<
>

Key Stretch: Oklahoma State

The next in our series examining the stretch of games that will make or break each team's season.

Now at bat: The Cowboys of Stillwater.

The stretch: at Texas Tech (Oct. 16), vs. Nebraska (Oct. 23), at Kansas State (Oct. 30) and Baylor (Nov. 6)

The breakdown: The last time Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen coached against Texas Tech, he won, knocking off Texas Tech 29-28 last season as offensive coordinator at Houston. But the Red Raiders have a new defense and Oklahoma State a new offense under Holgorsen. Expect lots of points again, but anything could happen. When the two most unpredictable teams in the Big 12 get together, they don't suddenly become more predictable. New faces are everywhere for both teams. On the field for Oklahoma State (four starters return on each side of the ball) and off it for Texas Tech. We'll see who matters most. Winner takes the edge in the Big 12 South standings.

Nebraska lost one game convincingly last season. It came to Texas Tech and the Air Raid. The Red Raiders led 14-0 after the first quarter. Early leads are how a team beats Nebraska. Getting those leads is what's difficult. Force Nebraska to throw the ball and you've got the Huskers on the ropes. Let them establish the run and throw when they want to, and you're in real trouble. We'll see which side Oklahoma State falls on.

Defensive coordinator Bill Young says the one thing he was proud of last year more than anything else was his team's ability to stop the run. Oklahoma State ranked fourth in the conference, giving up just over 95 yards a game. Shrug at fourth in the conference, but you can't argue with the No. 11 ranking nationally in the statistic, nearly five yards per game fewer than No. 12 as one of just 11 teams that gave up under 100 yards rushing per game.

Beating Kansas State isn't complex. Stop the run. You win. In conference play, when Daniel Thomas rushed for 100-plus yards, Kansas State was 3-0. All four teams that beat the Wildcats in conference play held him under 100 yards.

Baylor plays Oklahoma State in a very losable game for the Cowboys that could have bowl implications at stake for the Bears. It's tough to think that game won't mean more to Baylor and its fans than it will Oklahoma State, who has gone bowling in four consecutive seasons. We'll see which streak holds.

The prediction: 2-2, with losses to Texas Tech and Nebraska

More Key stretches: