AMES, Iowa (AP) — Four years ago, Iowa State dashed Oklahoma State's national title hopes on a chilly night in November.
An equally poor performance on Saturday in Ames would probably doom the Cowboys again; even with Baylor and Oklahoma still left on their schedule.
No. 5 Oklahoma State (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) could have a clear path to a playoff spot — despite being ranked just eighth by the committee — after trouncing previously-unbeaten TCU 49-29 last week.
But with so much competition for the top four slots, the Cowboys can't afford to look past Iowa State.
"We have to take this team seriously. That's the biggest thing. People have been trying to downplay Iowa State, but they're a really good team at home. They're in the Big 12 for a reason," Oklahoma State linebacker Chad Whitener said.
Whitener might be right.
The Cyclones (3-6, 2-4) could have enough to pull off a repeat of 2011's 37-31 upset win over Oklahoma State.
Four of Iowa State's losses have come against teams ranked among the top 13 in this week's poll. Only one of its defeats came against a team that currently has more than one loss.
The Cyclones will also be playing for their beloved but embattled coach, Paul Rhoads, so motivation shouldn't be a factor.
Here are a few of the crucial points to consider as Oklahoma State prepares for its last road game.
RIDICULOUS RUDOLPH: Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph is peaking at the right time. He threw a career-best five TDs without a pick in last week's thrashing of the Horned Frogs. Rudolph is now 11-1 as a starter, with six wins away from Stillwater.
LAGGING LANNING: The same can't be said for Iowa State sophomore quarterback Joel Lanning. After wrestling the starting job away from Sam Richardson, Lanning had 252 yards of total offense in a 24-0 win over Texas — which nearly knocked off the Cowboys earlier this season. But Oklahoma got so far ahead of the Cyclones last week that Lanning, a run-first player at this point in his career, had to throw it 51 times. Lanning racked up 260 yards passing, but Iowa State lost 52-16.
DON'T POKE THE POKES: Oklahoma State's success this season has been as much a product of its defense as its explosive offense. The Cowboys are second in the Big 12 with just 23.8 points allowed per game — and that's after back-to-back games against high-flying Texas Tech and TCU.
RHOADS KNOWS: Iowa State has played every Big 12 contender, and Rhoads said Monday that Oklahoma, not TCU or Baylor, was the best team the Cyclones have faced in 2015 so far. But he did offer a caveat. "We'll see if I have this opinion after play this great Oklahoma State team this weekend," he said.
HE SAID IT: "This past Sunday, (defensive coordinator Glenn) Spencer asked how many guys were on the 2011 team. Only three guys raised their hands. That's in the past now. We don't want the same thing to happen to us, so we have to prepare and stay focused," Oklahoma State tackle Vincent Taylor said.
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