OKLAHOMA STATE WILL WIN IF: It shows up on defense. The offense still spins the turnstiles in Stillwater, for obvious reasons – Oklahoma State has finished among the top three nationally in total and scoring offense two years in a row and currently leads the nation in both categories after last week's embarrassing, 84-0 obliteration of hapless Savannah State – but it's also going on the road for the first time with a true freshman quarterback, Wes Lunt, and without last year's three best players, QB Brandon Weeden, wide receiver Justin Blackmon and tackle Levy Adcock. The system is the same; the players running it are not. For all intents and purposes, this is the first real game for the new faces.
That's not true for the much-maligned defense, which was much better in 2011 than the standard numbers reflected (ask Robert Griffin III) and returns eight starters, at least four of whom are obvious All-Big 12 candidates. Not that OSU minds operating in shootout mode if necessary, considering it usually comes out in shootout mode and stays there until the margin on the scoreboard makes it safe to throttle down. But the margin of error will be established by the defense, and the higher it is, the less costly an untimely error or even a meltdown by the revamped offense will be.
ARIZONA WILL WIN IF: It takes care of the ball. Oklahoma State easily led the nation last year in takeaways, coming away with at least three in nine different games, and Arizona 's otherwise smashing offensive debut under first-year coach Rich Rodriguez was very nearly undone last week by three turnovers against Toledo. All three giveaways came in Toledo territory, helping offset a 624-yard outburst by the vaunted "Spread 'n Shred," fueled by monster games from new starters at quarterback (Matt Scott:461 total yards, 2 TDs) and tailback (Ka'Deem Carey: 156 yards from scrimmage, 1 TD on a 73-yard run). Despite a huge edge in overall production, the Wildcats had to hang on to win by a thread in overtime.
Again, the Wildcats should be able to move the ball. But if it turns into a back-and-forth shootout, they cannot afford to keep giving it away.
X-FACTOR: Wes Lunt was 11-for-11 passing in his first college start, which would have been recognized as one of the headlining acts of opening weekend if not for the part about Savannah State's defense. (Seriously: How bad is Savannah State? In 2011, the Tigers went 1-10 and yielded at least 40 points in losses to Southeastern Louisiana, Appalachian State, Morgan State, Florida A&M, Norfolk State and Bethune-Cookman. This week, they're 49.5-point underdogs at Florida State, which is generous.) In hostile territory, against an FBS defense with a pulse, we'll get a much better idea of where Lunt and the OSU offense stand as a whole.