|No. 10 Oklahoma State takes on hard-playing Texas|
AUSTIN, Texas -- Oklahoma State will bring the nation's top-ranked offense into its Big 12 Conference showdown against Texas on Saturday, but the No. 10 Cowboys' juggernaut won't be a surprise for the Longhorns.
After all, Texas just played, and lost 29-24, to an Oklahoma team that was ranked No. 1 in offense last week, so the Longhorns understand what they are up against.
There is a lot more than pride on the line for both teams.
Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1 Big 12) began the season as one of the nation's most ballyhooed teams but lost a bit of luster with a home defeat to surging TCU, which is now the No. 4 team in the nation.
The Cowboys have since defeated Texas Tech and Baylor and are back in the hunt for a spot atop the league standings, part of a pack of five teams (that includes Texas) with just one league loss looking up at the undefeated Horned Frogs.
"We need a great week of preparation for Texas," Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. "They are, in my opinion at least, the most athletic team from top to bottom in this league."
Oklahoma State's 59-16 win over Baylor last week featured sterling performances from quarterback Mason Rudolph (459 passing yards, four total touchdowns, no interceptions), wide receivers James Washington (235 yards receiving) and Marcell Ateman (119 yards receiving), and running back Justice Hill, who had a 117-yard outing on the ground.
Washington and Ateman are the only FBS duo since at least 1996 to post four consecutive games in which two players surpassed 100 yards receiving.
Oklahoma State leads the country with an average of 610.7 yards per game. The Cowboys are second in scoring 48.8 points per game.
"We've got to take care of the football," Gundy said.
"When we've been really good around here, we don't turn the ball over much and that's going to be something we're going to continue to stress. When two teams are even, it really comes down to special teams play, penalties and turnovers, for the most part. We can't give Texas any easy scores or short fields."
Texas is a couple of defensive breakdowns away from being 5-1 rather than 3-3.
The Longhorns couldn't hold a late lead at USC, losing in double overtime. Against Oklahoma, Texas fought back from a 20-0 deficit early in the second quarter to take a 24-23 lead with 8:01 to play. Alas, the Sooners and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Baker Mayfield engineered a final touchdown drive that clinched the win.
"We understand that losing to Oklahoma is never fun -- it's never easy," coach Tom Herman said. "It stings worse than most losses do. But we also understand that we're one of a bunch of one-loss teams in this conference and for us to maintain that level and status within our conference, we've got to win this week. We've got to go 1-0 this week."
With the Longhorns at the halfway point of their season, Herman said his team has proven itself with its continued effort and physicality but still has plenty to address.
"I told our assistant coaches when we started training camp that if we can get the players to play hard and play physical, we'll have a chance to be in every game," Herman said. "We've got the playing hard and playing physical parts figured out."
For the first time this season, Herman was not asked during his Monday media availability who his starting quarterback would be -- freshman Sam Ehlinger has grabbed the position and won't let go, even though he's listed as the "or" starter on Texas' depth chart along with sophomore Shane Buechele.
Instead, Herman was queried about the punishment that Ehlinger is taking week to week. Ehlinger is the Longhorns' second-leading rusher with 271 yards despite not playing in two games.
"I worry about it -- we don't want our quarterback carrying 20, 22 times," Herman said. "Now if you've got to have it to win the game, you know, we're going to do whatever it takes to win the game."
The Longhorns hold a 24-7 series lead over Oklahoma State and a 15-5 advantage in Austin, but the Cowboys have put their mark on the series by winning five of the past seven meetings.
Even more noteworthy, Oklahoma State has won the past four games in Austin, marking the longest winning streak against Texas at home by one team.