There has been chatter that Oklahoma State could be on upset watch this weekend when they travel to Columbia to face the 3-3 Missouri Tigers. On the surface, it shouldn't look like a .500 team has any sort of decent chance to beat an undefeated team that features a flat out dominant offense.
Some have suggested that Oklahoma State is the favorite to win the Big 12 after beating No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 22 Texas, both wins coming on the road. Traveling to Columbia to take on an unranked Missouri team should be no big deal, right?
Not so fast. Missouri is certainly better than their record shows, are undefeated at home and finally put together a solid game last week to show their fans that they have the amount of talent that most believed they did coming into the year.
I actually think this game will be a lot closer than expected because of many factors. Match-up problems will exist for Oklahoma State's suspect run defense when they face the dynamic Henry Josey, Missouri has played well in front of it's home crowd this season and Missouri's stout run defense will most likely slow down the Cowboys' respectable rushing attack.
With all those things going the Tigers way, there is still one match-up that will clearly decide this game: Brandon Weeden and the Oklahoma State passing attack vs. Kip Edwards, EJ Gaines and the Missouri secondary.
Weeden's dominance this season has been properly documented. He's throwing for over 300 yards per game, completing over 70 percent of his passes and has already tossed 16 touchdowns in just six games this year. He is clearly a prolific passer and has some great targets in Justin Blackmon, Josh Cooper and Hubert Anyiam to distribute the ball to.
This is where the athletic secondary of the Missouri Tigers comes in. No, they are not a dominant bunch as seen by a horrendous performance against Arizona State, but with the way they have played in the last two weeks against Kansas State and Iowa State, it's possible that they could be gaining confidence, and in Kip Edwards' case, health.
After sitting out the season opener with a strained hamstring, Edwards looked bad in his first two games of the season while noticeably favoring his injury. Since then, the junior cornerback has steadily improved his health and his game, with his highlight performance coming lat week against Iowa State's dynamic receiver Darius Reynolds. Reynolds had averaged almost 100 yards per game and pulled in six touchdowns in his first five games, but Edwards held him to only 2 catches for 34 yards and no scores last Saturday.
Sophomore EJ Gaines is also finally playing well after a rough start to the season. Gaines had been the recipient of high praise from coaches this off-season that called him the most athletic cornerback they had seen in Gary Pinkel's tenure at Mizzou. Then came the low point against Arizona State. Gaines was shredded for two long scores by Aaron Pflugrad and the questions started rolling in about how good the true sophomore really was.
Since then Gaines has bounced back nicely with good performances against OU, Kansas State and Iowa State. With two cornerbacks performing well over the last couple of games, the Missouri coaching staff has to be feeling about as good as possible about their young corners matching up with Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State may be able to pick on Braylon Webb, a freshman safety who took the starting job from the under-performing Matt White. Webb only has one collegiate start to his name and is only starting because the person above him on the depth chart didn't have a solid start to the year. It will be interesting to see if Mike Gundy and his offensive staff try to beat Webb with over the top throws on Saturday.
I'm not saying that Missouri is going to win this game, but if they want a good chance, they need a great performance from their secondary. This is possible with the leadership of senior Kenji Jackson and the athleticism of Gaines, Edwards, Trey Hobson and Robert Steeples. The Tigers are underdogs, and deservedly so, but this could be the one real chance for Mizzou to throw a wrench into national title hopes, something they had done to them in 2008 by these same Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Texas A&M and Texas held the Cowboys under 40 points this season, but couldn't keep up on the scoreboard because of too many turnovers and poor quarterback play. If Missouri can establish Josey early, limit the damage of Oklahoma State's passing attack and avoid turnovers, we could have a classic game.