SITE: Memorial Stadium, Columbia, Mo.
SERIES: Missouri leads 28-22 (last meeting, 2009, Oklahoma State 33-17)
RECORDS: Oklahoma State 6-0, 3-0 Big 12; Missouri 3-3, 1-2 Big 12
POLLS: Oklahoma State (No. 6 AP, No. 6 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 49-35
KEYS TO THE GAME:
For Oklahoma State: Be prepared for a shootout. The Tigers have the offensive might behind QB James Franklin, TE Michael Agnew and RB Henry Josey, and the Cowboys have just as much firepower. The Cowboys defense can make things easier by coming up with turnovers.
For Missouri: Score, score, score. Missouri's offense is one of the most-balanced nationally, and Oklahoma State's defense has been vulnerable. The Cowboys will get their points on offense, and Missouri's offense needs to match them and avoid empty possessions.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Just when Oklahoma State seemed to establish a featured back, RB Joseph Randle, it got two long touchdown runs from RB Jeremy Smith against Texas. The sophomore exploited the Longhorns in blitz packages, hit big holes and raced to the end zone with no safety to elude. Smith gained 140 yards on seven carries with the TD bursts going for 30 and 74. So much for Smith being labeled a short-yardage specialist, though he does have rushing touchdowns in 10 straight games, the second-longest streak for OSU behind Barry Sanders (15).
On back-to-back possessions against Texas, former tight ends came up big on defense for Oklahoma State. DE Wilson Youman recorded a sack to force a punt, then DE Cooper Bassett recovered a fumble on the next series. Those crossover players helped established depth within the line, which was deemed a question mark entering the season. Of the 15 tackles for loss Oklahoma State recorded at Texas, 10 came from the defensive line. It was in on five sacks and eight quarterback hurries. The sacks cut into the Longhorns' rushing yardage, though they still dented OSU for 231 net yards.
Missouri has the most balanced offense in the Big 12, with over 1,400 yards rushing and passing. Against Oklahoma State, that balance will be necessary. Oklahoma State is seventh in the conference in total defense, and opponents have averaged 5.4 yards a play. Should Missouri stay balanced, it will help in keeping the Cowboys' potent offense off the field.
Statistically, Missouri's defense has been impressive, ranking second in the Big 12 in total defense. But the pass defense has fallen flat agains the two best passing offenses on its schedule to date. If Missouri doesn't want to get in a shootout with Oklahoma State, the secondary needs to limit big plays and force turnovers whenever the opportunity presents itself. On the season, Missouri has six interceptions.
Cowboys: One of the biggest victories in Oklahoma State's rise to national prominence came at Missouri in 2008 when the Tigers had also begun to establish themselves nationally. Oklahoma State won 28-23 and has taken three of the last four meetings. ... Oklahoma State will be playing on the road for the fourth time in five games. The Cowboys are 10-17 all-time in Columbia, but have won eight of the last 13. ... With a kickoff return for a score against Texas, Justin Gilbert tied the season record of two set at Oklahoma State by Perrish Cox. The bolt came after Gilbert started four yards deep in the end zone. He said that decision is not his own. The lead returner makes the call, in part, on whether Gilbert has momentum moving forward. Gilbert took a knee on the next kickoff, which came after Texas had answered his return with a TD return of its own.
Tigers: Missouri ended a two-game losing streak with its win over against Iowa State. ... Missouri is one of nine schools to rank in the top 30 nationally in total offense and total defense. The Tigers are 13th nationally in total offense with 496.2 yards per game, and 29th nationally in total defense with 337.8 yards per game. The other eight schools are Alabama, Boise State, Oklahoma, SMU, South Florida, Stanford, West Virginia and Wisconsin. ... Despite a .500 record, Missouri ranks second in the conference in total defense, surrendering an average of 337.8 yards per game. That number may be deceiving, however. The Tigers held Western Illinois to under 50 offensive yards on Sept. 17, and two of their first three conference games came against the bottom two offensive teams in the Big 12 (Kansas State, Iowa State). ... TE Michael Egnew was named to the John Mackey Award midseason watch list. He was a finalist for the award in 2010, and has recently rebounded from a slow start. He had eight receptions over the first four games of the season, but in the last two he's combined for 14 catches, 178 yards and one touchdown. He had his first 100-yard game of the season against Iowa State.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
DE Jamie Blatnick: Continued to elevate his play in the win at Texas with four tackles for loss among his career-best nine stops. He was in on two sacks after securing an interception and fumble recovery in the previous game against Kansas.
QB Brandon Weeden: Carries a string of 151 pass attempts without an interception after starting the season with six picks in the first three games. He has thrown six touchdowns during the pick-less streak and ranks third nationally with 31.5 completions on average.
WR Justin Blackmon: Remains the Cowboys' best deep threat, averaging 8.8 receptions and 101.3 receiving yards. Other targets exist too. Oklahoma State has completed a pass of at least 31 yards in 14 consecutive games.
RB Henry Josey: You can pencil him in here just about every week. Josey is the league's leading rusher, and he's becoming a bigger part of the offense. Against Iowa State, he had 22 total touches, the most in his career. He's also returning kicks, and a big return to spark Missouri's offense in front of a home crowd.
LT Justin Britt: Missouri's offensive line has gelled through six games, but Oklahoma State is averaging over three sacks a game. The Cowboys defense can be attacked, but Britt must give QB James Franklin time to find receivers down field. For the season, Missouri's offensive line has allowed eight sacks.
CB E.J. Gaines: Missouri's secondary will fall under great scrutiny in the face of Oklahoma State's passing attack. Gaines is probably the best cornerback on the roster, and he'll be counted on to contain Justin Blackmon and jump at every opportunity.
Cowboys: C Grant Garner (ankle, probable).
Tigers: DT Terrell Resonno (knee, out), DE Brayden Burnett (elbow, out).