Touched on a bit of it just above — I think turnovers will be huge. The front seven will need to play very well to contain Klein. The Cowboys will have to run the ball. And special teams, particularly the return game, is something Gundy really stressed this week. Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson are fantastic on kick and punt returns. Lockett was outstanding in that area in Stillwater last season. Quinn Sharp is going to need to boom touchbacks and good punts that force Thompson to move backward before catching the ball.
Which OSU defensive player is most responsible for slowing down Klein and the K-State running game?
As mentioned above, the front seven will be huge. I think Calvin Barnett can be a difference-maker in plugging the middle, and he obviously wasn't here last year. The defensive ends can't over-pursue Klein when rushing off the edge, and the tackles need to stay in front of him. It sounds cliche, but the linebackers need to play assignment football and stay in their gaps. Klein and Hubert aren't the only ones that make this rushing attack go. The offensive line does a great job of opening holes, which allows Klein to be patient and find the right spot to go. Big, big test for the OSU front seven.
Is Jeremy Smith likely to play a bigger role this weekend?
I think so. His practice load was scheduled to increase this week, and it was obviously a great sign that he got more than one carry — instead of limping off the field after the only time he touched the ball like he did against Kansas and Iowa State. Joseph Randle should be commended for being a workhorse the past few games, but the Cowboys want him and Smith splitting carries. And Smith obviously brings an extra toughness and dimension to the offense that had been missed.
Is there a stat of yards/defender carried? Blake Jackson would own that stat.
He probably would. Dude needs to learn to corral the ball correctly, though.
What is the likelihood of the Cowboys duplicating the results of the game that arguably put OSU on the road to success, 10/11/2008 against Missouri, in Columbia, who was ranked #3 at the time? Beat them 28-23. OSU was flying underneath the radar then, and don't expect KSU to take the Cowboys lightly, but could happen. K-State fans, no matter how humble the talk, are thinking of the possibility of playing in the MNC game. Living in KC I hear all the talk, they are excited.
Berry wrote about this very subject earlier this week. I obviously wasn't here in 2008. I also think this K-State team is better than that Mizzou team. But I'd check BT's blog for his thoughts.
What help can we expect from some of OSU's young receivers? Haven't seen much of Brandon Sheperd.
Austin Hays has been the main youngster who has contributed, moving into a starting role. C.J. Curry is obviously out for the season with a shoulder injury. Blake Webb has played some. Sales is almost surely going to be redshirted. Sheperd is a guy who I know coaches think has potential, but Hays has been the most ready to play. Maybe that changes down the stretch with several banged-up receivers.
Any impact to Barnett playing in the game after he got another traffic ticket?
Considering the incident happened before the TCU game, I would be pretty surprised if he didn't play. Then again, Tracy Moore was never charged with a crime and was suspended for the SSU game. OSU had no comment when I asked earlier in the week. I'd expect him to be out there.
Looking at KSU's schedule: one great win (at OU). Other wins are either marginal or no big deal. At WV seemed huge, but diminishing. I'm still not sold on TT — maybe they're for real. Miami has had a tough schedule, but don't seem to be world beaters. Perhaps KSU overrated? Maybe time for the mistakes to start happening? Or wishful thinking on my part?
Eh. There aren't many teams that have a resume of winning in Norman, Morgantown and Ames and beating a top-15 team at home. K-State is for real. Not necessarily unbeatable, but for real.
I read KSU has the best starting field position average in the country this year (their own 40). You just mentioned their good returners. Perhaps Quinn Sharp will have something to say about that in this game, forcing KSU to march the full length of the field.
Sharp can be a huge weapon, for sure. Again, Lockett can't return kicks if they go out of the end zone. We've seen him boom 70-yard punts. Gundy mentioned how the yards of field position gained on returns are often overlooked, but can really impact the game. OSU will need to force its own breaks like that to win this game.