Stillwater, OK – The third-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys Pickens Stadium.
Mike Gundy's Cowboys are one of just six unbeatens left in the FBS ranks and moved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in-conference with last weekend's 59-24 romp over Baylor. OSU is now 8-0 for the first time since its lone undefeated season in 1945.
Bill Snyder has transformed the Wildcats into a winning team for the second time. Up until last weekend, KSU was still among eight unbeatens in the FBS ranks, but their perfect season came to an end at home, falling hard to the Oklahoma Sooners, 58-17.
Oklahoma State holds a 35-22 edge in the all-time series with Kansas State, and has won three straight meetings and four of the last five overall.
The Wildcats ran the ball effectively at times against Oklahoma last weekend, but the passing game struggled big time, with just 58 yards through the air, while KSU allowed seven sacks. While the numbers on the season have heavily favored a stout ground game for KSU (209.9 ypg), it had up until last week, not cost them in the win column.
Quarterback Collin Klein is the straw that stirs the drink for the Wildcats, leading the team in rushing with 762 yards and a whopping 16 touchdowns. KSU doesn't go to the air often, but Klein has also passed for 992 yards and eight more scores. Other offensive players of note include tailback John Hubert (708 yards, two TDs) and wideout Chris Harper (28 receptions, 320 yards, three TDs).
KSU's defense fell victim to Oklahoma's prolific passing attack, as the Sooners racked up over 500 yards through the air last weekend. That has been a problem most of the season, with the Wildcats allowing a generous 277.9 yards per game passing. As a result, the team has allowed 15 TD passes thus far.
Linebacker Arthur Brown leads the team in tackles with 60, adding 5.5 TFLs, two sacks and one INT to an impressive stat line. Defensive back Nigel Malone (34 tackles) is one of the Big 12's top ballhawks, having already collected six interceptions on the year.
OSU averaged 9.5 yards per snap last week against Baylor and led 35-0 at the half and 49-3 at one point in the game. The team had a pair of 100-yard rushers in Joseph Randle and Herschel Sims. Randle erupted for 152 yards and four TDs, while Sims added 104 yards and one score. Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon was heard from as well, hauling in 13 receptions, for 172 yards and two TDs.
Oklahoma State can obviously move the ball at will, ranking second in the nation in scoring (49.9 ppg) and fourth in both passing (3373.3 ypg) and total offense (555.1 ypg).
Quarterback Brandon Weeden has been stellar, completing 71.3 percent of his passes, for 2,710 yards and 22 TDs. It helps having Blackmon on the outside, as he has amassed 74 receptions, for 834 yards and 10 TDs.
Coach Snyder marvels at Blackmon's talent.
"They throw it to him, he catches it and runs it to the end zone. That is just what he does. Some of the best have lined up against him and tried to stop him and have had no success doing it. It is just a matter of, can you do it? He does it. Blackmon is a guy that just finds open areas. It is not a matter of what the routes are, it is a matter of where you are defensively and he gets someplace else."
Randle provides the perfect balance on the ground, racking up 842 yards on 6.2 yards per carry. He has also scored 16 of the team's 25 rushing TDs to date.
The OSU defense is more than a few steps behind the offense in terms of productivity. The Cowboys are allowing 26.5 ppg, on a generous 455.6 yards of total offense. The team has struggled against both the run (185.5 ypg) and the pass (270.1 ypg) although the squad has recorded 22 sacks and 29 takeaways on the year.
Gundy recognizes his defense's big play ability.
"Our team has been opportunistic about takeaways and forcing turnovers and our offense has done a nice job of taking advantage of it. Winning the turnover margin in each game is obviously important. I think that's one area that's consistent across the country. Fortunately for us, we've been able to take advantage of that the last few games."
Free safety Daytawion Lowe leads the team with 58 total tackles, with two sacks, one INT and three forced fumbles. Defensive end Jamie Blatnick (35 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 7.0 sacks) provides a solid pass rush and cornerbacks Brodrick Brown (25 tackles, four INTs) and Justin Gilbert (35 tackles, three INTs) have performed well in the secondary.