OK State-A&M Preview
College Station, TX - Oklahoma State has cruised to a pair of easy victories since a shocking home loss sent it tumbling down the Top 25 last month, but it's yet to test itself away from Stillwater.
A visit to Texas A&M might not be the best place to start.
The 15th-ranked Cowboys open their conference slate Saturday at Kyle Field in College Station, a venue that's proved to be a nightmare for Oklahoma State since the inception of the Big 12.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made N/A point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 67% of bets for this game have been placed on N/A (View College Football bet percentages).
The Cowboys (3-1) began the season ranked ninth in the Top 25 and jumped to fifth - their highest ranking in nearly 24 years - after a 24-10 opening-week win against then-No. 13 Georgia.
With expectations soaring in Stillwater, Oklahoma State collapsed a week later, as Houston racked up 512 yards in a 45-35 upset that dropped coach Mike Gundy's team to 16th.
The Cowboys have bounced back to a degree in their past two games, beating Rice 41-24 and demolishing Football Championship Subdivision foe Grambling State 56-6 on Sept. 26 despite missing standout running back Kendall Hunter and All-American receiver Dez Bryant.
Hunter and Bryant weren't needed against the Tigers, as a pair of youngsters stepped up in their place. Freshman tailback Jeremy Smith ran for 160 yards and a touchdown, while sophomore receiver Dameron Fooks caught a pair of touchdown passes.
Neither had gained a yard in his collegiate career heading into the game.
"Any time we can find more playmakers and guys we can trust to have the ball in their hands to make plays is awesome for our offense,'' quarterback Zac Robinson said.
Though the Cowboys have had a bye, Gundy has yet to determine the status of Hunter (ankle) and Bryant (hamstring) for the game against the Aggies (3-1). If either is limited, Smith and Fooks - once thought to be afterthoughts until 2010 - are ready to step in.
"The future could be against A&M. You never know,'' senior tailback Keith Toston said. "(Smith) went out there and played good. The thing about it is we never know when an injury is going to go down."
Along with Hunter and Bryant, senior cornerback Perrish Cox missed the game against Grambling State with a sprained shoulder, though he's expected to be starting in the defensive backfield and returning kicks Saturday.
Bryant had a huge day against Texas A&M on Oct. 4, 2008, in Stillwater, catching three touchdown passes from Robinson in a 56-28 victory, but that was one of the Cowboys' rare positive outcomes against the Aggies. Oklahoma State is 3-10 against Texas A&M since the Big 12 began play in 1996, including a 1-5 record in College Station.
The Cowboys have experienced very different, but equally depressing losses, in their last two visits. The Aggies racked up 694 yards of offense in a 62-23 win over Oklahoma State on Oct. 15, 2005, then came back from a 17-0 halftime deficit to win 24-23 on Oct. 6, 2007.
Texas A&M has lost 12 of its last 15 games at home against ranked opponents, and its most recent performance wasn't exactly a confidence-builder heading into this game. After outscoring its first three opponents 135-55, coach Mike Sherman's team was run over by Arkansas on Saturday in Arlington, Texas, losing 47-19.
"We are young but our young guys are very mature," said quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who threw for 345 yards and two touchdowns but completed just 30 of 58 passes. "We just need to stay course and handle adversity."
Despite Johnson's accuracy issues Saturday, the junior has been a revelation in Sherman's quick-strike offense. He's averaging 326.5 yards through the air and has thrown 11 touchdowns with an interception while running for four more. Texas A&M is second in the nation in total offense, piling up 545.3 yards per game.
It trails only Houston, which has already victimized the Cowboys, in that category.
"They want to play very fast," Gundy said of the Aggies' offense. "I think they want to keep the defense on the run and limit substitutions. They certainly want to play with a lot of pressure and just continue at full speed."
Oklahoma State is 2-8 in its last 10 Big 12 road openers.
Posted: 10/7/09 12:54PM ET