72F Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX
For the first time in its history, Oklahoma State is facing the burden of being a BCS title contender. Coach Mike Gundy is trying to find a way to deal with the new pressure.
The No. 2 Cowboys will try to hang on to those championship dreams and improve to 10-0 for the first time Saturday when they visit Texas Tech, which has been struggling but did recently devastate the national title hopes of another Sooner State team.
Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) achieved the highest ranking in school history after formerly second-ranked Alabama's overtime loss to No. 1 LSU. The Cowboys did their part by pulling out a wild 52-45 win over No. 17 Kansas State last Saturday.
"We have told the team for years that on Saturday we want them to have fun and play hard," said Gundy, whose team also jumped to No. 2 in the BCS standings. "That is easier said than done with the position we are in."
That position won't last much longer if Oklahoma State ends up with a shocking loss to Texas Tech (5-4, 2-4) like Oklahoma did Oct. 22. The Red Raiders won 41-38 to hand the then-No. 3 Sooners their first defeat and end the nation's longest home win streak at 39.
Since that win, however, Texas Tech has suffered back-to-back defeats to unranked teams, producing a combined 27 points after scoring no fewer than 34 in each of its first seven games.
Scoring certainly hasn't been an issue for the Cowboys, averaging 50.1 points to rank second in the FBS.
Brandon Weeden is fourth nationally with 3,212 passing yards after throwing for a school-record 502 with four touchdowns last Saturday. All-American receiver Justin Blackmon matched a career high with 13 receptions for 205 yards, two shy of matching another career mark set last season against Texas Tech.
Joseph Randle ran for the tiebreaking touchdown with 2:16 remaining against Kansas State in a game that saw four lead changes, including two in the final 5:16. The Oklahoma State defense kept that final lead intact by forcing three incompletions from the 5-yard line in the final seconds.
That effort helped the program reach new heights when the rankings came out the next day, but Gundy said that's also bringing some new stress.
"I wish there were coaches and players out there that have been in this situation or are in this situation that know how to relieve it. I wish they would let me know. I certainly do not know how, other than to focus on practice," he said. "Trying to get three or four good days of work and telling the players to play hard on Saturday. That is something I am comfortable with."
The Cowboys will try to overcome that pressure as they face a Texas Tech team that's allowed 34 or more points in each of its last seven games.
Last Saturday's 52-20 drubbing at Texas was the fourth loss in five games for the Red Raiders. They gave up a season-worst 439 rushing yards after yielding 368 during a 41-7 defeat to Iowa State the previous week.
"When it comes down to it, we just do not have enough to stop anybody that runs the ball," coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We have got to find some way to get ourselves off the field and make somebody punt."
Randle will test Tuberville's defense while trying to help extend his team's road win streak to 10. The Cowboys are seeking an 11th consecutive victory overall and their third in a row over Texas Tech.
Randle ranks second in the Big 12 with 915 rushing yards and second in the nation with 20 total touchdowns, including 11 over the past three weeks as he's run for 363 yards. He had 95 yards and a TD during a 34-17 win in Lubbock last season while playing behind Kendall Hunter.
The Cowboys finished with 225 rushing yards in that victory - their first at Texas Tech since 1944 and the first by a road team over the past eight games of the series. Weeden threw for 356, including a 62-yard touchdown to Blackmon.
Oklahoma State trails the series 14-21-3 but is 6-4 when facing the Red Raiders as a ranked team.