Oklahoma State has already lost to a supposedly inferior opponent coming out of a bye week and is determined not to let it happen again.
Following their second break in a month, the No. 21 Cowboys (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) hope to avoid the inconsistency that plagued their 30-21 defeat at West Virginia Sept. 28 when TCU (3-3, 1-2) visits on Saturday during homecoming weekend.
But while the Horned Frogs' record looks average, it is misleading, as they've already played three teams ranked in the top 25 and their stellar defense hasn't allowed more than 20 points in a game since their season-opening loss to LSU.
''I don't think their record exemplifies the type of team they are,'' OSU coach Mike Gundy said of TCU. ''They are playing real well on defense. They are trying to run the football and spread you out to throw it a little bit on offense and they have a good return game. We definitely have our work cut out for us.''
TCU coach Gary Patterson considers Oklahoma State a stiff challenge, noting that the Cowboys have also been performing well defensively, ranking 19th in the nation in yards allowed per play (4.69), while the Frogs are 18th (4.65).
''They're playing very well on defense, they've been doing enough to win a lot more games than they've lost,'' Patterson said of OSU. ''A couple of plays here and there for us, and instead of us being 3-3, we could be 5-1. You've just got to find a way to make those five or six plays, and right now, Oklahoma State's been able to do that in key situations and we haven't.''
Five things to watch as Oklahoma State tries to win its 21st straight game at home against an unranked opponent:
1. SLOW-STARTING FROGS: TCU has led at halftime only once in its first six games, and was tied one other time. The Frogs have scored 44 points total in the first half, while scoring 58 points in the third quarter of games and 65 points in the fourth. ''We've got to play the first half like we play the second half,'' Patterson said. ''We've got to have a sense of urgency and we've got to get ready to play.''
2. WELCOME BACK FROGS: This is the second straight year TCU, in its second Big 12 season, is visiting Stillwater because they inherited Texas A&M's conference schedule. OSU and A&M had swapped 2011 and 2012 home games before the Aggies left for the SEC. Last year, the Frogs jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, but Oklahoma State rallied to win 36-14.
3. FRESH TURNOVERS: The turnover battle, as usual, will be crucial to the outcome. After turning the ball over three times at West Virginia, the Cowboys lost the ball just once in their last game, a 33-29 win over Kansas State, while generating five takeaways themselves. ''That's the key thing for our defense,'' OSU linebacker Shaun Lewis said. ''We want to go out, force turnovers and give our offense the ball.'' The Horned Frogs are coming off a game in which they surrendered the ball five times (three fumbles, two interceptions) but still defeated Kansas 27-17.
4. JUST CHILL OUT: Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin won three Big 12 road games as a freshman starter last season, but is 0-2 in those games this year. ''The main thing is just to take a step back and chill out,'' Patterson said. ''He's got to slow down and make sure we get that accomplished, and the rest of the group has to help him.''
5. KICK START: After connecting on just one field goal in four attempts through Oklahoma State's first four games, including two crucial misses in the West Virginia loss, freshman kicker Ben Grogan booted four field goals against K-State, while the only one he missed was blocked.