GAMEDATE: Saturday, Nov. 20
SITE: Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kan.
SERIES: Tied 29-29-2 (last meeting, 2007, Kansas 43-28)
RECORDS: Oklahoma State 9-1, 5-1; Kansas 3-7, 1-5
POLLS: Oklahoma State (12 AP, 10 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 49-10
KEYS TO THE GAME:
For Oklahoma State: Don't get complacent. The Cowboys may be excused a little bit if they look ahead to their Bedlam clash on Nov. 27 against Oklahoma, but, the Jayhawks showed marked improvement in recent games after being outscored 159-24 in its first three Big 12 matchups. The Cowboys will want to flex their muscles after Kansas was limited to 87 total yards in a Nov. 13 loss at Nebraska.
For Kansas: Find a way to slow OSU's top-ranked offense. Oklahoma State is averaging 547.5 ypg and 45 ppg in the new spread attack introduced by first-year offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. The Jayhawks can't afford any mistakes offensively and expect to have a shot.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Pick your poison. Texas tried to rattle Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden with the most pressure he has faced all season, yet Weeden threw for 407 yards and even connected with WR Justin Blackmon for a 69-yard touchdown. Blackmon is virtually unstoppable. Despite seeing bracket coverage and double teams, Blackmon continues to excel as the nation's top receiver. RB Kendall Hunter offers balance in the run game, which keeps opponents from concentrating entirely on the Cowboys' passing game. A lot of dimensions exist and rank first nationally in total offense with a 547.5-yard average.
Oklahoma State still only ranks 85th nationally in total defense, but in the last three games it allowed just one touchdown and a total of 10 points in the first half of wins against Kansas State, Baylor and Texas. The defensive starts contributed to a 57-10 scoring advantage for the Cowboys in those halves. Forcing turnovers was a point of emphasis as far back as spring camp and the Cowboys learned various techniques quite well. They lead the Big 12 with 27 takeaways, a mark that ranks fifth nationally. CB Andrew McGee ranks 10th nationally with five interceptions.
Coming off an 87-yard total output in the loss at Nebraska, the Jayhawks need to look for more wrinkles. After that game, Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini indicated Kansas tried some new looks, though those obviously backfired. After generating 20 yards and a first down on the first possession, the next four Kansas drives ended on sacks. The most productive alignment was the Wildcat formation, which features WR Bradley McDougald as the lone back. He gained 27 yards on four carries as the Jayhawks' leading rusher.
Kansas' defensive performance against Nebraska was definitely something the Jayhawks can build from after keeping the Huskers out of the end zone in the second half. An interception by CB Tyler Patmon, as well as a fumble recovery, were highlights for Kansas, which allowed 397 total yards. Keep in mind, however, that Nebraska was mostly content running a vanilla package until the very end, when it began throwing for some reason. Oklahoma State figures to mix different elements into a potent package that has generated 700-plus yards twice this season.
Cowboys: The last time Oklahoma State claimed a conference football championship was in 1976 when it shared the Big Eight title, but you have to go much further back than that to find the last Cowboys quarterback who earned all-conference first-team honors. The year was 1932, the league was the Missouri Valley and the quarterback was Clarence Highfill. Brandon Weeden could change all that in his first season as Oklahoma State's starter, getting the Cowboys a conference title and all-conference honors to boot. A win over Kansas will clinch a share of the Big 12 South Division title for the Cowboys, who would win a berth in the conference title game, too, if Oklahoma loses to Baylor Saturday. ... Two games pitted Oklahoma State against teams with pass defenses ranked either first or second nationally. Yet Weeden threw for 692 yards in those matchups against Nebraska and Texas. ... Oklahoma State figured to incorporate RB Kendall Hunter into the passing game with the conversion it made to a new spread offense. Hunter has only 17 catches for 90 yards, however, as the Cowboys have leaned more on backup RB Joseph Randle for receptions. The true freshman has 29 catches for 335 yards. ... WR Justin Blackmon was named as one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, presented annually to the nation's top receiver. Blackmon leads the country with 1,430 receiving yards, 158.9 receiving yards per game, 16 touchdown catches and 12 points per game.
Jayhawks: Kansas will salute 20 seniors playing for the last time at home in the Nov. 20 matchup against Oklahoma State. Five seniors are from Oklahoma, including S Chris Harris, a four-year starter, and PK Jacob Branstetter and DE Jake Laptad, both three-year starters. Gill indicated he will continue to recruit heavily in Oklahoma, a practice former Kansas coach Mark Mangino began after once serving as an Oklahoma assistant. ... Oklahoma State comes in ranked No. 12. The last time Kansas won a home game against an opponent ranked that high was in 1984 when it upset No. 2 Oklahoma. ... The Jayhawks are 3-3 at home and hoping to finish with at least four home wins for the sixth consecutive season. ... Coming off a loss to Nebraska and with Oklahoma State up Saturday followed by Missouri on Nov. 27, the Jayhawks are looking at potential of having to face three consecutive ranked teams. ... Kansas may be only 3-7 in coach Turner Gill's first season, but only two of the last six Jayhawks coaches have won more games in their first year. Terry Allen was 5-6 in 1997 and Mike Gottfried was 4-6-1 in 1983.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
LB Orie Lemon -- A consistent performer who leads the Cowboys as the middle man in their defense, Lemon leads the Big 12 with 78 unassisted tackles. He was in on 13 stops in the Nov. 13 win at Texas.
PK Dan Bailey -- Almost automatic whenever the Cowboys bog down in scoring position, Bailey has tied the OSU record for most field goals (20) in a season. He's missed only two field goals, though his string of 182 straight conversions was snapped with a blocked PAT at Texas.
WR Justin Blackmon -- The nation's top receiver not only has 100 yards receiving in each of the nine games he has played this season, he also posted 100 yards in the first half of the last three games, against Nebraska, Baylor and Texas.
CB Tyler Patmon -- Patmon plays mostly as the nickel back in the Kansas defensive scheme and has interceptions in each of the last two games, as well as a fumble recovery he returned 28 yards for a touchdown against Colorado.
QB Quinn Mecham -- Mecham threw just 13 times at Nebraska and completed only three attempts as the Jayhawks could not contend with the Huskers' fierce pass rush. Mecham set a Kansas record with 19 consecutive completions, 17 to close the Nov. 6 win over Colorado and his first two attempts at Nebraska.
S Chris Harris -- The senior will draw his 40th consecutive start against Oklahoma State. After leading the Jayhawks with 12 tackles at Nebraska, Harris needs 10 more stops to become one of the top three tacklers all-time among Kansas defensive backs.
Cowboys: No new injuries to report.
Jayhawks: QB Jordan Webb (shoulder, questionable), QB Kale Pick (concussion, day-to-day).