No. 11 Oklahoma State faces South Alabama in Sun Belt land
South Alabama knows it can beat a ranked or major conference team because the Jaguars have done both.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are most definitely aware that weird things can happen even as heavy favorites over a lesser-known nonconference opponent.
The 11th-ranked Cowboys (1-0) visit the Sun Belt Conference's Jaguars (0-1) on Friday night in Mobile, Alabama, as four-touchdown favorites determined not to take anything for granted.
After all, Oklahoma State fell 30-27 at home to 21-point underdog Central Michigan last season on an untimed touchdown play that officials later said shouldn't have been awarded. That took coach Mike Gundy's team out of the College Football Playoff conversation late in the season.
Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph said it doesn't matter who or where they're playing if you've got leaders ''who have been through all types of game situations where you're expected to win, you're the favorite.''
''You know how to kind of approach each and every game each and every environment you're going to play in whether it's a hundred thousand in Austin or 30 or 40 (thousand) down in Mobile,'' Rudoph said. ''It's definitely a plus.''
It's not altogether unfamiliar territory for the Jaguars, who haven't fielded a team for even a full decade.
South Alabama opened last season with a win over Mississippi State and then upset No. 19 San Diego State at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. They opened with a 47-27 loss at Mississippi.
''There's no doubt that those two games last year were a huge step for our program,'' South Alabama coach Joey Jones said. ''This is the start of our fifth year in Division I football, and we only started nine years ago. We didn't have football before that.
''Any time you can throw up wins like that, it creates a confidence level that you can play with those guys if you do all the things the right way.''
Some things to watch for in this game:
RUDOLPH'S RECORD: The Oklahoma State senior could pass Brandon Weeden as the school's all-time leading passer. Rudolph needs just 244 yards to break Weeden's record of 9,260 passing yards. He's averaging 300.6 a game in his career.
PASS DEFENSE: The Jaguars failed their first test in defending the pass. Ole Miss racked up 429 yards through the air against them. Now, South Alabama faces Rudolph and preseason AP All-American wide receiver James Washington.
HARD TO BEAT: Oklahoma State is 15-1 all-time against Sun Belt teams. The Cowboys are also 53-6 against unranked teams since the start of the 2010 season and have won nine of their last 11 games in the opposing team's stadium.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy found plenty he'd like his team to improve on from an opening win over Tulsa. He thinks the Cowboys have the right mentality to strive for that.
''I'm confident that we have good leadership and that there's enough, for lack of a better term, peer pressure to want to perform at a higher level,'' Gundy said. ''These guys care about each other and we have some great team chemistry early in the season.''
EYE OPENER: For those South Alabama players who weren't part of last year's upsets, linebacker Darrell Songy is hoping the opening loss to Ole Miss was educational. The Jaguars trailed just 13-10 at halftime before giving up three long touchdowns in a 27-point third quarter.
''That game definitely gave everybody a little fire under their butt just to give that extra effort, go that extra mile,'' Songy said. ''When we play Oklahoma State we can just give it all we've got and let the scoreboard decide for itself.''
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