Arizona Football: 5 Reasons Arizona Can Beat Oklahoma State

Casey CroweFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2011

Arizona Football: 5 Reasons Arizona Can Beat Oklahoma State

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    It was as ugly as it should've been on Saturday night.

    Arizona overwhelmed Northern Arizona 41-10, showing off a high-powered passing game that was set up by an effective 60 minutes from the five brand-new starters on the offensive line.

    The attack totaled 518 yards and six touchdowns.

    And the Wildcats defense was better than expected in every quarter except the second, allowing just 10 points, none in the last 30 minutes. 

    But that was against the state's whipping boy, the Football Championship Subdivision Lumberjacks, a crew that was outclassed at every position.

    Now the schedule turns vicious for Mike Stoops' program.

    Arizona will face three-straight top 10 teams, starting with a Thursday night showdown on ESPN3D against emerging-power Oklahoma State.

    And it's in Stillwater, Okla., a brutal trip for any team in the country.

    Arizona will enter as a heavy underdog. But there are reasons to believe an upset is in order.

    Here are five reasons why Arizona can beat Oklahoma State: 

The Aerial Show Is as Sharp as Anticipated

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    Nick Foles is a future NFL quarterback.

    Juron Criner is a future NFL receiver.

    Texas-transfer Dan Buckner appears to own a professional future catching passes.

    All of them were impressive against the Lumberjacks.

    Foles completed 34-of-42 passes for 417 yards, five touchdowns and no picks.

    Criner totaled 151 yards on six catches and a score.

    Buckner wasn't flashy, but he snared four catches for 38 yards, proving his value as a possession man (though he did drop an easy one).

    That was against a NAU secondary that ranked second in the Big Sky Conference in total passing yards allowed last year, a solid group.

    Now, Foles, Criner, Buckner and the rest of the receiving crew must face a similar talent level in the defensive backfield at Oklahoma State.

    The Cowboys secondary only allowed 210 yards on 20-of-38 pass attempts in a 61-34 win against lowly Louisiana-Lafayette, the bulk of that yardage coming in garbage time.

Mohammed Usman, C.J. Parish Are Threats on the Defensive Line

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    Arizona saw three of its defensive linemen taken in the NFL draft after last season: Brooks Reed (Texans; pictured), Ricky Elmore (Packers) and D'Aundre Reed (Vikings).

    That left a raw, inexperienced crew to man the line.

    The only sure thing coming into the year was Justin Washington, who shined in his debut as a freshman last year, as he was named a second-team Freshman All-American.

    As long as he is able to dodge pine nuts, he should remain the anchor.

    Insert Mohammed Usman and C.J. Parish on the ends, and the outlook is just fine.

    Usman, a junior-college transfer who started his career at Houston, certainly spoke the part of a confident lineman in the preseason, telling TucsonCitzen.com's Anthony Gimino the following,

    “I’m going to hold my own. I’m going to make sure every play the quarterback feels me, knows I am coming off that edge and make him think twice about running the ball my way. I have to instill that.

    Don’t run it my way, don’t throw it my way, don’t look my way, don’t even speak my way. My side is my side. That’s my edge. I don’t want anybody over there.”

    On Saturday night against NAU, Usman's presence was definitely felt early.

    The man assigned to stop Usman, Trey Gilleo, had two false start penalties in the first half as he had trouble matching the speed of the new Arizona end.

    Parish started the game by sacking NAU quarterback Cary Grossart on the first play.

Arizona Will Be Playing as the Underdog

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    This is Mike Stoops' specialty.

    Even in his early years, when the team was unable to produce winning records, Stoops always seemed to steal an upset in each-and-every one of those seasons.

    In 2005, an Arizona team that finished 3-8 still managed to blowout UCLA by 38 points, when the Bruins were 8-0 and No. 7 in the nation.

    In 2006, an Antoine Cason interception return for a touchdown sealed a 24-20 win over No. 9 California.

    In 2007, Arizona took down No. 2 Oregon and saw then-Heisman hopeful Dennis Dixon's knee get blown out in the process.

    In 2010, Nick Foles orchestrated an early-season upset of then No. 9 Iowa.

    Those are just the top-10 teams Stoops' squads have taken down, but there are other examples of Arizona rising up unexpectedly during his tenure.

    The Wildcats will have plenty of opportunities to do the same real soon, as they will likely enter the next four weeks as underdogs to Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC.

    Given the youth of this squad, especially on the lines, maybe playing without the added expectations of being the favorite is exactly what is needed to add another story line to the list above.

Arizona Knows Oklahoma State's Strengths All Too Well

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    Oklahoma State hammered Arizona in last season's Alamo Bowl.

    It was never close. Final score: 36-10.

    Perhaps the only positive that came out of that game is that nothing went right.

    Arizona coughed up three first-half turnovers.

    Nick Foles posted one of the worst games of his career.

    And Oklahoma State cashed in on huge plays against Arizona's defense, including a 71-yard touchdown strike from Brandon Weeden to Justin Blackmon (pictured), one of the most feared QB-to-WR combos in the country.

    The Cowboys have nothing to be wary of because they completely shut everything down.

    Overconfidence is a real possibility after dominating an opponent in that fashion.

    Arizona will have a new game plan for attacking the Cowboys, while Oklahoma State is unlikely to change too much, given the onslaught of success they had against the Wildcats just last December.

    Adjustments are everything.

The New Offensive Line Looks Just Fine

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    The most-frightening unknown entering the year for Arizona was the baby-faced offensive line.

    Arizona debuted five new starters on Saturday night: Mickey Baucus, Shane Zink, Kyle Quinn, Chris Putton and Fabians Ebbele.

    They combined to allow no sacks, keeping Foles out of harm's way for almost the entirety.

    That had to do wonders for their confidence entering a severe test in Stillwater.

    Speaking of debuts, although true freshman Ka'Deem (soon-to-be Ka'Dream) Carey didn't enter the game until it was out of hand, he showed off the burst and agility that Arizona has lacked at the running back position for a long time.

    Carey totaled 59 yards on nine carries, and looked the part of a college rusher.

    If Oklahoma State is able to slow down Foles' assault through the air, Carey could become a factor, as he appears to be the next option after incumbent Keola Antolin in the backfield.