No. 12 Oklahoma State hangs on vs. Colorado

Without quarterback Zac Robinson (concussion), No. 12 Oklahoma State was almost victims of the first big upset of Week 12.

The Cowboys needed a fourth quarter touchdown reception by Justin Blackmon from Brandon Weeden and two big defensive stops to beat Colorado, 31-28 on Thursday night.

Turnovers almost doomed OK State. They lost three fumbles on the night (two on muffed punts) and junior quarterback Alex Cate was also intercepted to give the Buffalos scoring opportunities the entire night.

Cate struggled to make an impact while starting in place of the injured Robinson. In fact, he didn’t complete a pass and finished 0-for-9 with the one interception. The sophomore Weeden had to come in and rescue the sputtering Cowboy offense, which he successfully did by completing 10-of-15 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns.

Of course, OK State’s offense got plenty of production out of senior running back Keith Toston, who compiled 170 yards with one touchdown on 30 carries. On the night, the Cowboys rushed for 232 yards and held Colorado to just 13 yards on the ground.

With this win, Oklahoma State keeps its slim hopes alive in the Big 12 South. The Cowboys would need to beat Oklahoma next week and have Texas (6-0) lose both its remaining games in order to leapfrog the Longhorns in the standings. But chances are Texas won’t slip up against a struggling Kansas, which has lost five in a row and whose head coach is facing allegations of player abuse.

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Houston stuns No. 5 Oklahoma State 45-35

There’s always an interesting dynamic that happens in sports when a team has high expectations entering a season after overachieving the year before.

Oklahoma State surprised a lot of people last year on its way to compiling a 9-3 record and making a trip to the Holiday Bowl (a 42-31 loss to Oregon). Entering this season, many pundits thought the Cowboys would contend in the Big 12 and those thoughts were confirmed after they waxed Georgia 24-10 last week.

But the Cowboys learned a huge lesson today: They’re not going to sneak up on opponents like they did last year.

Led by incredible junior quarterback Case Keenum, unranked Houston went into Stillwater on Saturday and knocked off No. 5 Oklahoma State 45-35. Keenum was 32 of 47 passing for 367 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed five times for 16 yards and a score.

While they still racked up 35 points and 436 total yards, Oklahoma State’s offense struggled at times today and couldn’t overcome costly penalties and four turnovers. Signal caller Zac Robinson was 18 of 31 for 240 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted by Jamal Robinson, who took the gift 26 yards for a score with only 3:14 remaining in the game.

OK State obviously still has a chance to win the Big 12 considering neither Georgia nor Houston were conference opponents. (Sam Bradford’s injury makes things a little more interesting in the conference as well.) But the Cowboys have issues on both sides of the ball, including being able to generate a consistent pass rush on defense and converting in the red zone offensively. OK State also lacked overall fundamentals today, which is why the Cowboys had so many dumb penalties and turned the ball over four times.

The Cowboys certainly aren’t as bad as they played today against Houston. But considering the Cougars flat out took it to them, maybe Oklahoma State isn’t as good as everyone thought either.

2009 CFB Preview: Oklahoma State Cowboys

Check out our other 2009 college football previews.

Preseason Ranking: No. 11 in AP Top 25; No. 9 in USA Today Poll.

Key Returning Players: Zac Robinson (QB); Dez Bryant (WR); DeMarcus Conner (WR); Kendall Hunter (RB); Keith Toston (RB); Brady Bond (OT); Russell Okung; Andrew Lewis (C); Andre Sexton (LB); Orie Lemon (LB); Jeremiah Price (DE); Derek Burton (DE); Ugo Chinasa (DE); Perrish Cox (CB).

Key Losses: Brandon Pettigrew (TE); Steve Denning (G); Jeray Chatham (DT); Jacob Lacey (CB); Quinton Moore (S); Tonga Tea (DT); Ricky Price (S).

Player to Watch: Dez Bryant, WR.
Bryant is coming off a tremendous 2008 campaign in which he tallied 87 receptions for 1,480 yards and a whopping 19 touchdowns. He scored multiple touchdowns in five of 12 games last season, including a four-TD performance against Iowa State on November 1. At times, it didn’t matter if he was double covered because he would still come down with the ball. When it comes to Bryant’s talents, some are drawing comparisons to Michael Crabtree given how big, fast and strong the OSU wideout is. His coach Mike Gundy even believes that Bryant is a legitimate Heisman candidate this season.

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Week 11 College Football Primer

Top 25 vs. Top 25

John Parker WilsonNo. 1 Alabama at No. 16 LSU, 3:30 PM ET Saturday
Nick Saban doesn’t want the focus to be on him this week and for good reason since he spurned LSU a few years ago to go fail in the NFL. That storyline might be a little overrated though, because it’s doubtful the current Tiger players Saban recruited care much about beating him on Saturday. They’ll have more motivation beating a hated rival and knocking off the No. 1 team in the nation. ‘Bama has had issues playing four full quarters all season – will this be the week they finally play a full game and soundly beat a quality opponent? Or will LSU sustain the Tide’s initial punch and come through in the second half? This game is what SEC football is all about and we should expect nothing more than a close, physical matchup that comes down to the wire, even though Alabama has the superior team.

No. 12 TCU at No. 8 Utah, 8:00 PM ET Thursday
The Horned Frogs have the opportunity to knock off yet another MWC foe out of BCS title contention this Saturday when they pay a trip to Utah. TCU has held its previous five opponents to only 8.4 points per game and have also limited eight foes to a 2008 season low in yards, which is the most of any team in Division I football. Pundits love what the Frogs bring to the table defensively, but the Utes have plenty to offer themselves. Utah has held four of its opponents to season lows in yardage and has won nine in a row at home. They’ve also beaten TCU the past two meetings and obviously have a ton to play for.

No. 11 Ohio State at No. 24 Northwestern, 12:00 PM ET
The Wildcats got a lot of people’s attention last week when they pulled off a miracle upset of Minnesota in the final seconds of the game. But Ohio State has had over a week to stew about the loss to Penn State and they’ve had a ton of success against Northwestern over the past couple of years. The Buckeyes have allowed just 23 total points the past three games and it’s highly doubtful backup quarterback Mike Kakfa puts together back-to-back solid performances. It’ll be interesting to see how freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor rebounds after his crucial fumble played a big role in OSU’s loss to the Nittany Lions.

Michael CrabtreeNo. 9 Oklahoma State at No. 2 Texas Tech, 8:00 PM ET, Saturday
It’s no wonder why people keep talking about the Big 12 being the superior conference this season when it keeps churning out fantastic matchups like this every week. Tech had zero time to celebrate its win over Texas last week because the Cowboys offer another potential roadblock to the Raiders’ BCS title hopes. Much like last week, this game features a pair of Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback in Graham Harrell and Zac Robinson. Can Tech continue to post 500 yards of offense every game or will Mike Leach’s team eventually stumble? OK State hasn’t won in Lubbock since 1944, but the Cowboys have played very well on the road under Mike Gundy and are hoping a win could elevate their BCS status after they hung tough with Texas a few weeks ago. Can the Raiders play as well defensively as they did last week against the Longhorns or will yet another top 5 team get picked off?

No. 21 California at No. 7 USC, 8:00 PM ET, Saturday
Many pundits have had this game circled as one where the Trojans could potentially fall victim to an upset. The Bears usually play USC close and fought the Trojans to the final whistle last year before losing by only a touchdown. USC struggled a bit last week in Arizona, but are incredibly tough to beat at the Coliseum. Maybe head coach Pete Carroll will call upon “Captain Compete” to rally his team again before the game.

No. 20 Georgia Tech at No. 19 North Carolina, 12:00 PM ET, Saturday
The Yellow Jackets struggled again last week but managed to knock off Florida State with a last second field goal after a goal line stop and a fumble recovery in the end zone (thank you reader GTA for the correction). Tech is 9-1 against the Heels in their last 10 meetings, but UNC has 17 interceptions on the season, which ties them for the most in the nation. The key in this game will be whether or not the Heels can stop Tech’s relentless ground attack for four quarters. If the Jackets find success on the ground, there will be no reason to put the ball in the air often and risk turning the ball over to a ball-hawking UNC defense.

Other Notable Games:

No. 3 Penn State Nittany Lions at Iowa, 3:30 PM ET, Saturday
Those fans that don’t want to see another Big Ten team play for a national championship will be watching this game with hopes that the Hawkeyes can pull off a huge upset. The Lions probably won’t faced another ranked team the rest of the way, although Iowa and Michigan State are no pushovers. PSU is coming off a bye week – will they come out flat or determine after moving down in the rankings?

Week 9 College Football Primer

Top 25 vs. Top 25
Zac RobinsonNo. 6 Oklahoma State at No. 1 Texas, 3:30 PM ET ABC
Colt McCoy and the Longhorns are the talk of college football right now, and rightfully so with the way they destroyed Chase Daniel and Missouri last Saturday. But Zac Robinson and the Cowboys are playing as well as anyone right now and this is a huge opportunity for them to prove that they can hang with the big boys. Robinson is completing nearly 70% of his passes and has 14 touchdowns on the year to just four interceptions. But for OK State to pull off the upset, the Cowboy defense will have to be aggressive in getting after McCoy, who completed 29 of his 32 passes last week in the rout over MIZZOU. Mack Brown won’t let his team take their foot off the pedal, but this is UT’s third straight tough Big 12 matchup in as many weeks and the Cowboys won’t be any pushovers.

No. 3 Penn State at No. 9 Ohio State
The Nittany Lions are red hot and destroying everything in their path. The switch the spread offense has been a great success for PSU’s offense and QB Daryll Clark, who ranks 18th in the nation in pass efficiency. Clark will certainly have his work cut out for him this Saturday going against a veteran OSU defense, although the Lions can go toe-to-toe with anyone in the trenches. They also have protected Clark incredibly well this season, which has allowed for big plays in the passing game. For the Buckeyes offensively, frosh QB Terrelle Pryor is the real deal and really stepped up his game last week against Michigan State after struggling to make plays in previous weeks. PSU is allowing more than a half-yard less per carry than OSU’s stingy defense, so it might be tough sledding for Heisman candidate Beanie Wells. Either way, expect a battle at the “Horseshoe” this weekend in matchup of the best the Big Ten has to offer.

No. 7 Georgia at No. 13 LSU, 3:30 PM ET CBS
This is a huge game for UGA after clawing back into the top 10 last week. LSU is coming off a solid come-from-behind win over South Carolina last week and still has plenty to prove themselves after Florida ran roughshod over them two weeks ago. UGA’s inexperienced offensive line has been an issue at times this year, so QB Matthew Stafford must get the ball out of his hands quickly against a stout Tiger pass rush. And even though Heisman candidate Knowshon Moreno gets a lot more pub, LSU RB Charles Scott is rushing for over six yards a carry. The Tigers are a staggering 41-4 in Tiger Stadium since 2002, which doesn’t bode well for the road ‘Dogs.

Graham HarrellNo. 8 Texas Tech at No. 23 Kansas, 12:00 PM ESPN
The Red Raiders have flirted with disaster the past couple of weeks, even though Heisman candidate Graham Harrell continues to play beyond impressive. Still, Tech is off to its best start in 32 years and will get to test its mettle against the upper-echelon of Big 12 foes over the next four games. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, were drubbed by Oklahoma last week and just haven’t looked sharp in over a month. They have sorely missed Brandon McAnderson in the backfield, but they could be due for a game in which they put it all together. Could this be the prime upset of the weekend?

Upset Watch:
Michigan State at Michigan, 3:30 PM ET
The Wolverines have been absolutely brutal this year, but this is a game they win. The Spartans were crushed by Ohio State last week in a game that they were trying to use as a measuring stick to see how good they were. This is a huge letdown game for them and Rich Rodriguez is desperate not to lose to his in-state rival and save at least a little face in his first year at Big Blue.

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