Playing a middle of the road Pac-10 team in the Alamo Bowl may not be what Cowboy fans envisioned after such a historical season in Stillwater. However, it is still a game that will carry some meaning, with a win against Arizona meaning the first 11-win season in program history. Here is how the teams stack up:
OSU running game vs. Arizona front seven
Running the ball effectively against the Arizona defense can be hard at times, but is essential in the outcome of the game. The Wildcats only gave up two touchdowns on 2.61 yards per carry in their seven wins this season. In stark contrast, during their five losses they yielded 13 touchdowns on 4.54 yards per carry.
For the Cowboys to have success, they must establish Kendall Hunter and Joseph Randle early and maintain a balanced attack throughout the game. This will be a special game for both running backs, as Hunter will be closing out a storied career and passing the torch to the supremely talented Randle. Edge: OSU
OSU passing game vs. Arizona secondary
With offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen’s official departure to West Virginia, questions surround the Oklahoma State offense entering the Alamo Bowl. The offensive mastermind and playcaller that engineered one of the top offenses in the nation will coach in the game, but where will his focus be.
At his initial press conference at West Virginia last week he maintained his stance that he will be prepared to play Arizona. Whether he follows through or not will be a huge factor. However, a powerful offense that features Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Hunter should still be able to move the ball. Edge: OSU
Arizona running game vs. OSU front seven
Much of Arizona’s success hinges on its ability to run the football. Overall the numbers have them as an average team on the ground, but digging a little deeper reveals their inconsistent ways. In the Wildcats seven wins this year, they have run for 1,121 yards and 17 touchdowns.
However, the ground game has stalled in their five losses, rushing for only 501 yards and three touchdowns. So, along with the importance of establishing the run on offense, Orie Lemon and the Cowboys front must also contain the Wildcat ground game. Edge: Even
Arizona passing game vs. OSU secondary
Many casual fans may not know the name, but Arizona quarterback Nick Foles is a special talent. In his last two seasons, Foles has combined to throw for 5,397 yards and 38 touchdowns. He is a pro-style quarterback that likes to sit in the pocket and hit receivers downfield.
This makes the Cowboy pass rush, something that has quietly struggled as of late, a key factor in the game. Richetti Jones and Ugo Chinasa must provide pressure and allow their secondary a chance to make plays. Edge: Arizona
When stacking these teams up against each other, the Cowboys would be the clear favorite.
However, that is based off the regular season and does not take into account the uniqueness of bowl games. The long layoff and great bowl sites provide many potential distractions, and, in Oklahoma State’s case, a period for its assistant coaches to look for greener pastures. It will be interesting to see if the Cowboys come out as focused and prepared as they did all season.
In the end, talent should prevail, allowing Oklahoma State to win its first Alamo Bowl in three tries. Oklahoma State 41-24