The Oklahoma State Cowboys host the Pittsburgh Panthers at 2:30 PM today at Boone-Pickens Stadium. You can watch the game on ESPN or listen to it on the radio at 96.1 FM.

Pittsburgh has started off the season looking solid in an opening week win against Villanova 28-7 and a win last week against Penn State 42-39. The Panthers are by no means a national power, but the Cowboys should definitely be ready to play against a team that is amped up and ready to come into Stillwater looking to steal a win.

Offense

Pittsburgh Senior Quarterback Nathan Peterman is an efficient passer, but his output is not all that impressive. So far in two games he has thrown 30/47 for 266 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He is not a deep ball guy at all, which works for the Panthers, because they are not a passing team anyways.

The Panthers’ offense loves to run the ball, and they do it well. Pittsburgh averages 213.5 yards a game so far this season behind potential All-Americans in tackle Adam Bisnowaty and guard Dorian Johnson blocking for Junior Running Back James Conner.

If you haven’t heard of Conner, he has quite the story. After earning ACC Player of the Year honors after an outstanding sophomore year year, James tore his MCL to begin his Junior year. The tear led to an amazing discovery that he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. James Conner was no longer just fighting to get back on the field; he was fighting for his life. Conner fought and defeated cancer, and he is back on the field this year looking like his old self as he leads the Panthers in rushing with 170 yards on 39 attempts for 2 touchdowns. You can read more about James’s story here.

Defense

The Panther defense played solid against Villanova, but not quite as well as against Penn State, mostly due to the Nittany Lion pass attack. Pittsburgh has a solid safety in sophomore Jordan Whitehead, and Senior DB Ryan Lewis leads the team in tackles, but the defensive backs as a unit are suspect.

The run defense for the Panthers has been a bit of a dominating force, however, barely allowing over a hundred yards total in two games. Pitt has some talent at the defensive end position between Senior Ejuan Price who was All-ACC last season and sophomore Dewayne Hendrix.

Game Plan

Oklahoma State opened up the week favored by a touchdown, but they go into the game barely favored by a field goal. After last week’s loss to Central Michigan, there is no doubt that there are questions, but expect the Cowboys to come out prepared to fire on all cylinders today.

If Mason Rudolph can get his deep ball overthrows under control, he could have quite a day today. The offensive line will be the key to success, though. If the big fellas up front cannot keep the Pitt defense out of the backfield, Rudolph and the run game could struggle to get anything positive going.

Defensively, the Cowboys should have one mindset: get in the backfield. If they can shut down the Pitt run game, they should have no problem winning this game. James Conner is more than just a great running back; he’s an inspiration to his team. If Oklahoma State can keep Conner from making big plays, the Panthers will struggle to put points on the board.