PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Oklahoma State and Stanford will kick off the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl at 8:30 p.m. ET tonight on ESPN. That means its time to take a look at three keys for the Cowboys to knock off the Cardinal.
1. String together first downs, avoid three-and-outs. Stanford's going to win the time of possession battle in this game. Period. But Oklahoma State's offense will decide how big the deficit is by the game's end. The Cowboys don't look likely to win the battle up front against Stanford's offensive line, but they'll have a much better shot if the defense isn't run down by tons of time on the field. The offense can't afford, at any point in this game, to give up a 6-8 minute drive, then go three-and-out and put the Cardinal offense right back on the field. That's the surest way to lose this game. The Cowboys have to consistently move the ball, even if it doesn't always result in points.
2. Don't outsmart yourself on defense. Andrew Luck? He's pretty smart. Oklahoma State's not going to fool him. It can't trip over itself to try and do so. It can't make it too easy, but Oklahoma State's defense can't get too fancy and get away from basic stuff that's helped them be successful this season. OSU has to disguise blitzes and coverages to some degree, but changing too much this late will ultimately prove counterproductive.
3. Stretch the field, and dare Luck to do the same. Oklahoma State's offense has been less vertical this season than in 2011, but the Cowboys have a speed advantage at the skill positions in this game, and a deep pool of guys who can run with the best. Justin Blackmon and Isaiah Anderson are tough to cover downfield, but Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown have good speed, as do safeties Daytawion Lowe and Markelle Martin. Luck has the arm to get it there, but he can't run routes for his receivers. Overplay short stuff, and make Luck make throws he hasn't made all that often this season.