It's now or never for Mason Rudolph.
Oklahoma State's quarterback returned for his senior season with hopes of winning a Big 12 title and contending for a national championship. He has set many of Oklahoma State's career passing records this season, yet things haven't gone quite as planned. After losses to TCU and Oklahoma, the Cowboys will have to win out and get help to reach the Big 12 title game.
Rudolph knows what's at stake Saturday when the Cowboys (8-2, 5-2 Big 12, No. 13 CFP) host Kansas State. As usual, he'll try to approach the game in a normal way.
"We have to weigh how everything structures -- playoff and the Big 12," he said. "Every week is huge. Whether we are playing Tulsa or Texas Tech, we play them all the same. We come up with a plan and try to execute it and control it."
Kansas State has something to play for, too. The Wildcats (5-5, 3-4) need one more win to become bowl eligible for the eighth straight year.
"It is going to be a challenge, for sure, but it is the last away game for a lot of these seniors unless we go to a bowl game, which we obviously want to and have a good feeling that we are going to," Kansas State senior punter Nick Walsh said.
Here are some things to watch for when Oklahoma State and the nation's No. 2-ranked offense take on the Wildcats:
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder is 78, and his teams are known for being fundamentally sound. Nothing flashy and the Wildcats are competitive year after year.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is 50, has a mullet and takes his shirt off during pep rallies. His offenses are as flashy as the bright orange on their uniforms and the Cowboys, too, are competitive pretty much every year.
The programs are as different as their coaches, yet Gundy has the utmost respect for Snyder.
"I don't think there's any question that he's had as big of an impact at Kansas State as any coach that has ever coached in college football, based on where they started and where he has taken them to," Gundy said.
GAME RECOGNIZES GAME
Gundy is considered by many to be Oklahoma State's best quarterback ever. After coaching Rudolph for four years, Gundy thinks it might be time to pass the torch. He recently told Rudolph's parents how important their son has been to the program.
"When he finishes here, he's probably going to be the most decorated quarterback in the history of this school," Gundy said. "We can argue stats, wins or whatever he's done. Here's what he has done: He has been the most committed player to this team that I have ever seen."
CO-NO. 1 RECEIVERS?
Oklahoma State's Marcell Ateman has stepped out of the shadow of preseason All-American James Washington. He has 44 catches for 829 yards and eight touchdowns, not far behind Washington's totals of 53/1,158/nine. Ateman has created problems in the red zone with his 6-foot-4 frame.
Oklahoma State is about a three-touchdown favorite, something Snyder said his team is well aware of.
"I certainly have confidence and faith in them that they will battle and take it personally," he said. "I think they will get invested and try to become a better football team and certainly to go down there and compete."
GAME OF INCHES
This season, Oklahoma State has thrived in close games while Kansas State has not. The Cowboys are 3-0 this season in games decided by seven points or fewer. Kansas State is 1-4 in such games this year, including last week's 28-23 loss to West Virginia. Gundy said the Wildcats are capable of getting it turned around.
"Don't let the record fool you," Gundy said. "I think we all know in this league you can take the majority of the teams and put them on a neutral site, and it's going to be a toss-up. I don't see any difference in this game."