Since the beginning of the season, the Big 12 has had three schools ranked among the top-ten teams in the nation. That undoubtedly will end this weekend when two of the Big 12's title contenders, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, meet at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, home of the legendary 12th man.
Both teams have been ranked in the top ten in the two major college polls (USA Today and AP) since the preseason. This contest will have center stage in Week 4 of the college season as the only top-ten matchup of the week. Texas A&M may need a 12th man to slow down Oklahoma State's powerful offense, ranked second in the nation after two games.
Behind senior quarterback Brandon Weeden, the Cowboys are averaging 601 yards a game in total offense, mostly through an air attack that averages 408 yards. OSU's running game is more modest, by comparison, but still averages just under 200 yards per game, with the Big 12's second leader rusher, Joseph Randle, contributing most of the yardage on the ground. And you can't ever overlook the pass-and-catch striking power that wide-receiver Justin Blackmon, last year's Biletnikoff Award winner, gives you at any point in the game.
Texas A&M will counter Oklahoma State on offense with the third best defense in the Big 12. The Aggies have allowed an average of 267 total yards in their opening two nonconference wins over SMU and Idaho. Perhaps even more telling, A&M has 11 quarterback sacks so far in the season, which is of some concern to the Oklahoma State coaching staff.
If Oklahoma State has an overall team weakness, it is on the defensive side of the ball, where the Cowboys have given up an average of over 400 yards, mostly passing yardage, to their first two opponents.
Texas A&M has good balance in its offense, similar but not necessarily as explosive as OSU's, with a serious rushing weapon in Cyrus Gray and a pair of especially talented receivers in Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope. The Aggies also have leadership and maturity at quarterback with senior Ryan Tannehill, who gives A&M both a running dimension as well as the ability to hurt opponents through the air, where he averages nearly 300 yards a game.
Cowboys' head coach Mike Gundy had this to say at his Monday press conference having to play at Kyle Field: "It's a great home-field advantage. We've had success there and won before," he said. "Fortunately, we have mature players, and I expect them to play well."
When these two teams met last year in Stillwater to open the conference season, Oklahoma State came from behind and edged A&M 38-35 on a field goal as time expired in regulation.
I see this game being close again this year, but I don't think it will come down to any late heroics at the end. Oklahoma State should have the offensive weapons and enough defense to out-gun the Aggies in a relatively high-scoring affair.
OKLAHOMA STATE 34, Texas A&M 27
Five Things You Should Know About This Game
- For the first time this season, Texas A&M will severely feel the loss of All-America linebacker Von Miller on defense. Oklahoma State has enough balance in its offense that it should be able to move the ball fairly well against the Aggies.
- The Texas A&M defense will slow down OSU running back Joseph Randle, even stop him cold on occasion, but not for the entire afternoon.
- Aggie quarterback Ryan Tannehill will try to exploit Oklahoma State's questionable pass defense with big-gainers to Ryan Swope and Jeff Fuller.
- In fairness to the Cowboys' ability to defend against the pass, OSU defenders have picked off five passes already this season.
- Whichever defense does the best job of stopping the other team once it gets into the red zone (between the 20-yard line and the opponent's end zone) could be a huge factor in the outcome of this game. OSU and A&M are a combined 34 out of 35 in successful scoring attempts once their offense reaches the red zone.