1. The 2-1 Oklahoma State Cowboys come to Waco, TX Saturday night to open Big 12 play against the 3-0 Baylor Bears. That "1" in the loss column is a tricky one though, a game that they should not have lost. As you probably know, the Cowboys lost on an untimed down that should have not have awarded to Central Michigan. This is an instance where you can say the refs stole one, not out of spite, but out of incompetence. They simply did not know the rule and gave CMU one last chance against the Cowboys.
Their two victories are over Southeastern Louisiana in the opener and a solid ACC team in Pittsburgh this past weekend. The Pitt game was a tightly contest one, which the Cowboys won 45-38 behind a 86-yard touchdown pass and a rushing score with 1:28 left in the game. Mason Rudolph threw for a school record 540 yards, with 296 of them going to James Washington. The Cowboys built leads of 24-10 and 31-17, but Pitt tied it at 31-31 and 38-38 before the late score.
2. The Cowboys are one of the most one-dimensional offenses you will ever see, though that dimension is quite good. They are a passing heavy offense, mainly in terms of yardage. They do try and run the ball (43% of plays are runs), but are averaging an abysmal 3.06 yards per carry. They are 107th in rushing attempts per game, and even worse at yards per attempt at 117th.
Rennie Childs is the top rusher after a massive game against Pittsburgh this weekend were he had 4 touchdowns and averaged 10.10 yards per rush. Against Central Michigan, they averaged under 2 yards per carry. Even with Childs' effort against Pitt, they still averaged just 3.13 yards per carry.
Freshman Justice Hill leads the team with 24 carries, while Chris Carson also has 12. This is a team that just does not run the ball well the past two seasons (averaged just 3.58 yards per carry in 2015), but what they do well is pass it.
3. While their running game has bottomed out the past 2 seasons, the passing game has been electric with Mason Rudolph leading the way. The sophomore has thrown for over 1,000 yards already to go along with 6 touchdowns and an interception. He is averaging 8.9 yards per attempt (tied for 21st best in the nation), the same as in 2015. This is the Mike Gundy way, to develop a solid quarterback with some electric options at wide receiver around him.
The Justin Blackmon/Dez Bryant role is being filled by James Washington this year. He has 399 yards and 3 touchdowns already, averaging 21 yards per catch. However, Jhajuan Seals and Jalen McCleskey have provided the Cowboys passing attack multiple options around their star. This is a well-balanced passing attack that uses Washington to take the top off of the defense, while McCleskey does the dirty work underneath and Seales provides a complimentary piece across the field.
4. This will be the first road game for the Cowboys in 2016, coming to a place they have not won at in since 2009. The Bears have won three of the last four games in this series, with Oklahoma State owning a 19-15 edge historically. The Cowboys will bring a struggling pass defense to Waco, one that is 76th in the nation in yards allowed through the air. They give up 8.2 yards per pass attempt which is 105th in the nation. The Chippewas gashed them for 368 yards through the air, while Pitt got 237.
The Cowboys struggled with multi-receiver sets, especially those that stack one side of the field. Unfortunately for OSU, this a staple of the Bears offense, using multiple receivers at different levels to give the quarterback easy throws. The Cowboys have also had struggles with tackling in the run game, giving Pitt big gains on the ground to the tune of 290 yards and 5.37 yards per rush.
5. With the Cowboys loss to CMU and continued struggles defensively against Pitt, the calls for changes in the coaching staff have already begun. Even longtime head coach, and OSU legend Mike Gundy will have some tough questions to answer if the running game and defense cannot improve. This is a talented Cowboy team, led by a very good quarterback and one of the best receiving units in the nation. The skill players on the outside are there. The question is, can the Cowboys find enough of a running attack to keep defenses honest? They were able to against Pitt, at least at times.