GAME NOTES: A pair of elite Big 12 Conference teams will collide in College Station on Saturday, as the eighth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies host the seventh- ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys.
"We play a good football team on the road that is very deserving of a top 10 ranking," says Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy. "They (Texas A&M) are one of the few teams that I've seen over the last few years that are really solid in all three phases of the game."
Gundy's team enters with a 3-0 record, and none of the games have been close thus far. The most recent romp for the high-scoring Cowboys came over Tulsa on the road by a 59-33 final. Including that game, Oklahoma State is in the midst of five-game span during which it will play in front of the home crowd just once.
Texas A&M is participating in what appears to be its final season as a member of the Big 12 before jumping to the SEC. The Aggies have played just two games thus far, as they have stomped both SMU (46-14) and Idaho (37-7).
"With conference games you know you will be ready to play at all times," said head coach Mike Sherman. "Our players won't be listening to anyone on the outside."
Texas A&M leads the all-time series with Oklahoma State by a 17-9 margin, but the Cowboys have won the last three meetings.
"Kyle Field is obviously a fun place to play and it's just exciting to start Big 12 play," says Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden in anticipation of this weekend's tilt. "Also the fact that A&M might not be in our conference anymore adds another element to the whole deal. I believe that everybody is excited for the game and looking forward to the opportunity."
Weeden is at the helm of a truly elite offense that is averaging 52.3 ppg and 601.0 total ypg. The record-setting quarterback has already thrown six interceptions this season, but he has tossed eight touchdowns while completing 72.5 percent of his passes for 1,154 yards. The nation's top receiver, Justin Blackmon, plays for the Cowboys, and he has caught 27 passes for 329 yards and three scores despite constant double and triple teams. Joseph Randle has excelled as the club's tailback, rushing for 378 yards and seven touchdowns already.
While it is hard to find fault with the Oklahoma State offense, the defense can certainly stand some improvement. The Cowboys are surrendering 27.0 ppg and 413.7 total ypg, and they have allowed five rushing touchdowns to date. On a positive note, however, Gundy's club does have nine sacks and nine takeaways to its credit.
Against Tulsa last week, Oklahoma State posted 543 yards but did allow 482 total yards. The run defense was poor, yielding 365 yards to the Golden Hurricane at a clip of 6.2 yards per carry. Fortunately, the Cowboys generated six takeaways, including four interceptions, while Weeden and company scored seven offensive touchdowns.
Texas A&M tailback Cyrus Gray is one of the best players at his position in the Big 12 Conference. Gray has rushed for 100 or more yards in nine consecutive games dating back to last season, proof of his consistently high level of production. He reached the century mark on his final carry against Idaho.
"It sounds good, but at the end of the day it's preseason for me," said Gray of his 100-yard effort against Idaho. "Conference starts Saturday. I have to do the same things when conference starts."
The Aggies finished with 517 total yards against Idaho, and standout quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 337 yards and a pair of scores. Meanwhile, the A&M defense was tremendous, holding the overmatched Vandals to 187 yards on 58 offensive plays. The Aggies didn't notch a single takeaway, but the fact that they yielded only 56 rushing yards on 29 attempts and permitted just 2-of-14 third-down conversion attempts to be successful was clearly impressive.
Through eight quarters of football, A&M is generating 41.5 ppg and 487.5 total ypg, far superior to the 10.5 ppg and 267.0 total ypg that the club is yielding. The Aggies have gotten 233 yards and four touchdowns from Gray, while Tannehill has completed 72.3 percent of his passes for 583 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. Ryan Swope and Jeff Fuller are strong options at receiver, while Tony Jerod-Eddie spearheads the defensive effort with three sacks.
In a game that figures to be decided in the final minutes, give a narrow edge to Texas A&M. The Aggies have the advantage of playing at home and are a better defensive football team than the Cowboys.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texas A&M 34, Oklahoma State 28