By Wade Haugen
It’s that time of the year again. Bowl season. The Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3) will be rolling into San Antonio the week of December 29th for the Valero Alamo Bowl with revenge on their minds following a loss in the de facto Big 12 title game in Norman to end the season. The Cowboys started the season 2-2 before turning things around and winning 7 straight before Bedlam in Norman. Their opponent, the Colorado Buffaloes (10-3) are also coming off a disappointing loss to the Washington Huskies, a College Football Playoff team, in the Pac 12 Championship Game. The Buffaloes have been the talk of College Football this year, following last season in which they went 2-10. Coach Mike MacIntyre lead the Buffaloes to a Pac 12 South title this season, and their first bowl game since 2007. Here’s a preview of what to expect:
When people think about this Oklahoma State offensive unit, their thoughts immediately go to Mason Rudolph and James Washington, with good reason. The Rudolph-to-Washington connection became lethal this season for the Cowboys, especially in regards to the deep ball. Rudolph finished the season with 3,777 yards and 25 touchdowns this season, averaging 314.75 passing yards per game. Washington finished the regular season campaign with 1,209 yards and 9 touchdowns. The matchup between James Washington, and Colorado’s potential first round pick cornerback Chidobe Awuzie will have an immense impact on this game. If Washington is able to get free on a few deep balls, then the Cowboys will have successfully neutralized the Buffaloes number one defensive weapon.
Rudolph’s completion percentage was his downfall this season, as it was 63%. While not terrible, Rudolph and coach Mike Gundy would be the first to tell you that this number can be higher. While it was very rare to witness Rudolph struggle this season, the few times his inaccuracy really shined was in the intermediate passing game. When it comes to throwing a deep ball however, there are few better in the country.
While Rudolph and Washington get lots of attention, the key to this offense succeeding lies in the hands of Justice Hill, who finished the regular season with 1,080 yards and 5 touchdowns. Chris Carson also contributed to the rushing attack, finishing with 504 yards and 8 touchdowns on the season. For the Cowboys offense to succeed against Colorado, they must establish the run early. If they do this, then the play-action passing game will be effective, especially in regards to the deep ball they love to throw so much.
The Cowboys defensive unit was less than stellar this season, giving up over 200 yards per game this season on the ground. However, this unit seemed to always make the big plays right when they needed it. They will need to continue this bend-but-don’t break style in the Alamo Bowl. Colorado encompasses a very formidable rushing attack, something that the Cowboys have struggled with this season. However, if the Cowboys can stop the rushing attack of the Buffaloes, which includes running back Phillip Lindsay (1,189 yards, 16 touchdowns) and quarterback Sefo Liufau (496 yards, 7 touchdowns), then they will have successfully halted the most dangerous component of this offense. Liufau’s passing game is questionable at times, as he finished the season with 2,171 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. If the Cowboys can stop the run, then they will take Liufau out of his comfort zone and force him to beat them through the air, which would be very unlikely.
Oklahoma State 35, Colorado 31
Colorado will be extremely excited for this game, considering this is the school’s first bowl game since 2007. However, I still feel that Oklahoma State’s talent will eventually trump Colorado’s. Give Glenn Spencer a month to prepare and he should be able to add some wrinkles to this defense to allow them to stop the Colorado rushing attack. Add in a turnover or possibly two, and the Cowboys will return home Alamo Bowl Champions.