No. 8 Oklahoma State is undefeated and has passed every test to date. But the Cowboys nevertheless are seven-point underdogs heading into Saturday afternoon's game at Iowa State.
The spread might be more of an indictment on the style of football the Cowboys (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) have played more thananything else. Four of their six wins have been decided by eight or points or less, including last week's 32-24 victory at Texas.
Still, the Cyclones (4-2, 2-1), fresh off a 33-20 win at Kansas State, are starting to round into the form that caused AP voters to place them No. 7 in the preseason.
"This will be a big challenge for us," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "Statistically, arguably, whatever comment you want to make, (this is) the best defense we have played or could potentially play based on what people say. They've been good for a number of years; they're starting to come around, in my opinion."
Iowa State is giving up league lows in points per game (16.3) and yards per game (251.3). Defensive end Will McDonald has forced three fumbles and recorded 5 1/2 sacks. Fellow defensive end Eyioma Uwazurike has four sacks, and linebacker Mike Rose is the top tackler on the team, averaging 7.2 per game.
And after a slow start to the season, running back Breece Hall has sprung to life with four straight 100-yard performances, including last week's season-high 197 yards and two touchdowns.
"No. 28 (Hall) is very patient and runs a lot like Thurman Thomas used to run," Gundy said. "He'll wait and then hit a seam. He's a very patient runner and productive at what he gets accomplished."
The Cowboys bring their own offensive stars to the matchup in Ames, Iowa, with Jaylen Warren at running back (705 yards, six touchdowns) and Tay Martin at wide receiver (27 catches for 365 yards in four games), though as usual, the Cowboys will need quarterback Spencer Sanders to perform, too.
On defense, Cowboys linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez leads the Big 12 with 10 tackles per game and has forced a pair of fumbles. Oklahoma State is the second-stingiest defense in the Big 12, surrendering 307.2 yards per game.
"Very talented in the skill positions, very talented on the defensive side of the football," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. "(They) have really become one of the standards on the defensive side of the football in our conference, and I think for years have been the standard on offense. (It's a) really well-coached football team that we have a lot of respect for."
--Field Level Media