lagged behind the offense in terms of production, but it hasn't really hurt in the win/loss column that much. The Cowboys are allowing 28.4 ppg and giving up huge chunks of yardage (413.3 ypg), but a lot of that has to do with teams being forced to throw the ball to play catch up.
Senior LB Orie Lemon has been strong in the middle, leading the team in tackles (86), with 7.0 TFLs, 1.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries. Cornerback Brodrick Brown is a distant second in stops (48), with one INT and one fumble recovery. Senior corner Andrew McGee (31 tackles, four INTs) has also been a playmaker in the secondary.
Texas has a balanced offense as well, but nothing like the one the Cowboys will be bringing to town. The Longhorns are averaging just 23.4 ppg, while earning 140.6 yards per game on the ground and 226.8 through the air.
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert has taken his lumps this season as Colt McCoy's replacement. Garrett has completed almost 60 percent of his passes, but he has only thrown for 1,788 yards, with six TDs and nine INTs. Wideout James Kirkendoll leads the team in receptions (31) and receiving yards (389), but neither number is going to strike fear in the opposition.
The rushing attack has also struggled this season, with Cody Johnson representing the team's top rusher at a mere 282 yards.
Texas has had much more success on the defensive side of the football this season, limiting foes to 21.4 ppg and only 267 yards of total offense. The pass defense has been particularly stingy at just 147.9 yards per game.
Junior LB Keenan Robinson leads the team in tackles (86) and has 7.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks, two INTs and two fumble recoveries. He is joined in the middle by fellow LB Emmanuel Acho (66 tackles, 11.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks). Senior rush ends Sam Acho (48 tackles, 12.0 TFLs, 6.0 sacks) and Eddie Jones (46 tackles, 10 TFLs and 6.0 sacks) have formed quite the pass rushing duo. Junior safety Blake Gideon (45 tackles, one INT) highlights the play in the secondary.
With momentum starting to build in Stillwater, coach Gundy tries to keep his team grounded.
"It's [hype] only a factor if you start to listen to it. I've said this for four or five weeks now. If you start to think you're a pretty good player and that your team is better than they really are, you just need to look around the country every Saturday and you will see teams get knocked off. I'm a firm believer in that. We have some good players who have made a lot of good plays this year. And we have a good football team. But we're not beyond practicing well and keeping the right frame of mind in order to win our football game."
Since the inception of the Big 12, Oklahoma State has never gone 4-0 against South Division's Texas schools. That will likely change this year, as the Cowboys are simply too potent on offense. They should be able to score at will once again and move that much closer to a divisional title.