Control comes at a price for Oklahoma State

Oh, destiny. Few control it. When it comes to the Big 12, that's only two teams--Oklahoma State and Kansas State.

Coincidentally, the two meet on Saturday, but thus far, Kansas State earned that control with a trio of wins against top 15 teams, two coming on the road. That's given the Wildcats a spotless record through eight games.

Oklahoma State? Well, its control comes with a steep price: The time to prove itself comes over the next month.

The No. 24 Cowboys kick off four consecutive games against top 25 teams with a trip to Manhattan on Saturday.

"We really started three weeks ago. Had a ranked Iowa State team and TCU’s been ranked most of the year. This stretch forward, we’re going to play teams ranked or have been ranked, some of them fairly high. We can only take it one day and one play at a time and one game at a time. These are all good teams," coach Mike Gundy said. "We have to be careful with the football and make good decisions and be aggressive."

Oklahoma State impressively dispatched of TCU and Iowa State by three touchdowns each, but both of those games were in Stillwater.

Both of the Cowboys road games this season were uninspired efforts. The first was a 21-point loss to Arizona and the second a sloppy, six-point win over Big 12 cellar dweller Kansas in the rain, a team OSU led 56-7 at halftime last season.

The carrot is in front of the Cowboys, even if the mountain to reach it looks daunting.

"That’s where we want to be. Obviously, you want to control your own destiny," senior lineman Lane Taylor told ESPN.com this week. "It’s a great thing and we need to take advantage of it."

Doing so won't be easy. Kansas State put a scare into the Cowboys in Stillwater a year ago, and have rolled to an 8-0 start while the Cowboys have tried to navigate an early-conference schedule without a team currently in the top 20.

"They’re just a sound football team," Taylor said of the Wildcats. "They’re going to be in their gap when they need to be in their gap They’re not going to blow coverages, they’re not going to bust and you just have to be prepared for them to come out with almost perfection."

Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh traded off knee injuries, but Lunt is back in the saddle after more than a month off the field, thanks to a Walsh injury against Iowa State two weeks ago.

"It’s kind of been a little bit of a rollercoaster for us," Taylor said. "We had high expectations for the season, and we had a couple losses we weren’t planning on having, but this team’s able to bounce back really well and put the past behind us."

Since a painful loss to Texas courtesy of a questionable call on the game-winning touchdown, the Cowboys have racked up three league wins. All three wins came over teams with quarterback issues. Iowa State has had a carousel of quarterbacks, Kansas benched Dayne Crist in the middle of their loss to the Cowboys and TCU started Trevone Boykin against the Cowboys, who started the season as a backup and moved to running back before sliding back to starting QB when Casey Pachall disenrolled from the university to seek treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.

Kansas State's quarterback? He's Collin Klein, currently leading the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns and passer rating, sitting comfortably in the driver's seat of the Heisman Trophy race.

"Our guys are excited about competing. I like the attitude of our football team. For the most part, I think we’re a much better team than we were a month ago," Gundy said.

How much better? Gundy will get his chance to find out on Saturday, and if it's good enough to knock off K-State, the Big 12 title race will get a whole lot more interesting with a month left in the season.