The 24th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys will try to fend off the resurgent Baylor Bears as the two close out their 2012 regular season with a duel at Floyd Casey Stadium.
Oklahoma State is 7-4 overall and 5-3 in Big 12 Conference action after suffering a heartbreaking 51-48 loss in an overtime thriller at Oklahoma last week. The setback snapped the team's two-game winning streak in which it outscored West Virginia and Texas Tech by a combined total of 114-55. The Cowboys will look to find some success on the road after winning just one of their previous four away games this season.
After a fast 3-0 start to the season, Baylor fell from the national ranks by losing five of its next six games. The Bears engineered a late season turnaround, starting with a convincing 52-24 win over then No. 1 Kansas State. Coach Art Briles then led his squad to a 52-45 win over Texas Tech in an overtime thriller which made the team bowl eligible once again.
This will be the 31st time these schools play one another on the football field. OSU holds an 18-12 edge in the all-time series. Baylor has not defeated the Cowboys since the 2005 season.
As expected with coach Mike Gundy running the show, Oklahoma State has a very explosive offense with a scoring offense of 45.6 ppg, which ranks first in the conference and third in the FBS. The Cowboys are balanced with the 20th best rushing offense in the FBS (215.3) and the seventh best passing attack (332.6). The offensive system has been stellar enough to earn the praise of Baylor's head coach.
"Their system has stayed pretty much the same the last 5 or 6 years," said Briles. "They probably aren't throwing the ball as much this year as they did with Brandon Weeden, [Justin] Blackmon and Dez [Bryant], but their offense is still very good."
There is a very good reason OSU has not thrown the ball as much in recent years. Junior tailback Joseph Randle has racked up a Big 12 best 1,212 yards and 14 TDs on 234 caries. He amassed 113 yards and four TDs on 21 attempts last week in the shootout with Oklahoma.
There has been more change at QB for Oklahoma State this season, Clint Chelf took over the starting responsibility late in the season. The junior signal caller has completed 72-of-124 attempts for 1,058 yards, 10 TDs, and just four interceptions over the past four weeks, while guiding the offense to an average of 48 ppg during that span.
Josh Stewart has made Chelf's life much easier. The sophomore stud surpassed the 1,000 yard mark for the season last week after he tallied 150 yards and a score on 11 receptions. Blake Jackson (528 yards, two TDs) and Charlie Moore (528 yards, five TDs) are often targeted as well.
The OSU defense is in the middle of the pack in the conference with allowed averages of 409.1 yards of total offense and 28.4 points per contest. Its rushing defense is ranked third in the league with only 124.4 allowed yards per game.
Linebacker Shaun Lewis is one of six OSU players with 50 tackles or more on the season. The senior leader was optimistic about his squad's chances this week.
"Challenges with Baylor are going to be the same as it's been the last few weeks," said Lewis. "We've been playing some of the top offenses in the country the past month, and the expectation is the same. We want to limit the run game and make them one-dimensional. We know coach is going to come up with a great game plan this week."
Lewis maybe underestimated the capabilities of Baylor's offensive unit. The Bears amassed 674 yards of total offense last week versus Texas Tech, marking the fifth time they passed the 600-yard mark this season. The team ranks fifth in the nation in scoring (44.4 ppg) and second in yardage (575.4 ypg). The unit is doing it with balance as it ranked 18th in the FBS in rushing yards per game (217) and third in passing (358.5)
Nick Florence has done an admiral job in replacing Robert Griffin III. The senior QB has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 3,825 yards with 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Florence was impressive last week once again with 396 yards and three TDs on 22-of-37 passing. He also added 51 yards and score on the ground. For the season, he has 460 yards rushing with eight dashes in the end zone.
Lache Seastrunk (136 yards, 7.2 ypc) and Glasco Martin (98 yards, two TDs) each played a huge role in shredding TTU's defense last week, and the two have combined for 1,435 yards and 16 scores on the season.
Florence's top target is Terrance Williams, who leads the nation with 1,693 yards with 12 of his 89 receptions ending in the end zone. The Biletnikoff Award finalist is on pace to become just the second player in NCAA history with 2,000 receiving yards in a single season. He made seven grabs for 175 yards last week to break Kendall Wright's school record for single season receiving yards. Williams enters this week with a chance to crack into the NCAA single-season Top 10 receiving yards list.
While Baylor's offense is very effective, its defense is one of worst in the FBS, with allowed averages of 509.7 yards and 38.6 ppg.
Bryce Hager has a Big 12 leading 107 total tackles to his credit to go along with three sacks and two forced fumbles. Joe Williams, Eddie Lackey, and Sam Holl have recorded three interceptions each.