OSU faces biggest test yet with Mizzou

Missouri’s dynamic offense hasn’t been challenged yet this season. Its first test might be trying to keep up with Oklahoma State’s.

Two of the nation’s most potent offenses will be on display on Saturday night in Columbia, where the third-ranked Tigers host the 17th-ranked Cowboys.

Quarterback Chase Daniel was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season, finishing fifth in the country in passing yards while leading Missouri to a 12-2 record and a No. 4 finish in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the program’s highest ranking in 71 years.

That led to national championship expectations in 2008, and so far, Daniel has been delivering for the Tigers (5-0, 1-0 Big 12).

Missouri is averaging 568.8 yards this season - third in the country - led by a passing attack that’s putting up 375.6 yards per game. The Tigers are second in the nation in scoring (53.4 points), and they’ve had 17 touchdown drives that have taken less than two minutes.

Perhaps most impressively, the offense has yet to go three-and-out in any of 48 series this year.

“Every time we touch the ball, we want to score - no matter who we go against,” said Daniel, who’s completed 76.3 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and one interception. “When we kick field goals, we’re like, ‘OK, it’s a B maybe.’ We want A-plusses every time we step on the field.”

But as good as the Tigers have been, Oklahoma State (5-0, 1-0) has been nearly their equal. The Cowboys are third in the nation in scoring (52.6 points) and rolling up 530.2 yards to rank sixth in the country.

While Missouri does the majority of its damage through the air, Oklahoma State has been dominant on the ground, averaging the fourth-most rushing yards in the Bowl Subdivision (315.2), and led by sophomore Kendall Hunter (147.6 ypg).

Last Saturday, though, it was the combination of Zac Robinson-to-Dez Bryant that made the difference. Robinson, the nation’s third highest-rated passer (204.6), found the sophomore wideout in the end zone three times in a 56-28 win over Texas A&M.

Robinson has 10 touchdown passes, and Bryant has caught nine of them - three apiece in his last three games.

“He’s as good as there is in the league,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “This guy changes football games when he touches the ball.”

One interesting factor in this matchup may be time of possession. With their dominant ground game, the Cowboys have held on to the ball for an average of 32:47 to rank 10th in the nation. Missouri, meanwhile, is 118th at 26:07 per game, a result of their quick-strike approach.

Considering Oklahoma State has also had 13 touchdown drives that lasted less than two minutes, coach Mike Gundy isn’t sure how relevant controlling the clock really is.

“You like to have a lot of long drives that end in points,” Gundy said. “Time of possession used to be a big statistic years ago, (but) it’s not as much a factor anymore because of the way people play offensive football.”

Missouri held the ball for 26 minutes last Saturday, and as usual, didn’t waste its opportunities against Nebraska. The Tigers’ first-string offense had eight possessions and finished with six touchdowns and a field goal in a 52-17 rout for their first win in Lincoln in 30 years.

Daniel threw for 253 yards and three touchdowns, one to tailback Derrick Washington. The sophomore also had two rushing touchdowns, giving him 10 this season. Washington leads a ground game that’s averaging 193.2 yards, and gives opponents more to worry about than just Daniel.

“Missouri has a good offense, so they are going to make plays,” Cowboys linebacker Patrick Lavine said. “It’s just how we react to that after they make those plays to justify how good our defense is.”

Oklahoma State’s defense ranks 51st in the nation (338.6 ypg), while Missouri’s (376.6) is 84th.

Missouri has won five of six in the series, with the last meeting coming in 2005. In the teams’ last six games, five have been decided by a touchdown or less - three in overtime.