Expectations have been raised for the Oklahoma State football team, but they must get a marquee win to merit national attention. A Thursday night ESPN game against a strong Texas A&M team provides them with the perfect opportunity.
Here is how the teams stack up:
OSU Running Game vs. Texas A&M Front Seven
The Aggies have been impressive against the run thus far, holding opponents to only 69 yards per game on the ground. The Cowboys have run the ball effectively, utilizing the speed of running back Kendall Hunter to post an average of 204.3 rushing yards per game.
Something has got to give. If the Aggies shift their attention to the Cowboys high-powered passing attack, Hunter could have a huge day.
Slight Edge: OSU
OSU Passing Game vs. Texas A&M Secondary
Through three weeks, the Cowboys are at, or near, the top of virtually every passing category. Wide receiver Justin Blackmon leads the nation in receiving yards per game and receiving touchdowns. Taking into account the defenses they have played, those numbers are skewed a bit.
Big 12 defenses have more speed and strength than anything the Cowboys have seen, as well as a familiarity with spread offenses. The Aggies have arguably the best pass rusher in the nation in linebacker Von Miller, who led all of college football in sacks a season ago.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden must take care of the ball and know where Miller is at all times if the Cowboys want to come out with a win.
Texas A&M Running Game vs. OSU Front Seven
Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson may get all the publicity, and it is well deserved, but the Aggie offense starts with their dynamic running game.
Running backs Michael Christine and Cyrus Gray are undoubtedly the best tandem the Cowboys will face this season. The return of defensive tackle Shane Jarka could not come at a better time, as containing this running game may be the key to victory.
Additionally, the running ability of Johnson could become a problem for the Cowboys and keeping him in the pocket will go a long way toward stopping this offense.
Slight Edge: Texas A&M
Texas A&M Passing Game vs. OSU Secondary
In the Aggies' last game, Jerrod Johnson looked terrible, throwing four interceptions without ever finding his rhythm. Some speculated that he may not be fully recovered from an offseason shoulder surgery; others feel it was simply an aberration.
The Cowboys must prepare as if it is the latter because when he is on, Johnson is one of the top players in the nation. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds and has a cannon for an arm.
It is essential that the defensive backs play through the whistle because Johnson is known to buy time with his legs before hitting his receivers. After a great showing against Tulsa, the Cowboy secondary will face one of its toughest challenges of the season.
Edge: Texas A&M
This is the perfect stage for a Cowboy football team that feels underappreciated by the national media.
In a rare Thursday night game where all eyes will be on them, expect the Cowboys to come out fired up. On offense they must give Weeden a comfortable pocket and take care of the football.
Defensively, they must slow down Jerrod Johnson and limit the big plays. The key will be to get out in front early and ride a raucous home crowd to a conference victory.
Oklahoma State 42-31