The finish line is in sight and No. 2 Oklahoma State has no intention of squandering its BCS national title hopes in tonight's final road game of the regular season.
"We've played so well to this point, there's no reason to take someone for granted," said quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has emerged as a leading Heisman Trophy candidate heading into tonight's contest between OSU (10-0, 7-0 in Big 12) and Iowa State (5-4, 2-4) in Ames, Iowa. "We respect Iowa State. In college football today, if you overlook an opponent, bad things happen... and all the goals we've set for ourselves are no longer attainable."
OSU, which secured the first 10-0 football record in school history with last week's 66-6 rout of Texas Tech, can clinch an opportunity to play Dec. 3 for a berth in the BCS National Championship Game by knocking off the Cyclones. But Iowa State, which had a bye last week, averages 183 rushing yards per game and leans on the contributions of a dual-threat quarterback tandem to make it happen.
The Cyclones' offense is comparable to the one run by No. 13 Kansas State, which rushed for 276 yards and controlled the ball for almost 41 minutes in a 52-45 loss to the Cowboys on Nov. 5 in Stillwater, Okla.
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Neither of the Cyclones' quarterbacks, Jared Barnett or Steele Jantz, can match the size or productivity of K-State counterpart Collin Klein (1,009 rushing yards, 24 touchdowns).
But the Iowa State duo has combined to rush for 484 yards and Cyclones' tailback James White (618 yards, 7 TDs) ranks among the league's top 10 rushers.
OSU ranks 88th nationally in rushing defense (186.1 yards per game), which looms as a concern if Iowa State can control the ball in a manner similar to Kansas State.
"That's an easy stone to throw at us," defensive end Cooper Bassett said. "All I can say is that we, as a defense, know that whenever we need to step up, we can. We're going to come out with the same intensity, trying to stop the run and pass. Hopefully, we can prove that."
For a defense used to facing a pass-happy spread offense in its daily practices, making the adjustment to containing a running quarterback can be a challenge, OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young said.
Young, a former Iowa State assistant, acknowledged concerns about playing a November night game in Ames with a roster that includes 70 Texans, including 30 on OSU's depth chart. The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 40s at kickoff.
Young's unit ranks 101st nationally in total defense (442.2 yards per game) but first in turnovers gained (34).
"Sometimes, we give them way too much yardage," he said. "But our defensive players have a lot of fight."
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Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760