Oklahoma State Bowl Game 2010: Breaking Down the Cowboys in the Alamo Bowl
Despite finishing the season with a 10-2 record and a share of the Big 12 South Division Championship, 2010 will instead be remembered for what the Oklahoma State Cowboys could have accomplished.
A win over the Oklahoma Sooners, who defeated the Cowboys 47-41 in each team's final regular season game, would have given Oklahoma State a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game and a shot at their first conference title since winning the Big 8 crown in 1976.
However, the Cowboys will settle for a match-up against Mike Stoops and the Arizona Wildcats in the Valero Alamo Bowl in what should be one of the best games of the 2010-2011 Bowl Season.
Here's how Oklahoma State looks heading into the bowl game.
As far as offense is concerned, the Cowboys are arguably the best team in college football.
Led by Fred Biletnikoff Award winner Justin Blackmon (102 receptions, 1,665 yards, 18 touchdowns), Oklahoma State has the nation's second best passing offense (354.7 yards per game) and third best scoring offense (44.9 points per game).
However, the Cowboy offense certainly isn't a one-trick pony.
Oklahoma State boasts the nation's No. 29 rushing offense (182.9 yards per game) which features senior running back Kendall Hunter (1,516 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns, 5.8 yards per carry).
While the Arizona Wildcats aren't slouches defensively, they aren't among the nation's elite either, ranking No. 36 in total defense (343.3 yards per game) and No. 33 in scoring defense (21.6 points per game).
To slow down a team like Mike Gundy's squad, a team needs to play their best game of the season and even then, the Cowboys will probably still light up the scoreboard.
The Oklahoma State offense practically moves the ball down the field at will and for the team's sake; it's a good thing they do because the Cowboys don't exactly have the best defense in the nation.
In fact, Oklahoma State is downright putrid defensively, ranking No. 91 nationally in total defense (412.8 yards per game) and No. 68 in scoring defense (27.8 points per game).
Making matters worse for Mike Gundy's team is they will be putting the nation's sixth worst pass defense (275.5 yards per game) against Arizona's ninth-ranked air attack (310 yards per game).
The lone bright spot on the Cowboys' defense is senior linebacker Orie Lemon, a member of the All-Big 12 first team, who leads the team with 119 tackles and ranks third nationally with 7.75 solo tackles per game.
Another stat that favors Oklahoma State is their plus-eight turnover margin, which is an indication that even though the Cowboy defense may be porous, they are still capable of making stops when needed.
Overall, Oklahoma State may have a chance defensively if Lemon is able to disrupt the rhythm of Wildcat quarterback Nick Foles (2,911 passing yards, 19 touchdowns) but don't count on it.
When the Oklahoma State offense fails to score touchdowns (which doesn't happen often), they still manage to make game-changing plays.
Another way that they put points on the board is with their stellar placekicker Dan Bailey, who won this season's Lou Groza Award for his efforts for the Cowboys.
Bailey, a member of the 2010 All-American Second Team, ranked third in the nation with 24 field goals made in 28 attempts, registering a phenomenal 86 percent accuracy.
And when they can't score, the Cowboys rely on FWAA All-American punter Quinn Sharp, who has Oklahoma State ranked third nationally in punting average (46.2 yards per punt).
When receiving the opposition's kicks, Justin Gilbert takes charge, recording the nation's No. 14 kick return average (28 yards per return) and taking two kicks to the house for the Cowboys.
While most college football fans know Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy mainly for his "I'm a man! I'm 40!" outburst a few years ago, what they don't know is that he is building a great program in Stillwater.
With the help of some very generous facility upgrades from billionaire Cowboys' fan T. Boone Pickens, Gundy has brought a lot of talent to Oklahoma State, and the team's on-field performance has improved steadily each season.
Gundy will be taking the Cowboys to their fifth straight bowl game after winning a share of the Big 12 South title this season.
And coaching the prolific Oklahoma State offense one final time in the Valero Alamo Bowl will be offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who is taking the same position with the West Virginia Mountaineers next season before succeeding Bill Stewart in 2012.
Seeing as this will be Holgorsen's final outing with the Cowboys, look for him to have a lot of fun utilizing the talents of his orange-and-black-clad playmakers one final time.
Effects On Recruiting
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According to this article by William Wilkerson of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has set his sights on the talent-rich state of Texas in his recruiting strategy.
According to Wilkerson, Gundy has signed 90 Texans to play football for the Cowboys during his tenure and 16 of the 21 commits in his 2011 recruiting class are from Texas.
And that trend could very well continue if Oklahoma State makes a good impression in the Valero Alamo Bowl, which is played in the Alamodome in San Antonio.
A top-notch performance by the Cowboys against Arizona combined with a down year for the Lone Star State's premier program in the Texas Longhorns, could allow Oklahoma State to snag a few uncommitted Big 12 prospects in Texas.
Cowboys Want To End Bowl Game Losing Streak
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While Mike Gundy has seen steady improvement from his football team each season he has spent in Stillwater, he's had a little trouble winning the last two bowl games.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys dropped the 2008 Pacific Life Holiday Bowl to the Oregon Ducks in a 42-31 offensive shootout and then lost to the Ole Miss Rebels 21-7 in last season's Cotton Bowl.
No matter how high or low the stakes, no team takes losing well and you would think that Gundy and the Cowboys have placed extra emphasis on finishing their season on a winning note this year.
Besides, a win in the season's final game can do a lot for the immediate future of a football team.
Springboard for 2011
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While the Cowboys will suffer an array of big losses including running back Kendall Hunter, linebacker Orie Lemon, kicker Dan Bailey and offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen after the Valero Alamo Bowl, 2011 could be a great season in Stillwater.
If leading receiver Justin Blackmon and star quarterback Brandon Weeden decide to fore-go their NFL Draft eligibility, Oklahoma State could put up a lot of points again next season.
And if the Cowboys want to try and win the Big 12 South title outright next season, a big win over the Arizona Wildcats to kick off the 2011 calendar year would work wonders for the football program.
These non-BCS bowl games may have no tangible meaning other than significant extra practice time, but in terms of momentum and motivation, they mean the world to their participants.
NFL Draft Auditions
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With a bunch of talented upperclassmen preparing to suit up for the Cowboys one final time in the Alamodome, there will definitely be a bunch of guys trying to improve their NFL stock.
The Alamo Bowl is just one of three bowl games that will be played on Dec. 29, so players like senior running back Kendall Hunter and potential declarers in junior Brandon Weeden and sophomore Justin Blackmon need to bring their "A" game.
Implications for the Big 12 Conference
During the conference expansion craze last offseason, the Big 12 was one of college football's biggest losers when the dust settled.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers decided to take their talents to the Big Ten while the Colorado Buffaloes took their...uh, football program to the Pac-10.
Luckily for the hurting conference, the Texas Longhorns rejected the advances of the SEC and the Pac-10 and decided to stick it out with the Big 12.
As a result of the shakeup, the Big 12 is out to prove their worth and perhaps the best way to do so is to win head-to-head matchups with non-conference foes.
If the Cowboys can take down the Wildcats in convincing fashion, that would do a lot for the Big 12's image in the college football landscape.
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Despite missing out on a potential BCS bowl berth, the Oklahoma State Cowboys still have a lot to play for, and that will show against the Arizona Wildcats in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Both Oklahoma State and Arizona have great passing offenses and neither has anything special on the defensive side of the ball, so this game will likely come down to the ground game.
That's not to say there won't be any passing. In fact, the majority of the offensive output will likely come through the air.
However, the team that can put together a rushing attack good enough to keep the opposing team off balance should end up winning this game.
Oklahoma State Cowboys 34, Arizona Wildcats 30