- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
Oklahoma State's quarterback situation has been ripe with unrest this season. Nonetheless, the Cowboys are on a roll when they travel to Norman, Okla., for Bedlam against Oklahoma on Saturday. OSU has scored 50 points in back-to-back games and boasts double-digit wins over West Virginia, TCU, Iowa State and Texas Tech -- all while playing three quarterbacks. Last week, the Pokes dominated the Red Raiders with a 59-21 victory. SoonerNation reviewed the game and came away with three keys to watch during Bedlam.
Stopping the Pokes' running game
While there has been plenty of attention on the Cowboys quarterbacks and their success, running back Joseph Randle's excellence has been the foundation of the offense. The junior running back brings versatility, toughness and big-play ability to the table. He’s not Tavon Austin, but he presents problems of his own.
The Cowboys' offensive line is one of the main reasons for Randle’s success, Jeremy Smith provides a quality No. 2 option in the backfield and Kye Staley has left a wake of Big 12 defenders on their backs in his lead blocker role. In 2011, OU learned that stopping the Pokes running game is difficult. It’s not any easier this season.
Nonetheless, the Sooners have the defensive talent to get the job done. The key will be forcing OSU to pass to win. OU cannot let the Cowboys run over them again, they need to put the game on the shoulders of Clint Chelf or J.W. Walsh or even Wes Lunt. There is no Justin Blackmon at receiver this year, so the Sooners need to challenge OSU’s receivers to win individual battles consistently. And with Aaron Colvin and Demontre Hurst at cornerback, OU has to like its chances in those one-on-one situations.
Winning the battle in the trenches
As the driving force behind an offense that has ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the Big 12 for three straight seasons, OSU’s offensive line consistently plays at a high level. OU’s defensive line will need to play one of its best games of the season while being active and disruptive if the Sooners hope to win.
And, even though the Cowboys almost made the BCS title game in 2011, their play in the defensive interior is noticeably improved this season. James Castleman and Calvin Barnett are disruptive in the middle for the Pokes and have quietly helped the Pokes record 70 tackles for loss.(Alabama has 69 in one more game played.)
OU’s offensive line has been beaten up this season but has performed well for the most part. OSU’s defensive tackle duo is one of the most disruptive the Sooners have faced, so we’ll see what the Sooners learned from their struggles against Notre Dame’s defensive front. If OU wins the battle in the trenches, it will allow Landry Jones to test OSU’s secondary with the Sooners' talented receivers.
Testing the Cowboys secondary
Even though Brown and Gilbert haven’t recorded an interception, they’re still quality defenders who should hold their own on Saturday. Yet behind them the Pokes have two true freshmen in Ashton Lampkin and Kevin Peterson. While the two freshmen have been solid, expect the Cowboys to use a combination of cornerbacks, safeties and zone-blitz schemes to try to deal with OU’s talented group of receivers.
The Sooners' four-receiver package creates major problems for any defense as Kenny Stills, Justin Brown, Sterling Shepard and Jalen Saunders have each proved they can win their one-on-one battles consistently this season. And no defense can be designed to double-cover all four targets.