No. 2 Cowboys face final road test at Iowa St

It is easy to look ahead to Dec. 3 and envision second-ranked

Oklahoma State hosting rival Oklahoma with a spot in the BCS

championship game on the line.

To reach the annual Bedlam game unbeaten, the Cowboys must first

take care of Iowa State on the road Friday night.

”I know it’s easy for people to look ahead to the Bedlam game,

but we’re staying really focused,” Oklahoma State fullback David

Paulsen said. ”The rankings are just a number right now. We just

have to prove them right.”

The Cowboys (10-0, 7-0 Big 12) are favored to beat the Cyclones

(5-4, 2-4) in their final road game of the season and set up the

showdown with the hated Sooners. Iowa State is a 27-point

underdog.

Oklahoma State is where it is because of an offense that has

been so explosive that Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads dubbed it

scary. The Cowboys rank second nationally with 51.7 points per

game, a number they’ve topped against league opponents in the each

of the past three weeks.

Oklahoma State pounded a good Baylor team 59-24, survived a

memorable shootout with No. 16 Kansas State 52-45 and routed Texas

Tech in Lubbock 66-6 a week ago, the Red Raiders looking a far cry

from the team that went on the road and upset the Sooners.

The Cowboys insist they’re not overlooking the Cyclones.

”It doesn’t matter who it is, you can’t overlook any team in

the Big 12 or in college football in general,” said Oklahoma State

quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has put himself in the Heisman

Trophy conversation with 31 TD passes. ”They’ll sneak up on you

and next you know, the goals you set aside are not there anymore.

We’ll be focused. We’ll be dialed in.”

For Iowa State to have any shot at an upset, it will have to

find a way to slow down Weeden and star receiver Justin Blackmon.

And there is also Cowboys running back Joseph Randle, who has

rushed for 993 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Rhoads knows that his Cyclones are going to have to get some

breaks – and then a few more after that – to have a chance.

”We’ve got to play our best game, and there have to be some

things that adversely affect them. We can’t go out and play our

game and go up and down with this football team,” Rhoads said.

Iowa State has won two straight and had an extra week of

preparation for the Cowboys. But in a game that will likely be a

shootout, the Cyclones have concerns on offense.

The switch to freshman quarterback Jared Barnett helped Iowa

State stun Texas Tech 41-7. But Barnett led the offense to just 13

points in a narrow three-point win over struggling Kansas on Nov.

5, and the Cyclones had trouble scoring in blowout losses to Texas

and Missouri.

There is, however, proof that Rhoads is capable of putting his

teams in position for unlikely wins. He led Iowa State to upset

wins at Nebraska in 2009 and at Texas last season. Four years ago,

when he was the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh, the Panthers

beat No. 2 West Virginia to spoil the Mountaineers’ hopes of a

national title shot.

Rhoads concocted a plan that held Pat White and the nation’s

second-best rushing attack to 104 yards in a 13-9 win that threw

the 2007 title chase into chaos.

He is coming off a bye week spent focusing on Weeden and the

Cowboys.

”Anything is possible,” he said. ”You have got to tackle

extremely well. You’ve got to take the ball away from their

offense. You’ve got to get maybe a defensive score or a special

teams score. A lot of things have to happen in a game like this.

But who’s to say they can’t?”