Oklahoma State takes its high-powered offense into the Little Apple on Saturday night as Mike Gundy's squad looks to deliver a death blow to Kansas State's BCS national championship hopes.
Last season, the Cowboys (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) beat the Wildcats (8-0, 5-0) 52-45 when Bill Snyder's team was stopped at the Cowboys' 5-yard-line as time ran out. Collin Klein and Co. certainly have not forgotten about that game.
Can the Pokes thwart the Wildcats' quest for their first Big 12 title since 2003?
Let's take a look at what Gundy's squad has to do to knock the Wildcats out of the national championship race:
US PRESSWIREPokes QB Wes Lunt would be wise to look for RB Joseph Randle in the passing game against the Wildcats.
• Get Randle involved in the passing game: Joseph Randle is one of the best running backs in the nation, though he often goes under the radar when the discussion centers on the nation's best tailbacks. Not only is he elusive and able to get to the outside, but he also is a very good between-the-tackles rusher. He had four straight 100-yard rushing games before being shut down by Texas, but he's had huge efforts the last two weeks against Iowa State and TCU. Randle's value is as a complete back, however, as he is a tremendous pass-catcher. But he has been underutilized by offensive coordinator Todd Monken this fall. Gundy believed before the season that Randle would lead the Cowboys in receiving, but he hasn't had too much of an impact since he caught eight passes for 70 yards against Arizona in Week 2. He had five catches for 37 yards against TCU, and Monken should try to get him as many touches as he can because he has the stamina to be a workhorse on the ground and in the passing game. He has not been the check-down option for quarterback Wes Lunt that the Pokes have desired, but it would be beneficial for this offense on Saturday night if Randle, who has 20 catches for 154 yards, gets as many touches as possible. We'll also see how much the Wildcats miss linebacker Tre Walker, who could miss the rest of the regular season due to injury.
• Contain Klein: Heisman Trophy frontrunner Collin Klein has been an unstoppable force this fall, as the dual-threat signal-caller has put up dominant performances in back-to-back weeks over West Virginia and Texas Tech. The senior quarterback has led a Wildcats offense that has put up at least 50 points five times this year, and he has thrown 12 touchdowns and recorded 16 more scores on the ground. Klein will never have the most gaudy passing statistics, but he’s been more efficient through the air this fall. However, Bill Young's defense is a much-improved unit, although it is not forcing the turnovers as it did last year. But they are playing more fundamentally sound, and it's not a stretch to think that Klein may have some trouble moving the ball through the air in this one. But can the Pokes stop Klein and running back John Hubert on the ground? I would expect them to load the box and force Klein to make plays through the air. He is an improved passer, as I mentioned, but running remains his strength. He will get his yards, but the Pokes will have to make it difficult for him and force some third-and-long situations. Keep in mind that Arizona dual-threat quarterback Matt Scott had a great game against the Cowboys this season.
Turnovers: Oklahoma State does not have the turnover-creating defense that it had last season, but if there was ever a game this season for the unit to force turnovers it would be this one. However, it's the Pokes offense that may have to worry about protecting the football because K-State safety Ty Zimmerman has been on fire, and he leads an improved secondary that has shut down Geno Smith and Seth Doege. Zimmerman has four interceptions in the last five games, so the freshman Lunt will have to make good decisions with the football.
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