COLUMBIA- On the surface, Oklahoma State might be considered a lesser-known version of Missouri.
The Cowboys have a quarterback, Zac Robinson, who is respected throughout the Big 12 Conference but overshadowed nationally by Missouri's Chase Daniel, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Texas's Colt McCoy.
Kendall Hunter, the Cowboys' running back, and Dez Bryant, their top wide receiver, both rank fifth nationally in yards per game, Hunter on the ground and Bryant through the air.
But besides an ability to score, Missouri's Jeremy Maclin doesn't see the similarities.
"None of that really matters," Maclin said. "Chase Daniel's the best quarterback in the nation. If you ask me, nobody's a counterpart to him. Me and Dez Bryant are two different types of receivers. He's more of a taller guy, he does different things."
Maclin's insistence that the two offenses are different is understandable, because Oklahoma State's style of the spread offense is different from Missouri's. While the Tigers are a pass-first team that can also win with the run, the Cowboys are more of a run-first team that can also win with the pass.
The most obvious difference between the two teams is in how long they have the ball. A quick-strike offense and a lack of a necessity to run out the clock have put the Tigers last in the Big 12 in time of possession. By contrast, Oklahoma State has the highest time of possession in the league.
"What they want to do is get out there and run the football, and they have a very efficient passing attack," coach Gary Pinkel said. "Their rushing yards are phenomenal, as you all know. They run the football as well as anyone in the country."
That could make Saturday's game less of an offensive shootout and more a case of strength against strength. Oklahoma State has the best rushing offense in the Big 12 by a wide margin with an average of 315.2 yards a game, but Missouri's run defense is second in the conference only to Texas, giving up 94.4 yards a game.
But that's not comforting enough for Pinkel, given that shutting down the run does not necessarily mean shutting down the Cowboys.
"We'll be tested, we'll find out how strong we are against the run," Pinkel said. "That's a tough thing if you've got a good quarterback that can throw well and you've got good receivers. That's got big play written all over it because they suck you up. It'll be a real test for us."
Maclin said that he thinks the defense will be up to that test.
"I've got great respect for my defense, I believe in them," Maclin said. "Everybody thought last year that Texas Tech was going to be a shootout, and my defense came out and held them to 10 points. I believe in them, and I think they'll get the job done."
AVOIDING MISTAKES: The Tigers only committed one penalty in their win over Nebraska last week, a common theme for them. Missouri is the least-penalized team in Division I-A football and is tied for seventh nationally in least penalty yards per game.
The Tigers have also avoided beating themselves with turnovers, committing only five in as many games.
By contrast, Texas A&M, who has the most turnovers in the Big 12, had five in the first half alone last week against Oklahoma State.
"We have some maturity, I think that's helped us a little bit," Pinkel said. "We have a lot of returning starters. They've been in the arena and they understand a lot about focus. Part of our plan to win, one of the bullet points is don't beat yourself."
THE DIFFERENCE EIGHT MINUTES MAKES: Daniel said that after completing four games, Pinkel cut eight minutes off each Missouri practice, something he does after every four games of the season to help keep the Tigers fresher as the season wears on.
Although eight minutes might not seem like much, Daniel said it made a difference and will help guard against a letdown as the season continues
"I think it really helped, our legs were under us," he said. "There can't be a letdown. There's not going to be a letdown because we're playing a highly ranked team."