CREATED Oct. 24, 2013 - UPDATED: Oct. 25, 2013
AMES, Iowa (AP) -- No. 19 Oklahoma State will open the second half of the season unsettled at quarterback and with an offense that's been somewhat average of late.
What a perfect time to play Iowa State.
The Cyclones (1-5, 0-3 Big 12) are coming off the worst loss in school history, a 71-7 shellacking at No. 6 Baylor. They've given up 113 points since a heartbreaking one-point loss to Texas and are on pace for their worst finish in the five-year tenure of coach Paul Rhoads.
Still, the Cowboys (5-1, 2-1) aren't nearly as certain at quarterback as they'd like to be by now.
Sophomore J.W. Walsh was pulled in favor of senior Clint Chelf after throwing a pair of early interceptions last week against TCU.
Chelf's first pass was also picked off, but he eventually led Oklahoma State past the Horned Frogs 24-10.
The Cowboys don't intend to announce who will start on Saturday. The Cyclones - and everyone else - will probably find out who they're facing when either Walsh or Chelf trots out for the first play.
"We feel we have two good quarterbacks and we need to make sure we're doing what we can to help them improve and get them playing at a high level. It starts with ball security," Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich said. "It's about getting the ball to our playmakers and creating space for them."
Iowa State is also a bit shaky at quarterback. But coach Paul Rhoads said Tuesday that he's sticking with sophomore Sam Richardson even though he, like Walsh, was pulled during last week's game.
Richardson is just 22 of 52 passing in losses to Texas Tech and the Bears in the past two weeks.
"He's got to make smarter decisions and quicker judgments," Rhoads said.
Here are five things to know as Oklahoma State looks to keep pace with the front-runners in the Big 12 against the struggling Cyclones.
2011 REMATCH: Oklahoma State visits Iowa State for the first time since a stunning 37-31 double overtime upset in 2011 that knocked the Cowboys out of the national title race. For the Oklahoma State players who were on that team two years ago, that defeat still stings. "The main thing I remember is the feeling leaving from there. It's something you can't explain, especially knowing that you were supposed to beat that team. It was a good thing to learn from but it was probably one of the worst feelings I've ever had," receiver Tracy Moore said. The Cowboys beat Iowa State 31-10 in Stillwater last season.
OFFENSIVE O: Even though Iowa State's defense just let up 71 points, Rhoads remains more concerned the struggles of the Cyclones offense. Iowa State has failed to pick up a first down on 19 separate drives over the past two weeks. "It's been the two back-to-back weeks where, overall, we've been very unproductive and, at times, inept," Rhoads said. Iowa State is eighth in the Big 12 in scoring at 25.2 points per game.
VERSATILE: Oklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart is one of five players in the country with multiple punt returns for touchdowns this season. He had 265 all-purpose yards in the win over TCU, including 10 receptions for 141 yards and a 95-yard punt return for a TD. "That was as good of an executed play as you get," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "Obviously that was a great return, and punt returns are all about getting started if you have a talented returner who can make the first guy miss."
LINE WOES: Iowa State's starting offensive line on Saturday will be the seventh different combination in seven games this season. The Cyclones opened this week's practice with a freshman, three sophomores and a junior working along the line. "Not a league where you want to be playing with those kinds of young people at those positions. But that's what we've got," Rhoads said.
RELATIVELY SPEAKING: Most teams would take Oklahoma State's 35.7 points scored a game, which is third-best in the Big 12. But the Cowboys were third-best in the country in 2012 at 45.7 points per game, second with 48.7 points two years ago and third at 44.2 points a game in 2010. "We as an offense have to get better," Yurcich said.
No. 19 Oklahoma State (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) at Iowa State (1-5, 0-3); 11 a.m. (FSN)
Series record: Oklahoma State leads 26-18-3.
Line: Oklahoma State by 13.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Oklahoma State need to win to keep pace with Texas Tech, Texas and Baylor, all of whom enter the weekend unbeaten in the Big 12. The Cyclones have to win five of their last six games to be bowl eligible for the fourth time under coach Paul Rhoads.
Iowa State's defensive line vs. Oklahoma State's offensive line. The Cowboys haven't announced whether J.W Walsh or Clint Chelf will start at quarterback, but neither of them will be very effective if the line can't protect them. Iowa State hasn't been great at getting at the quarterback though, with just 10 sacks through six games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Oklahoma State. WR Josh Stewart. He had 265 yards in last week's win over TCU, including a 95-yard punt return for a score. Stewart's prowess as a returner could help spark Oklahoma State's offense, which struggled against the Horned Frogs.
Iowa State: QB Sam Richardson. He was pulled for the first time in last week's 71-7 loss to Baylor. Richardson will start against the Cowboys, but a rough showing could quickly land him back on the bench.
FACTS & FIGURES
Oklahoma State, which has ranked in the top three nationally in scoring every year since 2010, has scored 24 points or less three times in six games...Iowa State is last in the Big 12 in scoring defense at 36.7 points a game after allowing 113 points in its last two outings ... Oklahoma State would be bowl eligible for the eighth year in a row if it beats Iowa State ... Four of Iowa State's five losses were by eight points or less.
Copyright 2013. Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.