October 25, 2008

Top 10 Clash: Go time for OSU

It's go time for Oklahoma State if it's serious about being a Big 12 and national championship contender.

Ranked No. 6 in the BCS standings, No. 7 in the AP Poll and 7-0 for the first time in over 63 years, the Cowboys head to Austin to take on No. 1 Texas in a monster game which will go a long ways in sorting out the Big 12 South race. The game is slated for a 2:30 p.m. start and will be shown to roughly two-thirds of the country on ABC. The game will feature an HD broadcast.

The Cowboys are 3-0 in conference play, coming off a win against Baylor in Stillwater last weekend. The Longhorns (7-0 overall, 3-0 Big 12) are on a roll after a demolition job of Missouri. Along with Texas Tech, the teams feature identical records and control their own destiny in the race to win the division and play in the conference championship game in Kansas City in December.

This is definitely a high-risk, high-reward situation for both teams. If OSU can find a way to go to Darryl K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and win, the Cowboys would climb higher in the polls and have the inside track toward the South title. But the same goes for the Horns, who have already beaten Oklahoma and get Texas Tech next week. If they win the next two games, they should be in the best position to be KC-bound.

No matter what happens, today's game is huge for both sides.

"I'm real excited," Andre Sexton said. "I was talking to one of my friends last night. I don't know when the last time was we beat Texas in Austin. It might have been in the 1910s or something. But it's going to be a great game."

For the record, that "time" was 1944. The then-Oklahoma A&M Aggies posted a 13-8 win over Bevo's crew in what would be an 8-1 season (only losing to the Norman Naval Air Station) topped off with a Cotton Bowl championship.

So, given that there has been only one victory in Austin in school history, big things could be in State's future with a win today. But if the Pokes do that, it won't be easy. UT features talent all over the place, including a quarterback in the running for the Heisman Trophy.

"Texas looks pretty good," Zac Robinson. "They have a good offense. Colt McCoy is playing really well. Their defense is really fast. They fly around and they are doing some different things. After seeing what they did to Missouri, we definitely know it is going to be a big challenge, and hopefully we will be ready."

The Tigers sure weren't ready. Losing to OSU the week before, Mizzou went to Austin last weekend and laid an egg of gigantic proportions. The Horns smashed the Tigers, 56-31.

So the clash between the Horns and Tigers never really happened. But UT realizes they face another tough matchup this weekend and aren't taking things for granted. Much respect is thrust on the Cowboys' running game, ranked fifth nationally.

"Oklahoma State is one of the best running teams in the country," Longhorn head coach Mack Brown said. "They've been very physical and they have a great offensive line. Zac Robinson is another one of those quarterbacks that is very efficient in the passing game, and he's an outstanding runner. Mike Gundy has taken over the offense and he is their offensive coordinator. They are doing a lot of different stuff and they have used a lot of different formations. They have been running a lot of option, and like Oklahoma, they will quick count you and try to get you off balance.

"Our defense will have to be very physical this week, and I think we're number two in the country against the run, but no one has tried to run the ball against us like Oklahoma State. That will be the big thing this weekend. It won't be another passing day for us. It's going to be a real physical game."

The UT defense is bracing for the zone read look out of the Cowboy offense, with a heavy dose of option to go along with it. Defensive end Brian Orakpo said the offense, and more specifically Robinson, is tough to go up against. He added that Robinson is deceptively fast and reminds him of McCoy in how he leads the offense - especially with the zone read.

"We see it all the time with Colt and them, but you still have to play it perfect because you always have to trust your teammates," Orakpo said. "If a guy has the quarterback, you have to trust him that he has the quarterback. One guy can mess it up and he's off to the races for a 20-yard gain. You can't be so aggressive. You've got to play assignment football, slow-play it, make sure he's handing the ball off or he keeps it. You just can't go attack it. You have to be very patient."

In a game of this magnitude, patience is key. As the last few years have gone in this series, that's an important word for both teams to remember.

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