Non-conference play has come to an end for most teams in college football, and Oklahoma State has come out unscathed. The Cowboys have destroyed their opponents in the first three weeks of play, winning by an average of 36.7 points, which is third in the NCAA (first in the Big 12) .

Oklahoma State’s competition has not been that stiff, but that will change on Saturday as the Cowboys host the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian. TCU is also off to a hot start at 3-0, which includes a solid road win over Arkansas, and they boast a #16 ranking in the latest AP poll. A win on Saturday for the Cowboys would give their top-10 ranking some solid legitimacy, and a win for the Horned Frogs would mean big things for Fort Worth.

TCU did not come into the season with much talk around their offense, but the Horned Frogs have performed quite well so far racking up just over 500 yards of offense per game, which puts them at 18th in the country (fourth in the Big 12), and they are averaging 42 points per game. If Oklahoma State wants to continue to gain national attention, they need to show up prepared on Saturday. Here are some defensive keys to success for the matchup in Stillwater.

1. Takeaways

Oklahoma State’s defense has been better than expected so far this season, and part of that has had to do with their ability to create turnovers. The Cowboys have forced six turnovers so far, four fumbles and two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns), which ranks them 27th in the NCAA (second in the Big 12). However, Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer said earlier this week, “We need to be able to create more turnovers,” Spencer said. “I’d like to see us get at least three a game.”

The Cowboys aren’t too far off from Spencer’s expectations, averaging two turnovers per game so far, but if they want to step up and meet the challenge, they are going to have to take care of the little things like not missing tackles and forcing the guys on the other side of the ball into making mistakes. If Oklahoma State can disrupt TCU quarterback Kenny Hill in the backfield, the Cowboys could come away with some turnovers and blow this game wide open.

2. Pressure the Back Field

TCU’s quarterback Kenny Hill has had a decent year so far throwing for 245.6 yards per game on a 75% completion rate. He only played a little over half the game against Jackson State, so his stats aren’t quite as inflated as they could be, but they’re good enough where the Oklahoma State defense needs to take notice and realize that Hill is a capable passer, and while his rushing stats don’t show it this season (46 yards on 17 carries), he can be a dangerous runner when he gets some space.

Oklahoma State’s rush defense has been decent through three games, allowing 129 yards per game, which is 52nd nationally and 4th in the Big 12. The Cowboys only have 7 sacks on the year so far (T-51st nationally, T-4th in the Big 12), but they have 21 tackles for loss (T-47th nationally, 6th in the Big 12) with an average of 7 yards per loss. If they can find a way into the backfield to disrupt Kenny Hill and TCU’s rush offense, the Horned Frogs will be forced to throw the ball.

3. No Big Plays

Oklahoma State has done a really good job so far this season in not giving up big pass plays, an area that has cost them dearly in past seasons. Kenny Hill is no Heisman candidate quarterback, but he can throw the ball, and the Horned Frogs are capable of breaking loose for big gains. The Cowboys need to play consistent defense from start to finish. If they can avoid making too many mistakes, they have a good chance at keeping TCU from scoring very many points.