The Oklahoma State Cowboys are still looking to unveil an explosive offense when they takes on the Kansas Jayhawks in Big 12 play on Saturday. The Jayhawks, on the other hand, are looking to stop a downward slide after two bad losses.
The No. 17 Cowboys (2-0) have relied on strong defense and a heavy dose of running to impose their will on opponents to this point. Oklahoma State is averaging 21.5 points and 313.0 yards per game, a stark contrast to the team's usual high-flying numbers under head coach Mike Gundy. But the Cowboys are limiting opponents to 10.0 points and 315.0 yards per contest.
That's not good news for the Jayhawks (0-2) in their quest to finally get in the win column. Kansas got drilled by Baylor a week ago after getting handled by Coastal Carolina in its season opener. The Jayhawks have also struggled to find their footing offensively and are averaging 18.5 points and 347.5 yards per game so far.
Oklahoma State leads the series 38-29-3 and has won 10 straight against Kansas. The Jayhawks' last win over the Cowboys was a 43-28 triumph in 2007.
No. 17 Oklahoma State at Kansas
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma State -20.5
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Running the ball has turned into a bread-and-butter staple for the Cowboys. With a back as talented as Chuba Hubbard in the backfield, that's a wise and understandable decision.
Hubbard led the nation in rushing a year ago, racking up 2,094 yards and 21 touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. So far this season, the junior is splitting carries with LD Brown, so he's fallen a bit off from last year's pace. Brown and Hubbard have combined for 390 yards and three touchdowns on 49 carries in their first two games. Both players rushed for more than 100 yards against West Virginia and have the ability to be an awesome one-two punch all season.
Their dependability has helped Oklahoma State weather an ankle injury to starting quarterback Spencer Sanders. Shane Illingworth has been a capable game manager in his absence. He only threw for 139 yards against West Virginia. Still, Illingworth completed 71 percent of his passes and didn't make a ton of mistakes. Efficiency is what the Cowboys need most right now from the passing game. The defense is good enough to get things done as long as the offense doesn't get in its own way.
When Kansas Has the Ball
Any chance that the Jayhawks have of springing an upset will hinge on the offense being able to sustain drives against a tough Oklahoma State defense. The biggest key could be getting the running game up to full speed.
Pooka Williams Jr. has the ability to dominate. The junior only has 143 yards and two touchdowns through two games, but he is also coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He ranks ninth all-time at Kansas with 2,329 rushing yards. Velton Gardner has taken some of the load off Williams' shoulders with 151 yards and a touchdown through two games. Gardner is averaging 6.0 yards per carry.
If Jalon Daniels can make strides at quarterback, that will go a long way to giving Kansas a bigger punch on offense and a ticket out of the Big 12 cellar. Daniels became the first true freshman to start a game for the Jayhawks since 2015 when he got the nod against Baylor. He threw for 159 yards on 19-of-33 passing in his debut.
Kansas has given up nine sacks and 22 tackles for a loss in two games. That's sweet music to the ears of Oklahoma State coaches and players alike. The Cowboys have six sacks and 18 stops behind the line of scrimmage so far this season, ranking in the top 20 nationally in both categories. Oklahoma State will live in the Kansas backfield and make the Jayhawks' misery extend for another game. Kansas will struggle to keep up with a better opponent, a common theme around the program for more than a decade now.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 34, Kansas 13
Podcast: CFB Week 5 Preview + Predictions
— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports, and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.