Gerald Goodridge News9.com/NewsOn6.com
No. 4 Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-0, 3-0) at Missouri Tigers (3-3, 1-2)11 a.m. CSTFaurot Field, Columbia, Missouri
Oklahoma State: OL Jonathan Rush (out, knee); CB Devin Hedgepeth (out, Achilles); FS Johnny Thomas (out, academics).
Missouri: LB Will Ebner (questionable, ankle); LB Brandon Durant (out, knee); OL Elvis Fisher (knee, out); RB Marcus Murphy (out, shoulder).
Where to find it…
On TV: FX
On Radio: Cowboy Radio Network
What you need to know…
Oklahoma State had to hold off a second half comeback attempt against the Texas Longhorns to come out of Austin unscathed for the second time in as many years. However, the most surprising aspect of the win was the fact that the running game carried the Cowboys over Texas in the win, rather than the passing game. Despite the lack of yardage put up in the passing game, OSU had eight different players with a reception, including four with four or more. Texas won the time of possession battle by nearly 20 minutes, but the still managed to score 38 points in the victory. The Cowboys currently sit at second in the nation in total offense, scoring offense and passing offense against a defense that has only faced one team in the top 30 all season.
In its three wins this season, the Missouri Tigers have feasted on inferior teams. In three games against Miami of Ohio, Western Illinois and Iowa State, the Tigers have scored 138 points while giving up 23 points, but it has been a different story against good teams. The Tigers have taken the field against three ranked opponents – Kansas State, Oklahoma and Arizona State (ranked No. 24 in the AP Poll) – and come away with three losses. Granted, Missouri lost those three games by an average of eight points, including an overtime heart-breaker against Arizona State in which the Tigers racked up more than 500 total yards. All of which are the marks of a young team, with key positions filled by talented underclassmen.
Who you need to watch…
The Tigers generally go the way that sophomore quarterback James Franklin goes. Just three of his 10 touchdown passes this season have come in Mizzou's three losses, including getting blanked on the road against Kansas State. Despite that, he hasn't struggled to control the ball against the better teams, going without an interception in all three games against ranked opponents.
Youth is the theme in the backfield of the Tigers' spread offensive backfield, with sophomore Henry Josey earning the starting job. The tailback has rushed for 717 yards and averaging 119.5 yards per contest, both conference highs and good enough for 9th in the country, on just 74 rushes this season.
The task of matching up against one of the deepest sets of receivers in the nation will fall on corners E.J. Gaines and Kip Edwards. Gaines, yet another sophomore, leads the team in passes defended with five – four breakups and a pick – while sitting third on the team in total tackles with 35 total. Edwards missed a pair of games due to an injury early in the season, but has 17 total tackles and a pick in four games played.
Joseph Randle has been the breakout star this season for the Cowboys, rushing for 552 yards and nine scores on 107 carries. However, former Union star Jeremy Smith officially had his coming out party in the win against Texas. The sophomore rushed for 140 yards and two scores on just seven rushes, including a 74-yard score in the third quarter that essentially sealed the game for OSU Saturday.
The OSU linebackers will be called upon Saturday to slow down the Tigers' rushing game, and have answered the bell already this season. The Cowboys' three starting backers are in the team's top seven in tackles, including 35 from Caleb Lavey and 6.5 tackles for loss from Shaun Lewis.
Justin Gilbert may be the most versatile player for the Cowboys, making plays on both defense and special teams this season. The sophomore corner is sixth on the team with 27 total tackles, two interceptions, two passes broken up and a fumble recovery. In just two seasons, he is tied with Perrish Cox with the most kick return touchdowns in a career with for, and is just three behind C.J. Spiller for the most all-time.