OSU-Houston: Key Matchups

Robert Allen's key matchups for Oklahoma State's home opener Saturday against Houston at Boone Pickens Stadium.

1. Cowboys offensive tackle RUSSELL OKUNG vs. UH rush end PHILLIP HUNT

We may end up listing Okung against whoever he is matched up with throughout the entire season. It is always interesting to see if Okung can shut out the opposing defensive end since he did it to national sack leader Greg Middleton of Indiana in the bowl game.

Hunt is a legitimate pass rusher that had 10.5 sacks last season and was in on four tackles in the opener. By the way, Okung held Andy Mattingly to just two tackles and only one solo in the three quarters he played versus Washington State.

While the Okung-Hunt matchup is important, the matchups up and down the line between the Cowboys offense and the Cougar defense are all vital. Our gut feeling is that Oklahoma State will want to flex its run game muscles more than they did in Seattle. Against a team like Texas Tech, which Houston is aiming to become, controlling the ball is important and running the ball successfully equals that kind of control.

We like Okung in this battle.

2. Cowboys cornerbacks JACOB LACEY and PERRISH COX vs. UH wide receivers L.J. CASTILE and MARK HAFNER

Hafner had more than 100 yards receiving last week against Southern and Castille, who caught two touchdowns (both over 20 yards), are not the only Houston receivers, just the two we consider most dangerous.

The OSU secondary played really well in the opener and did a nice job of shutting out All-American wide receiver Brandon Gibson in the first half. It was the contact made as receivers were catching the ball that I liked the most. The secondary is proving that they are more physical and it is not just Lucien Antoine and Quinton Moore that are doing the smacking. The rules from last week are out the window as the Cougars use a moderate version of the Texas Tech (Mike Leach) offense.

Keeping the Cougars under 250 yards and four touchdowns passing is a victory. The Oklahoma State offense understands this game and knows they will need to score. Lacey and Cox just have to be ready to make some more physical plays and also try for a few interceptions. Look for a little more man-to-man and hope that the defensive line can get some push and keep their hands up in the air.

Touchdown passes or bruised mid-sections, this one is too close to call.

3. Cowboys running backs BEAU JOHNSON and KEITH TOSTEN vs. UH middle linebacker CODY LUBOJASKY

We talked about the need to run the football and we are not dismissing the shake and bake of Kendall Hunter. Hunter's flashy style will be needed, but so will the down and dirty run-the-defender-over style of Beau Johnson and Keith Toston. This will be fun as Oklahoma State should win this matchup no question asked. Mike Gundy has a great desire for his team to be the most physical on the field. This is where they prove it.

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