Seventh-ranked Oklahoma State will put its undefeated record on the line Saturday when it hosts Texas Tech at Stillwater, Okla.
The Cowboys (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) started conference play last weekend, topping then-No. 16 Baylor on the road, 36-25. The second half began with a bang, as Cowboys freshman Jaden Nixon returned the kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and a 23-3 lead.
Texas Tech (3-2, 1-1) is coming off a 37-28 loss at Kansas State. The score was 20-20 after three quarters, but the Red Raiders fell flat in the fourth quarter.
This will be the fifth straight week that the Red Raiders have faced a ranked opponent. Texas Tech beat then-No. 25 Houston 33-30 on Sept. 10, lost to then-No. 16 North Carolina State 27-14 on Sept. 17, topped then-No. 22 Texas 37-34 on Sept. 24 and then fell to No. 25 Kansas State.
The Cowboys are riding a streak of 17 consecutive weeks ranked inside the top 15 of the poll, a stretch that is tied for the longest in school history with streaks from 2016-17 and 2010-2011. During coach Mike Gundy’s tenure, Oklahoma State has been ranked as high as No. 2 (2011) and ranked at least one week in every season since 2008.
The key for Oklahoma State this season has been the steady and versatile play of senior quarterback Spencer Sanders, who is tied for the Big 12 lead in passing touchdowns with 11 through four games.
Sanders also has rushed for four scores and 185 yards on 41 carries — a 4.5-yard average – and he’s thrown just two interceptions. Sanders has commanded an offense that is fifth in the nation in scoring, putting up an average of 46.2 points per game.
“(Sanders) just keeps finding a way to win game,” Gundy said. “He has a competitive nature, and now he’s developed a calmness and a humbleness about him that is hard to replace.”
Sanders grew up in Denton, Texas, with Red Raiders linebacker Kosi Eldridge. The all-time series between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech is tied — each side with 23 wins — but since Sanders and Eldridge have been in college, the Cowboys have a 2-1 advantage.
“We’ve got to tie it up this weekend,” Eldridge said. “I think (Sanders’) ability to extend plays, his ability to run, makes him that much better. So if we can contain him — which we definitely can — I think we’re going to have a really good shot at making him one-dimensional.”
Texas Tech has a talented quarterback of its own in Donovan Smith. Like Sanders, the redshirt sophomore is a threat through the air and on the ground, as he has accounted for 15 total touchdowns this season.
Smith leads the Big 12 in completions, with 143 through five games. Against Kansas State, he had two passing touchdowns and one rushing but also threw a pair of interceptions. He has seven interceptions for the season.
“That kid wants to win and he’s a great kid, has got very high character,” Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire said. “I think he’s going to be a guy that plays on Sundays. You’ve just got to learn it now and find ways to get better. And we’ve got to find ways as a program to help him be better.”