In a very crowded Big 12 Conference, a Week 8 matchup between the Iowa State Cyclones and Oklahoma State Cowboys will attempt to take control of their postseason destiny in Stillwater.
Iowa State is like the pesky kid in the conference. The program is rarely among the elite group of Big 12 teams, but every year there are at least two games the Cyclones win that no one sees coming. This would not necessarily fall into that category, especially after they upset TCU two weeks ago and nearly knocked off Kansas State last week.
Oklahoma State looks the way it did prior to last season's stellar BCS team. The Cowboys put up a lot of points against the bad teams, but put them against even decent competition, and they can't stop anything.
Who is most likely to play in a bowl game?
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla.
When: Saturday, October 20 at 12 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox College Sports
Listen: 1430 KASI-AM (Iowa State); 105.5 FM KGFY (Oklahoma State)
Betting Line: Oklahoma State (-13), according to Vegas Insider
Iowa State Injury Report (via USA Today)
Out: OL Shaban Dika (Undisclosed)
Oklahoma State Injury Report (via USA Today)
Questionable: WR David Glidden (Ankle); DT Christian Littlehead (Personal); WR Torrance Carr (Foot); CB Andrae May (Knee)
Out: CB Jonovan Griffin (Knee); LB Jeremiah Tshimanga (Knee)
These teams are locked in a battle for Big 12 positioning, which will help their standing for a bowl game.
Iowa State has a 4-2 record right now, so two more wins will get this team bowl eligible. Given the schedule in the coming weeks, which includes Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia, this game is almost a must-win.
Oklahoma State has its own murderers' row schedule, with Iowa State, TCU, Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma in the next six weeks. This could be the Cowboys' best shot at a win until Baylor in the season finale.
Iowa State Player to Watch: RB James White
Iowa State is a team that relies on its defense in order to put the offense in good position with a short field to drive.
White tends to get lost in the offensive game plan, never carrying the ball more than 13 times in a game this season. But when he touches the ball, he makes things happen. He averages 5.5 yards per carry and has added 14 catches out of the backfield.
If the Cyclones want to hang with the high-powered Cowboys, they need the defense to step up, and White has to give them a lot of yards so they can control the clock.
Oklahoma State Player to Watch: QB J.W. Walsh
Starting a freshman quarterback is a dangerous proposition for most teams, but when you have a system like Oklahoma State, it is not that big of a deal.
Walsh has stepped into the position and performed quite well up to this point. He is not throwing as many touchdowns as the team is used to, but he looks more comfortable in the offense and completes a high percentage of passes.
This will be one of his most difficult tasks of the season, as Iowa State can get after the quarterback and force mistakes, especially from a young player. Something has to give in this game: Either Walsh has his best game of the season, or Iowa State frustrates him to no end.
What They Are Saying
Oklahoma State is still trying to find its niche this season, despite still boasting one of the top offenses in the country, at least in terms of yards per game.
The Cowboys have work to do if they want to get in a bowl game. As John Klein of TulsaWorld.com wrote, this is their most important game of the season:
OSU is 3-2 and has reached a crossroads.
Where the Cowboys go the rest of this season probably depends on what happens against Iowa State.
A victory might be the lift OSU needs to get rolling and become the Big 12 Conference contender most expected.
A loss might be the final break in a season that has gone wrong several times.
As much as I like Iowa State's defense, I don't think it has enough to stop Oklahoma State. As bad as the Cowboys' defense is, there isn't enough firepower for Iowa State to keep up with them.
Oklahoma State 34, Iowa State 23