BCS Standings 2011: Mapping Oklahoma State's Path to the BCS Title
If the Oklahoma State Cowboys win out they are, most likely, in the national championship game.
However, there are a few key things and players to keep an eye on as the season moves forward. The Cowboys seem to control their own destiny, but a few things could happen that could keep them out of the title picture.
What are the five key events that the Cowboys are keeping an eye on as they move towards the championship? Which five players need to step up to ensure Oklahoma State stays undefeated? Read on to find out.
Key Player: Justin Blackmon, Deadly Weapon
There's no arguing that Justin Blackmon is one of the best wide receivers in college football. Through eight games, he's already amassed 74 catches, 834 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those numbers aren't quite as good as last year's campaign, but they're still enough to make him a top receiver.
Because of injuries to other key players, he's going to have to continue to play well as Oklahoma State moves towards the end of their season. Hubert Anyiam is out for the rest of the season, which leaves the Cowboys with a void opposite Blackmon. Josh Cooper was a non-factor against Baylor.
Blackmon has always seen teams stack coverage his way, but he could see it happen even more in the coming weeks. The other Cowboy receivers have been very up and down recently, making Blackmon the only consistent threat in the passing game. Look for him to relish the challenge and continue to put up huge numbers.
Key Event: Improvement from Secondary Receivers
As I said in the previous slide, the Cowboys receivers after Justin Blackmon have been very hit or miss this season. Josh Cooper has had a couple of big games, but isn't a dynamic enough threat to draw coverages away from Blackmon. Outside of Cooper, the Cowboys have lots of raw athletes who need to show they can produce consistently.
Tracy Moore is probably the best option to replace Hubert Anyiam opposite Blackmon. He has the raw size and speed needed to become a legitimate deep threat. Michael Harrison has similar tools, but hasn't shown the same consistency as Moore. Isaiah Anderson, the final option, doesn't have the size the other two do, but he has a knack for getting into the end zone.
It's probably going to have to be a committee effort to draw coverages off of Blackmon. All of these guys have the skills needed to become the Cowboys' next big threat in the passing game, but, until they show that talent over a few games, Oklahoma State is going to have a tough time getting Blackmon open.
Key Player: Brandon Weeden, Accurate Assassin
Brandon Weeden may be 28 years old, but he's also one of the most accurate passers in the nation. He does have seven interceptions, but almost all of those came in the first three games of the season.
In fact, since conference play began, he's only thrown one interception against fourteen touchdowns. That kind of dominant play is what Oklahoma State needs from their quarterback. Weeden has to be deadly accurate and keep the ball away from potent Big 12 offenses.
Weeden's play is going to make or break Oklahoma State's season in the coming weeks. He's going to have to carve up defenses to make sure that his team stays on top of the deadly offenses the Cowboys will be facing in the next few weeks.
Key Event: LSU @ Alabama
The LSU-Alabama game isn't the biggest game on the schedule for the Cowboys, but it is important. One of these teams will be the squad that Oklahoma State has to play for the national championship. It's hard to say which one Oklahoma State would rather face, but it would be silly to say that the Cowboys don't have at least some interest in which team wins.
LSU's defense is one of the most dominant in college football, but Alabama is right there with them. Both teams are in the top three in points allowed, with LSU giving up 11.5 and Bama allowing just 6.9 points per game.
Oklahoma State has been able to disrupt every elite passer they've faced so far, but their front seven isn't the strongest in the country. Taking on a player like Trent Richardson is a recipe for a Cowboy loss. They're going to have a tough time beating either team, but I like their chances against LSU more than against Alabama.
Key Player: Jamie Blatnick, Sack Master
Jamie Blatnick is a name most people outside of Stillwater, OK haven't heard, but he's one of the best sack artists in the country this year. His seven sacks through eight games puts him in the Top 10 in the nation this year for sacks recorded.
The Cowboys' front seven has a few playmakers spread throughout, but it has had its difficulties this year. Blatnick has been the biggest playmaker for the Cowboys' defensive line and has given Oklahoma State a guy who can pressure the outstanding quarterbacks that call the Big 12 home.
Blatnick is going to have to continue to play at a high level if Oklahoma State's defense is going to continue to force as many turnovers as they have. Blatnick's pressure makes quarterbacks get rid of the ball early and that leads to interceptions. Considering that Oklahoma State has the most interceptions in the NCAA, I'd say that Blatnick is doing a great job this year.
Key Event: Defense Continues to Bend, but Not Break
The Oklahoma State defense gave up over 600 yards to the Baylor Bears this weekend, but still held Baylor scoreless until the end of the third quarter. They've been doing this all season and seem to have a knack for stopping opponents even when it looks like they're about to give up a touchdown.
The Cowboy defense causes tons of turnovers and the team currently boasts the best turnover margin in the nation. They're going to have to continue to employ this bend, don't break mentality as they move forward.
Oklahoma State's defense isn't going to hold anyone to under 300 yards, but they will steal possessions for the offense. The more often Brandon Weeden and company have the ball, the more points the Pokes will put up on the board. If the defense continues to force turnovers, the Cowboys will have no problem beating anyone in a shootout.
Key Player: Broderick Brown, Playmaker
Coming into the season, most people thought that the Oklahoma State secondary would be a weak link because of their youth. In fact, Markelle Martin was the only player that many fans had heard of. However, Broderick Brown quickly proved himself to be one of the best cornerbacks in the nation.
He's already picked off four passes and also has two fumble recoveries on the season. The man is a big play waiting to happen. He leads the best ball-hawking team in the nation and has been very impressive all year long. Brown makes at least one big play in every game and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Brown has to continue playing well if the secondary is going to continue their level of play. Look for him to add a few more interceptions before this season is over, especially when Oklahoma State goes to play Texas Tech.
Key Event: Stanford Must Fall
More than likely, if Oklahoma State wins out they'll see themselves in the national championship. However, Stanford did jump the Cowboys in the most recent USA Today poll. It's unlikely that the Cardinal will jump them in the BCS poll, but Oklahoma State would love to see Stanford fall.
Stanford doesn't have too many games left, but there are a few that they could lose. Oregon State is the only road game left on the Cardinal's schedule, and they probably won't see a loss there. However, they follow that up with a game against the No. 8 Oregon Ducks, who could easily trip up Stanford. They then finish the season off with a game against Notre Dame, another team that Stanford could lose to.
Obviously, the most important thing for the Cowboys to do is to win the rest of their games. However, they wouldn't mind some help along the way. A Stanford loss would mean one less thing the Cowboys have to worry about.
Key Player: Joseph Randle, Touchdown Machine
Joseph Randle began the season on a tear, but cooled off when league play began. However, in the past two weeks he's regained his early-season pace. Saturday made it back-to-back games in which Randle had four touchdowns for the potent Cowboys offense.
His 152 yards on only 14 carries made for an impressive 10.9 yards per carry against Baylor, but it was his four rushing touchdowns that had everyone talking. Randle's elite speed and vision have given the Cowboys a legitimate ground attack to go with their highly regarded passing game.
If Randle can continue churning out yards and touchdowns for the Cowboys, then the passing attack is going to be even more deadly. When defenses have to stay honest for fear of being beaten by Randle, that puts Justin Blackmon in much more favorable matchups. Look for Randle to continue his recent dominance as the Cowboys move forward.
Key Event: Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State
No game on either team's schedule is bigger than this year's Bedlam matchup. Oklahoma State might come in undefeated and have a chance to play for the national championship if they beat the Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners may come in with only one loss and if they can beat the Cowboys, might also have a shot to play for the title depending on which teams lose from now until then.
Bedlam is always a big game for the entire state of Oklahoma, but this year's contest is different. There could be a spot in the national championship on the line for both teams, and you can be sure that both programs realize this.
These two teams are two of the best in the nation and it's hard to decide which one has the edge coming into this matchup. The Cowboys will be at home, but the Sooners came into Stillwater and beat Oklahoma State last year so being on their home turf might not be a huge advantage for the Pokes.
Outside of the LSU-Alabama game, this is the biggest game in the regular season. You can rest assured that December 3rd will be a great day for college football fans everywhere.