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Cowboy Football: Previewing Oklahoma State vs. Kansas

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STILLWATER, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma State is coming off its most impressive victory of the season to date with a 52-34 thumping of then-No. 15 Texas Tech on the road. Now the Pokes return home for the first time since Oct. 19 to host the struggling Kansas Jayhawks before things heat up in the Big 12 title race the following week. Here is a look at what to watch for when KU comes to town on Saturday:

 

Things To Watch For

1. Consistency From Chelf

It should come as no surprise that OSU's best offensive performance of the season coincided with the best outing so far from quarterback Clint Chelf. Chelf entered the game having completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes on the year and had thrown for a paltry 78 yards against Iowa State the previous week.

Chelf bucked the trend, throwing for a season-best 211 yards on 18-of-34 passing with a pair of touchdowns. He did throw two interceptions, but overall it was a performance that helped pace the Cowboys to vital victory in the conference title hunt, garnering Big 12 offensive player of the week honors.

The senior signal caller also continued to show that his wheels are an under appreciated asset to the offense, as well, rushing for 88 yards and two scores on 14.7 yards per carry.

It's unlikely KU will be able to do much to slow Chelf and the Cowboys down, but a sharp outing would go a long way toward silencing the quarterback debate in Payne County.

 

2. Turnover Troubles?

If Chelf did have a problem in Lubbock, it was most certainly his two interceptions, one of which was returned for a 21-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

As good as Oklahoma State has been in forcing turnovers, and it has been excellent ranking 10th nationally in takeaways with 22, it hasn't taken full advantage of the plays made by its opportunistic defense.

The Cowboy offense has lost 12 turnovers of its own and hasn't had a turnover-free outing since Sept. 7 at UT – San Antonio. Still, OSU ranks sixth in the NCAA in turnover margin, so it's far from a major problem at all, but with stiff tests coming against Texas, No.5 Baylor and No. 10 Oklahoma, it would be encouraging to see the OSU offense have a mistake-free game while the defense continues to do its thing.

 

3. Speaking of the defense…

As mentioned, the OSU defense has been wildly successful in forcing turnovers in 2013. But this game could provide a slew of opportunities to showcase how much it has improved across the board. From a statistical standpoint, this game shapes up as a disaster for Kansas.

OSU ranks 18th in rushing defense, while KU comes in at 96th in rushing offense. The Pokes are 11th in pass efficiency defense; KU is 111th in passing yards and 115th in passing efficiency. The Cowboys are 28th in points allowed, while the Jayhawks are just 114th in points scored.

KU's one saving grace has been ball protection, ranking 47th in turnovers with only 13 through eight games. But if any team is going to force mistakes, it's going to be the Cowboys.

Honestly, if KU manages to score more than 10 points in Stillwater, it will likely be a result of playing against OSU's third stringers and walkons in the fourth quarter.

 

Notables

• Oklahoma State leads the all-time series by a narrow 32-29-2 margin, but the Pokes have won eight of the past nine meetings and the last time KU came to Stillwater it lost 70-28.

• OSU cornerback Tyler Patmon was a three-year starter for KU before transferring to the Cowboys this offseason. He graduated from Kansas in three years and was able to play immediately for OSU after enrolling in graduate school. Patmon has played in all eight games for the Pokes so far and has accumulated 14 tackles, eight pass breakups and an interception.

• At halftime of this week's contest, OSU will be honoring the best thing it's ever received from the Sunflower State – Barry Sanders. The Wichita native won the Heisman Trophy at OSU 25 years ago and will be honored as part of an anniversary celebration. Sanders set 23 NCAA records that still stand a quarter of a century later.

• Many are aware of KU's struggles on the gridiron but the numbers really do put things in perspective. The Jayhawks have lost an NCAA-worst 26 consecutive conference game and have won just one of their past 38 in Big 12 play and the team they beat – Colorado – isn't even in the league anymore. The last time KU beat a current Big 12 school was Iowa State on Oct. 12, 2009.

• The losing streak hasn't exactly been a competitive one either. Through the past three winless Big 12 runs, KU has lost by average margins of 26.2 in 2011, 24.4 in 2012 and 26 per game this season.

• Oklahoma State is one of only two teams in the Big 12 to rank in the top 30 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Pokes are scoring 40.5 points per game to rank 14th in the FBS, while the defense is allowing 21.4 a game to rank 28th. The other Big 12 school to achieve this is Baylor, which ranks a whopping first in scoring (63.9) and sixth in points allowed (15.9).

• Despite allowing 34 points to Texas Tech, Oklahoma State's defense was reliable when it was needed the most, allowing the Raiders to score just two touchdowns on seven trips to the red zone. The Cowboys rank 14th in the country in red-zone defense, allowing opponents points – touchdowns or field goals – on just 71.4 percent of their trips inside the 20.

 

Prediction

There are very few potential scenarios that don't have the Cowboys running the Jayhawks out of Boone Pickens Stadium. Oklahoma State is just better than Kansas in every facet, but this is college football and the Pokes will need to remain focused with an onslaught of high-profile matchups awaiting them once KU is out of the picture. That said, focus never seems to be much of an issue for the Cowboys in Stillwater under Mike Gundy. Expect OSU to win this one and by a lot.

Oklahoma State 59, Kansas 17

 

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