STILLWATER — The Nebraska Cornhuskers will always have talent.
The allure of playing at a tradition-rich program and the Sea of Red known as Lincoln Memorial Stadium on Saturdays in the fall are easy draws for high school recruits.
Nebraska holds a 36-5-1 all-time lead in their series with Oklahoma State thanks in large part to their superior athletes and depth throughout the roster.
But when the Huskers face OSU for their final meeting as a Big 12 Conference foes, the Cowboys might match the talent and athleticism Nebraska will bring to the table, especially at the skill positions.
"We have awfully good athletes," defensive coordinator Bill Young said before the season. "Speed is much better on this football team than it used to be."
The talent throughout the OSU roster has been on the rise under coach Mike Gundy, and the Cowboys recruiting class of 2010 has upgraded the speed and athleticism on the roster.
Quarterback: Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden are both unique talents. Martinez's acceleration is what makes him special, and he has great straight-line speed. Weeden's arm is what makes him special. He can throw any pass needed from touch passes to bullet passes, and he has good accuracy. Weeden gets the nod based on his consistent production. Advantage: OSU
Running back: Husker running backs Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead are a terrific 1-2 punch. But OSU running backs Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle are even better. And more versatile. Advantage: OSU
Receiver: OSU's Justin Blackmon is a midseason All-American, but the Cowboys are looking for other wideouts to step up. Niles Paul is solid for Nebraska, but the Huskers have combined for the same number of receptions (57) as Blackmon. Advantage: OSU
Offensive line: Both lines have been solid. The Pokes lead the Big 12 in total offense, scoring offense and passing offense. Nebraska leads the Big 12 in rushing offense. None of that success happens without quality play up front. Advantage: Even
Overall advantage: OSU
Defensive line: Four defensive linemen rank among Nebraska's top eight tacklers, led by Jared Crick's 27 tackles and 2.5 sacks. OSU brings an underrated defensive line, which has 15 sacks in six games this season with Jamie Blatnick, Richetti Jones and Ugo Chinasa each having two or more sacks. Advantage: Even.
Linebacker: This game features two of the Big 12's top tacklers in OSU's Orie Lemon and NU's Lavonte David. Both players can go sideline-to-sideline and are sure tacklers. OSU's linebackers are productive and solid, but the Huskers linebackers are slightly more athletic so they get the nod. Advantage: Nebraska.
Secondary: Prince Amukamara and Alfonzo Dennard are elite cornerbacks. They allow Nebraska to play man defense with confidence. OSU safety Markelle Martin can hold his own against anyone, but the Huskers defensive backs are second to none. Advantage: Nebraska.
Overall advantage: Nebraska
Kicker: OSU's Dan Bailey and Nebraska's Alex Henery might be the Big 12's top two kickers. Neither has missed a kick this season, so you can't say one takes a back seat to the other. Advantage: Even.
Punter: Henery pulls double duty as the Huskers punter and is a good one at that. But OSU's Quinn Sharp gives the Pokes the nod thanks to his 40.13 yard net punting average, which ranks No. 13 nationally. Advantage: OSU
Punt coverage: 52 percent of Henery's punts are returned, and NU allows 12.31 per return. 33 percent of Sharp's punts are returned at an average of 9 yards per return. Advantage: OSU.
Punt returns: Both teams have returned punts for touchdowns, but neither return was by their primary punt returner. Niles Paul is solid, averaging 10.46 yards per return. OSU's Justin Gilbert (6.88 avg.) might not be 100 percent on Saturday. Advantage: Nebraska
Kickoff coverage: Nebraska's kick coverage isn't great (23.55) per game, but OSU has allowed two kick returns for touchdowns this season. Advantage: Nebraska
Kickoff returns: If Gilbert plays, it would be a boost as his 23.8 yard average is the best on either squad. If not, don't expect an explosive kick return from either squad. Advantage: Even.
Overall advantage: Even