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Texas-OSU Q&A: The Cowboys defense is as good as advertised

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Gerald Tracy, the editor of SB Nation's excellent Oklahoma State site Cowboys Ride For Free, stopped by to answer a few questions about the Saturday's match up between the Longhorns and Cowboys.

Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Burnt Orange Nation: The MIke Gundy era is now in its 11th season coming off his worst season since his second and third years replacing Les Miles. Are Oklahoma State fans happy with one Big 12 title in 10 years and a handful of other competitive seasons? Is this as good as it gets in Stillwater?

Cowboys Ride For Free: They're happy with him, yes. But they want more, as every fanbase does. The thing that annoys the general fans are the choking, or losing a game the Cowboys shouldn't (ISU 2011, WVU 2013, OU 2012). If the fans are unhappy with any coach, it's offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, who is definitely the worst offensive coordinator Gundy has brought on, but is still a pretty good coach. I'm not sure this is as good as it gets. Another Big 12 title should pump the recruiting up again and is within reach the next few years with the youth and talent on this team. I don't believe a national title is in our near future, though.

BON: The pending Joe Wickline lawsuit has been a big story in Austin becauase of former athletic director Steve Patterson's unwillingness to make it go away and the overall unflattering light in which its cast the Texas program. How do Oklahoma State fans feel about those shenanigans and do they miss their old offensive line coach?

CRFF: It's kind of a running joke here. Every other week we all get a notification saying OSU is still suing UT and it's just not surprising anymore. He was great for us and tons miss him, the guy who replaced him, Bob Connelly, was just terrible last year before getting hired away to USC. Coach Adkins stepped in this year and has done a pretty good job so far, but Wickline will always be missed, y'all got one of the best.

BON: After games against Central Michigan, Central Arkansas, and UTSA, how much do you really know about this Cowboys team heading into conference play? What questions have been answered so far and which ones are still pressing?

CRFF: I think we definitely know this defense will be strong. Sure, poor competition fogs it a bit, but the teams all had pretty potent offenses. CMU has a quarterback who nearly led a 20+ point comeback in his bowl game last year, UCA runs an average of 100+ plays a game and UTSA... well, they looked good for one week this year? I'm not saying those are fantastic teams, but holding each to 14 points or less is still pretty great. The offense has had flashes but it's started slow. We don't know if that's OSU keeping it vanilla on purpose or what.

The questions I had going into this season were on the line, both defensive and offensive. The defensive tackles are very young, but they've played fantastic so far this year, so that one is answered. The offensive line has had it's times, but the interior has been pretty ugly. Hopefully it gets better, but they did get destroyed in the UCA game.

BON: Did Gundy take too long last year to abandon Daxx Garman and burn Mason Rudolph's redshirt. What is it that makes the sophomore so special?

CRFF: Others will tell you yes, I'll tell you no. I've been told Rudolph wasn't ready, as in he didn't know the offense and wasn't practicing well until the Texas game last year. If anything, I wouldn't have been mad had he stayed out. In fact, he said he felt the same way. Rudolph is extremely poised and active in the pocket, can throw on the run and has an arm strength that Gundy has compared to Weeden. He brings something to the table in the leadership aspect that others have not. Oh and he progresses through reads very well.

BON: Other than Rudolph, is there one player offensively for Oklahoma State who could single-handedly change the game this Saturday?

CRFF: Junior running back Chris Carson. He had his first 100-yard game last week and has looked fairly good in two of the three games. If he is rolling, it'll make Mason Rudolph's job that much easier to score and keep Heard off the field.

BON: The Oklahoma State defense only forced one turnover through the first two games, then forced seven (!) against UTSA last weekend. What happened against the Roadrunners and was that a fluke or a sign that the defense is starting to come together?

CRFF: It's a mix of things. The defense started this whole "We're Taking It Back" thing this offseason and obviously after two games, that didn't happen. Apparently, they focused on changing that this year. UTSA isn't good, but they didn't turn the ball over that much in their other games. I think coming out and forcing those turnovers, along with turning them into points, forced UTSA players to panic. You won't see that as much in the Big 12 -- it's a whole new level and these guys don't let as much get in their head. I do think they'll start pumping the turnovers up though, but more to the two-to-four range, definitely not seven.

BON: Just how scary is what redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard did against Cal last weekend for Oklahoma State? Do you see his running ability negating the advantage that a good Pokes defensive line has over a Longhorns unit that is still inconsistent?

CRFF: Heard changed this game for me. A few weeks back, I'm all OSU. However, the freshman left tackle against Ogbah should be a win on Oklahoma State's side, helping to contain Heard. Heard did that to a decent Cal defense, but I do believe the OSU defense is much better. However, if he goes for an 80-yard touchdown like a certain former Longhorn, that could be bad.

BON: What type of prediction do you have for how this game plays out? Does the home team finally get a win for the first time since the Horns knocked off the Pokes at DKR in 2008?

CRFF: I got OSU winning this one, but a lot closer than I did before. I'm picking Oklahoma State 31-24. I think Heard is going to have a good game but the defense will force enough turnovers to get into his head.