SITE: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
SERIES: Oklahoma State leads 35-22 (last meeting, 2010, Oklahoma State 24-14
RECORDS: Kansas State 7-1, 4-1 Big 12; Oklahoma State 8-0, 5-0 Big 12
POLLS: Kansas State (No. 17 AP, No. 19 USA Today); Oklahoma State (No. 3 AP, No. 4 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 35-14
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Kansas State: Get some defensive stops. The Wildcats' biggest challenge is finding a way to slow QB Brandon Weeden, who throws to several experienced receivers, led by All-American Justin Blackmon. It's a challenge Kansas State needs to address by keeping its offense on the field.
-- For Oklahoma State: Get Kansas State's offense off the field. If the Cowboys don't get stops, the Wildcats can make it a tight game. The Wildcats rank fourth nationally in time of possession (34:25) with their run-based attack led by QB Collin Klein.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Kansas State's one-dimensional attack was shown up in the loss to Oklahoma when the Sooners expanded an early lead and forced the Wildcats into a passing game. QB Collin Klein lacks the arm strength, and his receivers lack the separation needed, to attack good defenses through the air, particularly when they know what's coming and can apply a fierce rush. The Wildcats need to get yards from RB John Hubert to prevent some of the hits Klein absorbs.
Kansas State does not substitute often on defense, except for a rotation it uses up front. That made the Wildcats vulnerable to Oklahoma's hurry-up style, particularly when the offense could not move the chains and build possession time to keep defenders fresh. Playmakers exist in the secondary who can jump routes. CB Nigel Malone is the best, snagging two picks against Oklahoma to pad his season total to six. Pressure is needed up front, however, to alter passes.
Oklahoma State keeps clicking with numerous playmakers. Among the most versatile is RB Joseph Randle, who has 21 receptions to go with his team-high 842 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. Randle showed off his abilities as a receiver out of the backfield last season when he was sometimes used primarily in that role as a true freshman. Given a chance to be the every-down back, Randle has shined, though RB Jeremy Smith is also dangerous and deserves the workload he receives. The emergence of RB Herschel Sims will be interesting to gauge after the true freshman posted his first 100-yard game in last Saturday's win over Baylor.
The more Oklahoma State's defense thrives off turnovers, the more opponents will be aware of securing the football. That could be easier said than done since the Cowboys are quite adept at getting the ball. Getting off the field quicker with the occasional three-and-out would be desirable, however. Oklahoma State does rotate a number of defenders, so the unit manages to stay fresh, even though it is usually on the field for lengthy stretches. The instinctive athleticism within the group helps trigger many of the takeaways.
Wildcats: The Wildcats will bid for a third consecutive Big 12 road win, a feat they have not achieved since 2002. The last time a Kansas State team won three straight conference road games to begin a season was 1999. ... Inexperience among offensive starters for Kansas State is reflected in the stat for consecutive starts. The 15 straight games OT Manase Foketi started before sustaining a season-ending injury in Game 2 still ranks as the longest string among the Wildcats. WR Chris Harper will tie that mark with a start in the Nov. 5 visit to Oklahoma State. OT Clyde Aufner, a senior, leads Kansas State with 28 starts, including nine straight. ... Kansas State ranks eighth nationally in turnover margin at plus-1.13 per game and 17th against the run, giving up 103.25 yards a game. ... CB Nigel Malone leads the Big 12 and is second nationally in interceptions with six picks. ... Freshman KR Tyler Lockett leads the FBS statistics in kickoff return average (37.0) and has run back two for touchdowns. ... WR Brodrick Smith, a starter in the Wildcats' first five games, has missed the last three games, but coach Bill Snyder has refused to elaborate on Smith's absence.
Cowboys: Oklahoma State had a season low in scoring in beating Kansas State 24-14 last season. ... The Cowboys have won three of the last four meetings with the Wildcats have losing nine in a row in the series from 1990 through 2002. ... Oklahoma State leads the nation in interceptions (17) and is tied for most fumbles recovered (12) for a national-leading 29 takeaways. A tip coach Mike Gundy from Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll to double the time spent practicing on forcing turnovers has been one of the keys. ... One overlooked positive about Oklahoma State's explosive offense is it keeps P Quinn Sharp off the field for long segments. That's beneficial for Sharp, who also handles place-kicking and kickoff duties. He ranks third nationally in punting average (47.6), eighth in scoring (10.9) and first in touchbacks (38) on kickoffs. ... WR Justin Blackmon recovered completely from a slight ding in the head that prompted the Oklahoma State staff to remove him at Missouri on Oct. 22. Blackmon returned against Baylor and snagged 13 catches for 172 yards after tests revealed no concussion.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Collin Klein -- Klein ranks fourth among Big 12 rushers with a 95.2-yard average, which includes three 100-yard performances. A strong goal-line threat on the sneak, Klein ranks fourth nationally with 16 rushing touchdowns.
LB Arthur Brown -- Although his rangy athleticism is negated to some extent by spread attacks, the Miami transfer continues to make a strong impact. He leads the Wildcats with 60 tackles.
DT Raphael Guidry -- The backup lineman claimed his third blocked field goal of the season in the loss to Oklahoma after batting down a pair of attempts in the earlier win at Texas Tech. Occasionally he spells starting DTs Ray Kibble or Vai Lutui in the rotation.
CB Brodrick Brown -- The junior leads Oklahoma State's turnover parade with four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Combined with LB James Thomas and CB Justin Gilbert, the trio has 14 of the Cowboys' 29 takeaways.
WR Justin Blackmon -- Blackmon ranks fifth in the country with an average of 9.3 receptions per game, and his 104.3-yard receiving average ranks 14th. He remains QB Brandon Weeden's go-to guy in the red zone with 10 TD grabs. The duo possesses incredible timing on fade routes.
FS Daytawion Lowe -- Among the Oklahoma State defenders likely to strip the football, Lowe is tops on the list. He ranks second in the Big 12 in forced fumbles (0.38) and also ninth in tackles (7.2)
Wildcats: DE Laton Dowling (leg, questionable).
Cowboys: WR Josh Cooper (hamstring, probable), RB Jeremy Smith (hand, probable).