By Matthew Postins
Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4 in Big 12) faces off against Purdue (6-6, 3-5 in Big Ten) in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1. Here’s a preview. Stay with RattleandHumSports.com for game coverage and check out RattleAndHum’s Twitter feed for live updates during the game.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Rankings: Offense: 5th in FBS overall, 22nd rushing (215.2 yards per game), 6th passing (333.4 yards per game). Defense: 35th in FBS overall, 35th against run (140.6 yards per game), 110th against pass (285.7 yards per game)
On offense: Despite serious injury problems at quarterback the Cowboys remained productive. They started three different quarterbacks and all threw for at least 1,000 yards. That may create controversy next August, but for now Clint Chelf should start on Tuesday. Chelf started the season third on the depth chart, but J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt are both injured. The Cowboys still put up plenty of yardage and plenty of points, thanks in part to junior running back Joseph Randle, who gained 112.6 yards per game, rushed for 1,212 yards and led the Big 12 in rushing. He has 38 rushing scores in 25 career games. He’ll be a big part of Tuesday’s game plan. The Cowboys don’t have a Justin Blackmon type this year, but they’ve spread it around at wide receiver, as five different players have had 100-yard receiving games, a first for Oklahoma State. Young players emerged as the season went on. Sophomore Josh Stewart had five 100-yard receiving games and 1,154 yards receiving. Charlie Moore emerged at midseason and scored receiving touchdowns in five straight games. Freshman Austin Hays played nine games but made 25 catches. The Cowboys offensive line has been key to the team’s success, paving the way for four games with 600 or more yards of total offense. This team is especially potent in the fourth quarter, where it’s outscored opponents 72-35. The line also protects the quarterback and has given up 68 sacks in six years, third best in FBS.
On defense: The Cowboys give up a lot of yards, especially against the pass, but they’re opportunistic. They’re the second best in FBS in turnovers forced over the last four years. Defensive tackle Nigel Nicholas is the team’s most dangerous pass rusher, but he has only four sacks this season. Five other Cowboys have at least two sacks this year, including defensive end Ryan Robinson and linebacker Joe Mitchell. Linebacker Alex Elkins leads the Cowboys in tackles with 73, while safety Daytawion Lowe has 68. The Cowboys rely on cornerback Justin Gilbert, with nine pass breakups, and Lowe, who has two interceptions, in pass coverage. This is a unit that gives up a lot of points and, at times, a lot of yards. There seems to be a magic number to beating the Cowboys and that number is 30. The Cowboys have given up at least 30 points in six of their 12 games this year. In those games the Cowboys are 1-5. If the Boilermakers can find some offense, they have a chance.
Rankings: Offense: 59th in FBS overall, 59th rushing (165.0 yards per game), 53rd passing (240.7 yards per game). Defense: 68th in FBS overall, 78th against run (179.3 yards per game), 48th against pass (227.5 yards per game)
On offense: The Boilermakers know how the Cowboys feel at quarterback. The Boilermakers have a revolving door, with Robert Marve, Caleb TerBush and Rob Henry all playing at least eight games this year. Marve ended up with the best numbers, throwing for 1,522 yards and 13 touchdowns. TerBush wasn’t that far behind. Marve will probably start on Tuesday, but don’t be surprised if you see TerBush or Henry, or both, as well. Akeem Shavers will be the primary running back after a regular season in which he gained 778 yards and scored 6 times. The Boilermakers had two receivers with more than 50 receptions, as Antavian Edison (57 catches) and O.J. Ross (51 catches) will be the primary receivers. The Boilermakers are a spread formation team without their head coach, Danny Hope, who was fired last month. Darrell Hazell, the former Kent State coach, will take over after the bowl game. Patrick Higgins, who coaches wide receivers, is the interim coach. The Boilermakers have scored 48 or more points four times this season, but only one of those games came against a BCS school (Indiana).
On defense: The Boilermakers are a bit more vulnerable to the run, so there will be pressure on the interior linemen like tackles Kawaan Short and Bruce Gaston, along with inside linebacker Joe Gilliam, to slow down Randle. Sophomore safety Landon Feichter ended up leading the Boilermakers in tackles in 2012, netting 76 total. He also had four interceptions as he emerged as the Boilermakers’ best young defensive playmaker. Senior cornerback Josh Johnson led the Boilermakers with 16 pass breakups, along with three interceptions. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Oklahoma State chose to throw away from Johnson. Short penetrates the line of scrimmage well, as he finished the regular season with 14.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. Outside of Short the Boilermakers don’t have a consistent pass rusher. They may have to manufacture pressure out of blitzes and other stunts.
Prediction: This looks like a Oklahoma State victory. The Cowboys have too many weapons offensively and they have the ability to overwhelm opponents. The Boilermakers can score points, but they don’t do it as often against BCS teams. They are coming off three straight Big Ten wins, but two of them were low-scoring games and the third was a high-scoring affair with Indiana, one of the worst teams in BCS. The Boilermakers have enough talent to hang in there, but expect the Cowboys to pull away in the second half.
Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Bowl
Oklahoma State (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)
11:00 a.m. Cotton Bowl, Dallas (ESPNU)
Why to watch: Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s public flirtation with the Arkansas and Tennessee jobs caused an upheaval in Stillwater. And you just never know who is going to play quarterback for the Cowboys, although it looks like it’s going to be senior Clint Chelf. New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell brings promise but he won’t coach in this game.
Better channel surf: There’s likely going to be plenty of good seats available for this game. Plus, Oklahoma State’s firepower of running back Joseph Randle, Chelf and wide receiver Josh Stewart bring more than the Boilermakers can handle. This could be another Texas Tech-Minnesota result.
Kevin Lonnquist’s pick: Oklahoma State 39, Purdue 17