By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
We’ve seen the scenario before between Oklahoma State and Kansas State. One team on the cusp of a BCS Championship berth and the other coming in as a top 25 opponent attempting to pull off the upset.
Except this time, the roles will be reversed. Saturday it will be Oklahoma State, ranked 24th in the recent BCS rankings, going on the road against Kansas State, who is ranked second in the BCS.
“I don’t think it’s a mystery to anyone that the team we are playing is very good and very deserving of their national ranking,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “... They’re sound and have only given up 17 points per game. They’re the third team in a row that we’ve played that’s given up 17 points per game. ...
“This will be a good challenge to face a team averaging 45 points a game. We’ll find out if we’ve gotten anywhere near where we need to be.”
While a lot of the focus around Kansas State is their BCS championship chances, Oklahoma State still has BCS aspirations still alive as well. The Cowboys, like K-State, control their own destiny for the rest of the season. The winner of this game will be in the driver seat to become Big 12 champions — and receive the automatic berth to the BCS Fiesta Bowl.
“We take it pretty much one game at a time. The biggest game is always the next game, so we’re preparing for Kansas State as the biggest game so far this year,” OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert said.
Obviously the biggest difference for OSU heading into this year’s matchup with the Wildcats is at the quarterback position. Instead of a first-round draft pick like Brandon Weeden, taking snaps for the Cowboys will be true freshman Wes Lunt in his second game back from a knee injury.
While OSU is young at some key places, the Cowboys still have plenty of veterans who have experience of vying for a conference crown late into the season.
“We’re fortunate that last year we were in the same situation and we’ve just got to show the young guys how much you have to prepare each week,” senior offensive lineman Lane Taylor said.
Oklahoma State may have the experience, the talent is clearly in Kansas State’s favor. The unbeaten Wildcats showcase an offense that is highlighted by Collin Klein, who rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s game that came down to the wire. He also threw for 231 yards and a touchdown.
Klein comes into the contest with the Cowboys averaging 79.2 yards rushing — fourth in the Big 12 among all rushers — with 16 touchdowns. He also is the league’s most efficient passer with at 175.5 passing efficiency, throwing for 1,630 yards and 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions.
“The big thing about him is, I don't know if you can really stop him — you just try to contain him as best as you can,” OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young said. “You try to minimize the offensive plays and yardage he gets.”
As far as rankings go for the Cowboys, who finally got back into the top 25 thanks to Saturday’s rout of Texas Christian University, they aren’t worrying about what the BCS or any other ranking may have them pegged at.
“I really didn’t know about any of this. I didn’t know if we were ranked at all or not because I don’t really pay attention to the rankings,” Gilbert said. “I feel like some people may be overlooking us because we’re a young team and our offense and defense lost some key players from last year. I think we’re going to be overlooked a little bit all year but we’re still going to win some games.”