Monday, December 20, 2010
Big 12 on the spot: Alamo Bowl
By David Ubben
Oklahoma State looked like the favorites to win the Big 12 in the final month of the season, but a loss to Oklahoma landed them in the Alamo Bowl. Disappointing for the Cowboys, sure, but all things considered, a pretty good finish. Oklahoma State has a chance to win 11 games for the first time in school history when they play against Arizona in San Antonio.
So, who needs to step up for them to get that 11th win?
The secondary. Arizona's Nick Foles missed two games in 2010, but still averaged more than 290 yards a game in 10 starts, up from just more than 200 last season. The Wildcats have eight -- yes, eight -- players with at least 20 catches this season. None were more productive than junior Juron Criner (big points for the top-notch name), a 6-foot-4, 210-pound target who caught 74 passes for 1,197 yards and 10 touchdowns to lead the Pac-10 in receptions and receiving yardage.
Arizona loves the screen game, and Oklahoma State corners Brodrick Brown and Andrew McGee need to shed blocks and make stops to shut down the dangerous Wildcats offense.
The offense is reminiscent of Texas Tech's Air Raid. In fact, Texas Tech is on the only team in the Big 12 to equal Arizona's feat of eight receivers with 20 catches. Baylor is the league's only other team with more than five receivers with 20 receptions.
McGee led the Big 12 in interceptions, with five, but he's not likely to grab one in this game. That's no problem. McGee or Brown racking up tackles typically wouldn't be a good thing, but it might be in this game, depending on how reliant the Wildcats decide to be on those screens.
Safeties Johnny Thomas and Markelle Martin have to prevent the big play. If receivers start reaching the second level of the defense on underneath routes and screens and the safeties are the ones racking up tackles, this could turn into a shootout that takes 40 points to win.