Cowboy D faces a new challenge in Cardinal

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
9:00
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This is all a little new for Oklahoma State.

A BCS game? Carrying the Big 12 banner as league champs? Playing on the big stage while big brother Oklahoma puts its season to bed early in the nearby Insight Bowl?

Their reward? A matchup with No. 4 Stanford, who Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Bill Young says has "probably the best offensive line we’ve seen in the three years I’ve been here."

[+] EnlargeStanford's Andrew Luck
Jason O. Watson/US PRESSWIREStanford's offensive line gives quarterback Andrew Luck plenty time and paves the way for plenty of rushing yards, too.
The offense shows it. Lacking in speedy weapons, Stanford plays a physical brand of football rarely found in the Big 12, outside of perhaps Austin, Texas, and Manhattan, Kansas.

Simply put, however: Stanford does it better.

"We’re pretty blessed this year with a really good scout team in that we have a lot of big, physical offensive linemen and they’re helping us quite a bit, giving us a good look," Young said. "Nothing like we’ll see in the game, however."

They'll see an offense that's rushed for 2,495 yards on 468 carries, averaging 5.33 yards per carry with an offensive line that boasts a pair of future NFL draft picks and an NFL draft pick at tight end.

They're good enough to give some guy named Andrew Luck all day to throw on most attempts, a luxury he'll likely lack when he's named the No. 1 pick in next April's draft.

Stanford lack's the usual speed of Big 12 offenses Oklahoma State's accustomed to, but possesses a power few in the Big 12 can duplicate, especially in the passing game. Three of the Cardinal's top four receivers are tight ends, and each have more catches than all but three Big 12 tight ends.

"They’re very patient from the standpoint of if they make 3 yards on first down, they don’t feel like they have to come back and throw it on second down," Young said. "They’re going to make a lot of yardage running the football, and there’s not very many third and longs."

Instead, you'll see plenty of third-and-3 or less with a quarterback in Luck smart enough to change the play at the line of scrimmage and get his offense into one that will take advantage of a defense's vulnerability on any given play.

The result can be long, plodding drives not often seen in conference play for the Cowboys. The worst side effect: the Cowboys high-powered, quick-strike offense can be kept off the field.

"What concerns us is our offense going stale on the sideline because they’re not on the field very much," Young said.

The defense can swing that with its trademark turnovers, but it won't be easy.

The Cardinal's 15 turnovers in 12 games are fewer than all but eight teams in college football. Oklahoma State's defense has forced an FBS-high 42 turnovers, six more than any team in college football.

Something's gotta give.

Oklahoma State hopes its defensive line isn't what earns that distinction.

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