Bedlam: Who Will Win In The Trenches?

Oklahoma State's high-profile offense is on pace to become the second highest scoring team in school history, averaging 41.6 points entering the Bedlam showdown. The Cowboys have playmakers in Zac Robinson, Kendall Hunter and Dez Bryant but those standouts will tell you that the offense's success begins up front with an offensive line that has a combined 144 career starts entering the OU game.

Zac Robinson's 178 passing efficiency rating is third best among all NCAA Division I quarterbacks, Hunter's 130.4 rushing yards a game ranks fifth in the NCAA stats, and Bryant's 111.1 receiving yards (fourth) and 9.8 points per game (seventh) place him among the nation's leaders.

But when facing an Oklahoma defense that ranks first in turnover margin, first in quarterback sacks, third in tackles for losses and 12th in rushing defense, it's clear to the Oklahoma State players and coaches that the Cowboys must play a nearly perfect game to upset the second-ranked Sooners and knock them out of the Big 12 Championship Game.

The Cowboys, 9-2, and Sooners, 10-1, have two of the nation's top red-zone offenses. OU is ranked No. 1 in the nation, scoring on 60 of 64 opportunities inside the red zone (56 touchdowns and four field goals) for a 93.8 success rate. Oklahoma State is not far behind the Sooners as Robinson, Hunter, Bryant and Co. rank 13th in the nation with a 90.0 percent success rate (45 of 50, with 34 TDs and 11 field goals).

Oklahoma State will have to do a better job of scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals like it did against Colorado in its last game (Nov. 15) if it hopes to defeat Oklahoma for the first time in six years. The Cowboys had to settle for short field goals by Dan Bailey (of 18, 25 and 21 yards) after stalling inside the Colorado 10-yard line three times against the Buffs on Nov. 15.

"We really take pride in scoring touchdowns inside the red zone, and being physical in the red zone," said Cowboy center David Washington, who will be making his 39th career start in Saturday night's nationally televised (ABC Sports) game. "When we don't get in there it's really disappointing. I think that whatever the coaches plan is, we're going to follow it and do our best to get it in there."

That's going to be easier said than done against a Sooner defensive front that includes All-American candidate Gerald McCoy at defensive tackle, noseguard Adrian Taylor and defensive ends Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander. The Sooner defense is allowing opponents to only rush for 101.8 yards a game and they are averaging a nation-best 3.45 sacks, led by Beal (7.5), McCoy (6.5) and Taylor (4.5).

That means the Cowboy offensive line – Washington, guards Steve Denning (21 consecutive starts) and Andrew Lewis (21), and tackles Russell Okung (31) and Brady Bond (24) – must play its best game of the season.

"We always go as the line goes," said Trooper Taylor, the Cowboys' co-offensive coordinator who will be experiencing his first Bedlam football game. "They don't get a lot of attention or a lot of credit, unless they jump offsides, but they've done a great job all year. They work hard. They're a complete unit. They don't care where the credit goes, they just want to win. They have that unselfish attitude that kind of identifies our team, and I'm looking forward to that matchup between those guys and their line."

The Cowboy running game – with Hunter and Keith Toston leading the way – averages more than 260 yards per game (eighth best in the nation), and the OSU offense is averaging 41.6 points and 492.6 total yards (both No. 7 in the country).

But everyone associated with the OSU program knows that its going to take touchdowns, and not field goals, to beat the Sooners.

"That's huge. Field goals won't get it done. We won't win the ballgame if we have to come in there and kick field goals. We have to finish with touchdowns, and compete because their offense is really good, and so is their defense. There's not a lot of room for error," Taylor said.

Washington summed it up best when he said, "It's all on us. We take serious pride in that. We need to be more physical than the other team, and get it in."

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