Taking on the University of Texas may seem like a mountain more than a mole hill, but Oklahoma State is ready to attempt the task with its passing and running games.
"We have an excellent chance to have everyone healthy," said coach Les Miles. "The off week couldn't have come at a better time. It gives a chance to get our strength back."
The Cowboys have been plagued by early season injuries, especially at the tailback position. Tatum Bell, who has seen minimal playing time in the first four games of the season, is still nursing his ankle pain, and Miles said Bell is striving to be ready for the UT game.
"I am not sure if Tatum will be ready for the game in Austin," Miles said. "I don't know if he will be 100 percent – but we can hope for the best."
Bell's injury has left the tailback position a little short, but not nearly empty. OSU boasts its deepest tailback rotation in years. Sophomore Seymore Shaw, who scored 3 rushing TDs against Southern Methodist Saturday, has been filling in for Bell nicely. Former minor league baseball player Vernand Morency, who is averaging 66 rushing yards per game, also joins Shaw. Backs Mike Denard and Tim Burrough are compiling much-needed yardage for the Cowboys as well.
"I am impressed with the talent we have at the position," Miles said. "Except they aren't ever all healthy at once."
The No. 3 Longhorns are squaring off against Tulane this Saturday, and will open league play with OSU on Oct. 5.
Miles said he isn't scared easily by Texas' big linemen and QB Chris Simms presence on the field.
"We are in position now to improve to play some of the best opponents of the year," he said.
Miles said the effort and talent needed to beat teams like Texas is evident in his team.
"We are a good football team when we play like [against SMU]," he said. "If you look at how we have played throughout the first four games – we can beat a lot of good football teams. I am ready to start preparation for Texas and the Big 12 Conference."
Ready he may be, but a crystal ball he does not have.
"I am ready, but I am not ready enough to predict a win," Miles said.
When the Longhorns take on Tulane, an entire team of NCAA stars will take the field for the burnt orange. And, with teams like Nebraska and Colorado struggling early on, the ‘Horns have a chance to be the best in the Big 12.
"The wonderful thing about this conference is that you go up against the best in the nation week in and week out," Miles said. "There isn't hardly a poor team in the league, and even the guys at the bottom carry a big bite. I think we proved that last year."
Practice sessions this week will carry a lot of emphasis on real-game situations, Miles said. The team will take the weekend off to relax and nurse practice wounds.
"I would really like to have three healthy backs for the Austin trip next week," Miles said. "We have to get where we can rotate the large contributors in and out so we can mix things up for opponents."
Even in the midst of ankle tapings and soreness, Miles said the Cowboy running backs have put on a phenomenal show so far.
"They each bring something special to the game," he said. "It will just be great once we get them all out there at once. What a thought, right?"