The Oklahoma State Cowboys will look to regroup after last week's out-of-nowhere loss this Saturday against a Kansas State Wildcats team that looks to be over-matched in this one.
No. 21 Oklahoma State (3-1) likely saw its Big 12 title hopes slip away with a stunning loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers last week and are sure to be looking to make people remember why they're a force to be reckoned with.
That could be a scary prospect for Kansas State (2-2) team that earlier this season lost to the North Dakota State Bison from the FCS.
Will the Cowboys be able to get back on track after a tough loss and begin the long process of reinserting themselves into the conference championship race?
Or can the Wildcats make it two upsets in a row for the Big 12's preseason favorites?
Only time will tell, but you can bet that both teams are chomping at the bit for a chance to come out and prove themselves.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 5
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Place: Boone Pickens Stadium (60,218 cap.), Stillwater, OK
Radio: Cowboy Radio Network
All-Time Series: Oklahoma State holds a 36-23 advantage all-time.
Improved Performance from the Quarterback Position
First and foremost, if the Oklahoma State Cowboys want to get back to winning, they need better play from their quarterback.
Against West Virginia, J.W. Walsh dropped 322 yards and three touchdowns on the Mountaineers, but it was his uncharacteristic turnovers that were most noticed by fans.
Walsh's two interceptions—one that was returned for a score and the other that basically ended the game with four minutes left—were a big reason the Pokes couldn't pull away with the win.
Not helping matters, Walsh also had two badly under-thrown deep balls to wide open receivers that looked like potential touchdowns.
Is it time to bring back Clint Chelf yet?
Probably not, but it's increasingly becoming a possibility.
Run the Ball More Effectively
Take a look at this key stat from last week's contest: Jeremy Smith, the team's leading running back, carried the rock 15 times and gained a whole yard.
That's right folks, he averaged less than 0.1 yards per carry.
You just can't win football games when you play like that.
The Cowboys did gain 111 rushing yards as a team, with Walsh and Desmond Roland having solid outings on the ground, but Smith has to step up and make a bigger impact if the Pokes want to get back to their winning ways.
Take Some Chances Deep (and Early)
Bill Snyder would love to pound the ball and be physical with John Hubert and Daniel Sams on the ground, but as shown by West Virginia last week, Oklahoma State is going to give you one-on-one opportunities in the passing game.
The Wildcats have to try and take advantage of those and should look to do it early and often.
Nothing is more important for away teams than to try and jump out to an early lead and quiet the home crowd, especially with as rowdy a crowd as K-State will be facing this weekend.
Look for a few deep balls from Jake Waters (and possibly Sams, if Snyder is ready to trust his arm) early.
Hold on to the Football
I know I just called for Waters to take some chances deep and this point kind of contradicts that one, but the young signal-caller has five interceptions to just four passing TDs on the year.
Against a ball-hawking defense like the Cowboys, you can't turn over the football and expect to win, especially if Oklahoma State's offense is clicking.
The idea here is to take calculated risks. Throw the ball deep when you have single coverage, but don't force anything that isn't there.
If the Wildcats can keep their turnovers down, they'll put themselves in a position to win this ballgame.
Gilbert gets the nod here for a few reasons—the most important of which being that it will be interesting to see if the veteran cornerback will even play this Saturday after throwing a few late-game punches in Morgantown last weekend.
Losing a marquee player like Gilbert would be a big hit for O-State's defense. He's a team leader on that side of the ball and one of the biggest playmakers on the team, period.
Which brings us to another reason Gilbert is a player to watch this week. Not only does he lead the team in interceptions (two), but he also is the team's best kick returner.
If J.W. Walsh and Jeremy Smith don't rebound from last week's performance, Oklahoma State will need Gilbert and the defense to step up with a big game.
As mentioned earlier, you're going to get an opportunity to throw the deep against the new, aggressive Oklahoma State defense.
Enter Tyler Lockett.
Lockett leads the conference in all-purpose yards per game with 157.2 and ranks second in receiving yards. That makes him a huge threat to the Cowboys this weekend, which only increases if Justin Gilbert is forced to sit this week.
Lockett has only found the end zone once this season, but this week could be his coming-out party.
Look for Lockett to make at least a few big plays this week and show off the skill set that makes him one of the Big 12's most dangerous players with the ball in his hands.
There are quite a few factors at play here, namely whether or not Oklahoma State can rebound after its surprising loss last weekend.
Look for Kansas State to keep up early, but fall behind midway through the second quarter, as the Pokes' defense forces a few key turnovers.
In addition, this could finally be the game that sees Jeremy Smith break out. K-State is giving up almost 200 rushing yards per game and you have to expect Smith to be running hard in an attempt to make up for last week's embarrassing effort.
Oklahoma State showed a few holes against West Virginia, but they're just too good to lose to an inferior K-State team at home. It won't be a dominant win, but it will be a much needed one.
Oklahoma State 42, Kansas State 28