The Oklahoma State Cowboys are the next team on the docket for Mizzou and they present an interesting challenge for the Tigers. Coming off a loss to Nebraska, how will Missouri respond against a highly ranked team on the road?Oklahoma State was one of the nicest surprises last season and had very high expectations coming into this season. An opening week win against a highly ranked Georgia team seemed to solidify those pre-season thoughts.
College football is a week-to-week sport, though, and the Cowboys got upset at home against the Houston Cougars the next week. Since the loss, OK State has had close games against Rice and Texas A&M. Let's see what happened to make them fall back to the pack and how the Tigers can exploit that on Saturday.
Running back Kendall Hunter was the main reason Oklahoma State upset of Missouri last season but it seems as if the Cowboys will be without him in this year's affair because of a right ankle injury suffered against Houston. That means senior tailback Keith Toston will start again this week after rushing for 130 yards on 26 carries against Texas A&M.
Toston definitely doesn't provide as big of a threat as Hunter does, but the Tigers still must be wary of the OK State rushing attack. Toston has averaged a healthy 5.7 yards per carry on his way to 410-yards and 4 touchdowns this year. The Tigers had struggled against the run on defense earlier in the season, but I think we saw a bit of a breakthrough against Nebraska last Thursday. Star running back Roy Helu only rushed for 88 yards against Mizzou, including 41 on one run in the 4th quarter when the Huskers had the Tigers on their heels.
Zac Robinson was a dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy entering the year, but his numbers thus far – just over 1,000 yards and 8 TD's in 5 games – haven't lived up to his expectations. Still, Robinson is a threat to beat any good team with his arm and his ability to tuck the ball and get a few yards on the ground.
One of the top, if not the top receiver in the country calls Stillwater home. Dez Bryant is a game-changer in every sense of the world, but unfortunately for the Pokes, he won't get a chance to change the game on Saturday because of some NCAA violations. I'll get into the effects of Bryant's absence on this game later, but just know that the Tigers have A LOT less to worry about on defense because he isn't playing.
Don't get me wrong; the defense of the Tigers has been fairly good this season. Mizzou has let up only 17 points per game this year and has played much better than last season, but I think the Tigers needed some things to go their way for them to have a chance on the road in this game. With the absence of Bryant and Hunter, they have already got their breaks before the game has even started.
The last 2 times the Cowboys have faced an above average offense (Houston and Texas A&M) they have given up an average of 38 points. I would say that Mizzou has at least an above average offense, so what will OK State do to combat Blaine Gabbert, Derrick Washington and company?
The quarterbacks of Houston and A&M passed for a combined 660 yards and 6 touchdowns in those 2 games to embarrass the Pokes secondary. Gabbert certainly had his struggles against Nebraska and will be hobbled by an ankle injury on Saturday, but expect a good rebound against a below average pass defense.
On the other side of the defense, the Cowboys have done a good job of limiting opposing running attacks thus far, which can't be a good sign for the struggling running game of Mizzou. The offensive line has looked a step off for the Tigers this season, but the talent from last year's team is mostly in tact. Could it just take one breakout game to get the guys back on track? If the Cowboys can limit the rushing attack to their season average of 116 yards per game, Blaine Gabbert will have to step up and have a big game to give the Tigers a chance.