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Pokes and 'Horns mix it up in Big 12 melee

Austin, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - A crucial Big 12 Conference matchup is on tap for Saturday afternoon, as the 12th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys make the trip south to tangle with the 23rd-ranked Texas Longhorns.

Oklahoma State is in the midst of an outstanding season at 8-1, with its only setback coming at West Virginia at the end of September (30-21). Since that defeat, the Cowboys have run off five wins a row, most recently beating Kansas at home last Saturday, 42-6. Although they are 5-1 in the Big 12, a game behind both Texas and Baylor in the loss column, the Cowboys control their own destiny, although their schedule down the stretch is brutal with bouts against Baylor and Oklahoma still to come.

"You're at that point in the season where you have to win one to stay in the race," OSU coach Mike Gundy said. "You have to continue to move forward. This is a very talented football team and we're playing on the road. We've got our work cut out for us ... (We) have to find a way to win two of the three phases and give (ourselves) the best chance to win."

Things weren't looking good for Texas early in the season, and Mack Brown found himself on the hot seat following a 1-2 start, but since entering league play, the team has been flawless. The Longhorns are a perfect 6-0 in the Big 12, a half-game up on Baylor with a matchup against the Bears on tap for Dec. 7. They won their sixth straight game last Saturday in a thrilling 47-40 overtime decision at West Virginia.

"We were very fortunate and came up big," Brown said following the recent win. "We had two really good (defensive) plays (at the end). We got the third down and then got the next one. I've never been in an overtime fight like this. It was special. This was big time."

Texas has dominated the all-time series with Oklahoma State, winning 23 of the previous 27 matchups. After the Cowboys claimed three straight meetings from 2009-11, the Longhorns got back on track last season with a 41-36 triumph in Stillwater.

Despite a somewhat modest showing in terms of yardage (434.7 ypg), Oklahoma State has been able to generate scoring chances (40.7 ppg).

Clint Chelf has taken over the starting quarterback job from J.W. Walsh, and he has responded by throwing for 1,025 yards with nine touchdowns and four picks, while adding strong rushing totals as well (230 yards, three TDs). He is fresh off his best passing performance of the season against Kansas, as he threw for 265 yards and three scores without an interception.

The Cowboys are committed to the run, especially near the goal line. Neither Desmond Roland (506 yards) nor Jeremy Smith (319 yards) are having outstanding campaigns yardage wise, but the duo has combined to score 19 touchdowns.

OSU might be without its best receiver in this one, as Josh Stewart (40 receptions, 510 yards, two TDs) is listed as questionable with a foot injury. In the event that he cannot suit up, Tracy Moore (35 receptions, 446 yards, four TDs) and Jhajuan Seales (26 receptions, 374 yards, TD) will see an increase in targets.

Part of the reason the Cowboys offense can score so many points is due to the position their outstanding defense puts them in. The unit allows just 19.7 points per game, has generated 23 takeaways and held Kansas without a touchdown last week.

"I thought our defense was really consistent in the way they played," Gundy said following the latest win. "We tackled, made some plays to get them in second-and-long ... We were very good."

Justin Gilbert has picked off four passes, while Shaun Lewis (three INTs, two FF), Caleb Lavey (three INTs, FF) and Daytawion Lowe (two INTs, FF) are also big playmakers for the defense. Lavey also leads the team in tackles (68) and TFL (10.5).

Although Texas lags slightly behind OSU in terms of offensive production, it still has one of the most potent units in the Big 12, as it averages 34.4 ppg.

With David Ash battling injuries, Case McCoy has been called into duty and he had one of his best games of the season in the overtime win against West Virginia with 283 yards and three touchdowns, bringing his season totals to 1,471 yards (.595 completion percentage) with eight scores and six picks.

McCoy's favorite target is Jaxon Shipley, who has hauled in 46 passes for 527 yards and a touchdown. Mike Davis (33 receptions, 477 yards) is more of a threat to rip off a big play, and also steps up near the goal line with six touchdowns.

Johnathan Gray is the Big 12's third-leading rusher with 780 yards to go with four touchdowns, while Malcolm Brown (442 yards) gets his number called in the red zone with eight scores.

The Longhorns defense ranks in the middle of the Big 12 pack (24.7 ppg, 393.4 ypg), although the unit didn't have its finest hour against West Virginia in allowing 40 points last week.

The strength of the defense is up front, where both Cedric Reed (13.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks, four FF) and Jackson Jeffcoat (14.0 TFL, 7.0 sacks) are piecing together solid seasons. Steve Edmond leads the way with 63 tackles while picking off two passes, while Adrian Phillips and Duke Thomas also have a pair of interceptions.

11/13 10:57:14 ET