Oklahoma State's football team undoubtedly possesses an offense good enough win a national championship, but is its defense good enough to give the team a chance?
The unbeaten Cowboys (8-0) enter Saturday's 7 p.m. game against Kansas State (7-1) at Boone Pickens Stadium ranked No. 2 in scoring offense (49.88), No. 4 in total offense (555.13) and No. 4 in passing offense (373.25).
Alas, OSU also ranks No. 111 out of 120 FBS teams in total defense (455.63), No. 101 in pass defense (270.13), No. 84 in rushing defense (185.50) and No. 62 in scoring defense (26.50).
Ranked No. 3 in this week's BCS standings, the Cowboys will advance to this year's national championship game if they finish 12-0, but can it happen with such a wicked potion of good and bad?
"We've got to get better on defense," OSU coach Mike Gundy said during Monday's weekly Big 12 coaches' teleconference. "We've got to improve in certain areas of the kicking game (No. 111 in punt returns). Our players understand that. We've never said that we have all the answers on defense. One thing that I like with our team is we're very active, we play a number of players and I think they're fresh and they play hard."
The Cowboys are No. 117 in first downs allowed (25.25), tied for No. 79 in third-down defensive efficiency (41.67 percent) and No. 78 in fourth-down defensive efficiency (55.00 percent).
"We would like to get more three-and-outs. I don't think there's any question about that," Gundy said. "You have to have patience. There's a philosophy with each defense in my opinion. Some people choose to roll the dice more and maybe force more negative-yardage plays, but also open themselves up to what would be big-chunk plays. Some defenses try to play base, be in the right spots, not giving up as many big plays, rally to the ball. There's just different ways to look at it. I think it changes based on the personnel of your defense."
OSU's defense is an extreme case of bend-but-don't-break, and its elasticity is accompanied with a remarkable ability to create turnovers and make key stops near the goal line.
The Cowboys rank No. 1 nationally in both turnover margin (2.38) and turnovers gained (29) and No. 10 in red-zone defense with 21 scores allowed in 30 drives (.70 percent).
"They're flying around. They're around the ball a lot and I think that contributes to our turnovers," Gundy said. "We do give up some yards. We've given up some points, but for the most part, if you look at the defenses in our league, there are teams that are giving up quite a few yards and teams that are giving up quite a few points.
"We'll continue to get better. We'll try to correct mistakes. We need to be more sound. We need to tighten down some gaps in the running game on early downs, but I do like our effort. I like the chemistry of our defense and I like their attitude."
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