SITE: Jack Trice Stadium, Ames, Iowa
SERIES: Oklahoma State leads 25-17-3 (last meeting, 2009, Oklahoma State 34-8)
RECORDS: Oklahoma State 10-0, 7-0 Big 12; Iowa State 5-4, 2-4 Big 12
POLLS: Oklahoma State (No. 2 AP, No. 2 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 52-21
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Oklahoma State: Force turnovers. The ability to create the most turnovers (34) among FBS teams offsets the Cowboys' national ranking (101st) defensively. Iowa State is minus-8 for the season in turnover margin.
-- For Iowa State: Run the ball to win time of possession. The less time the Oklahoma State offense is on the field, the less time it has to score points. Forcing turnovers is a must to short-circuit the Cowboys' attack.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
On occasion, QB Brandon Weeden attempts a careless throw. On occasion, WR Justin Blackmon drops a ball. On occasion, RB Joseph Randle fumbles. All these issues rightfully concern the Oklahoma State coaches, but in the end, each of those three playmakers finds ways to explode and so far each has helped make the Cowboys unstoppable offensively. The balanced attack can strike from anywhere on the field and includes other threats who will gladly step up and make big plays, such as WR Isaiah Anderson and RB Herschel Sims in recent games. Oklahoma State features a complete attack that is so crisp it rarely looks confused in the hurry-up attack that keeps opponents on their heels.
Athletic quickness is a strength opponents must account for when facing an Oklahoma State defense maligned by the yardage it has allowed. A 66-6 rout of Texas Tech last Saturday certainly quieted some critics, especially since the OSU defense did not give up any points. CB Brodrick Brown leads the secondary with 14 passes defended, DE Jamie Blatnick creates problems off the edge and LB Shaun Lewis often instigates takeaways with four interceptions, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in 16 career starts. This is a budding unit that is becoming stronger fundamentally as the season progresses.
Iowa State will need to score points to keep pace with the potent Oklahoma State offense, and that isn't exactly the strong suit for the Cyclones. They are averaging 24 points a game but 85 of their season total of 216 points came in two games (Iowa and Texas Tech). They haven't gotten to the 30-point mark in any of their other seven games. The Cyclones rush for a respectable 183 yards a game and throw for over 209.
Iowa State's defense may consider it a win if it holds Oklahoma to less than 40 points. The Cowboys average nearly 51 a game, and the Cyclones are giving up nearly 31 an outing. Iowa State also is struggling to stop the run, yielding over 203 yards a game to opposing rushers. They have recorded 13 sacks but have only five interceptions are allowing opponents to pass fo more than 217 yards a game.
Cowboys: A win in Ames will give Oklahoma State 11 victories in the regular season for the first time. It also will clinch at least a share of the Big 12 championship, and the Cowboys would have the outright title should Oklahoma lose to Baylor this Saturday. ... A conference crown would be the ?Cowboys' first piece of a conference championship since they were part of a three-way tie atop the Big Eight in 1976. ... The Cowboys will be trying to tie a school record with an 11th consecutive road win. The longest active road streak is a 13-game string for Virginia Tech, and Oregon is next with 11. ... Oklahoma State and LSU share the longest overall FBS win streaks at 11 straight. ... Accounting for Oklahoma State defenders who might be coming on blitzes is difficult. Among the Cowboys, 20 have tackles for loss and 13 have sacks this season. DE Jamie Blatnick leads the backfield pursuit with seven sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. ... WR Josh Cooper returned from a strained hamstring to play in last Saturday's win at Texas Tech. The injury forced him to miss most of the previous two games. Cooper, who participated in pregame warmups on Nov. 5 before sitting out the Kansas State win, had six catches for 106 yards against the Red Raiders. ... RB Jeremy Smith also returned from a hand injury he sustained Oct. 29 against Baylor. He carried five times for 13 yards against Tech.
Cyclones: Iowa State and Oklahoma State are tied at 11-11-1 in the series in games played in Ames, but that goes back a while. The Cowboys are 8-6-1 in Jack Trice Stadium. ... Iowa State's last win at home over Oklahoma State was 37-10 in 2005. ... Iowa State has three chances, including this game, to get to six wins and bowl eligibility. After the Cowboys, the Cyclones finish at Oklahoma and Kansas State. ... The Iowa State police department filed paperwork Monday to charge Cyclone WR Albert Gary with robbery. Coach Paul Rhoads said the pending charges stem from a June incident. He also said that Gary already served a three game suspension for this incident and will play against Oklahoma State. ... Redshirt freshman QB Jared Barnett has thrown for 319 yards and run for 217 in the wins over Texas Tech and Kansas in the Cyclones' last two games. He has thrown for a touchdown and also run for a score. ... LB Jake Knott is second in the Big 12 averaging 8.9 tackles per game. He has 80 tackles on the season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
PK/P Quinn Sharp -- Double duty suits Sharp just fine. He is 16-for-18 on field goals, leads the nation with 48 touchbacks on kickoffs and averages 47.6 yards on punts, with 15 exceeding 50 yards. He ranks seventh nationally with an 11.3-point scoring average.
WR Justin Blackmon -- Though confronted with double coverage on most routes he runs, Blackmon has 32 catches for 480 yards and six touchdowns in the last three games. He ranks third nationally with an average of 9.3 catches per game and is capable of going up and winning jump balls in traffic.
RB Joseph Randle -- The sophomore needs just seven more yards to crack the 1,000-yard rushing mark on the season. He is the Cowboys' most dependable threat near the goal line. His 21 touchdowns rank third nationally, as does his 13.8-point average. He has rushed for 12 touchdowns in the last three games.
CB Leonard Johnson -- He has had a great senior season and has already played well against Iowa WR Marvin McNutt (four catches, 61 yards) this season. Now, he'll be asked to slow down Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon.
DE Jake Lattimer -- Lattimer is ISU's best pass rushing option. It has been tough for opponents to get pressure on Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden, but if Lattimer it could do it, it would give the Cyclones a better chance to defend the Cowboy offense.
QB Jared Barnett -- ISU is going to need him to make plays like he did when he led the team to a 41-7 win over then No.19 Texas Tech if the Cyclones are to have a chance at getting the win.
Cowboys: S Deion Imade (knee, day-to-day), WR Michael Harrison (ankle, day-to-day).
Cyclones: OG Ethan Tuftee (knee, questionable), RB Tyler Leo (knee, questionable), RB Shontrelle Johnson (neck, out).