As the Cowboys approach the stiffest portion of the schedule, what stands in the way of a big finish?
Gina Mizell: Quarterback health
Yes, this is true even if Wes Lunt starts against TCU.
Even if Lunt is back to 100 percent healthy, the true freshman likely won't look like the same guy who set the Big 12 freshman record with 436 passing yards against Arizona. At least initially.
He hasn't played in a game in more than a month. He's been limited in practice — or hasn't practiced at all — at times during that stretch. Repetition was crucial to getting Lunt's timing and accuracy ready for big-time college football. To expect he's going to come back and be just as sharp is likely putting too much pressure on a true freshman who just turned 19.
OSU's best chance to win down the stretch is absolutely with Lunt at quarterback. But the Lunt we'll see at Kansas State and Oklahoma, and against TCU Saturday, won't be as far along in his development as he would have been without the injury. He will need to get back in the swing of things quickly to compete with the Big 12's heavy-hitters to come on the schedule.
John Helsley: Defense
Remember these guys, that band of brothers who acknowledged and welcomed the burden of providing stability in a season of transition?
Well, there's still time, because the Cowboys D is needed now more than ever.
OSU's offense is patchwork at best, with injuries robbing the unit of playmakers and depleting depth to the breaking point. Yards and points will become harder to come by as the Pokes venture into the stiffest stretch of the schedule.
So the pressure is on the defense to dig in and brace for the coming battles.
Maybe we saw signs of growth against Iowa State. Or maybe the Cyclones were just that inept.
The offense is what it is — a battered bunch with fewer bullets in a shootout league.
The defense is, well, we know not. Yet know this, it'll have to be good for the Cowboys to survive and even thrive over the final six weeks.