Big 12: Heart of Dallas Bowl-2012

Well, this is what most expected, no? Your ESPN Bowl Mania confidence points paid off big, I'm guessing. Purdue was the big underdog and Oklahoma State looked the part of big favorite. Let's take a look at some instant analysis for the Big 12's lone bowl game of the day.

It was over when: The bowl matchup was set? The Pokes were 17-point favorites, but I'd point to Daytawion Lowe's 37-yard fumble return on Purdue's opening possession of the second half. You never know what can happen in the second half, but that play, forced by Justin Gilbert, set the tone for the rest of the game, and made it clear Purdue would be making no comeback attempts on this day.

Game ball goes to: Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State. Stewart did a little bit of everything for the Pokes, highlighted by a 64-yard punt return to set up Oklahoma State's first touchdown. He caught five passes for 56 yards, rushed for 21 yards on his only carry of the game and even completed a 15-yard pass. Not a bad day's work for the sophomore.

Unsung hero of the game: Oklahoma State's defense. Forcing turnovers was a struggle all season for this unit, which forced just 17 takeaways after forcing 44 a year ago. Credit Purdue's less-than-stellar offense if you want (it was a factor), but the Pokes' defense put together a strong performance and made life easy for the offense, which will get maybe a little too much credit for the win. The defense forced five turnovers and scored a touchdown. The first turnover helped set up the game's second touchdown, too, and get OSU off on the right foot. Purdue didn't score until the game was well out of hand at 45-0.

Stat of the game: Oklahoma State won the turnover battle 5-0. That's all you need to know. OSU was by far the better team in this one, but Purdue played poorly and played sloppily, which is how you get beat by 44 in a game like this. Ugly from start to finish. For Oklahoma State, it was the first time all season it forced more than three turnovers. Conversely, the Pokes forced more than three turnovers in six of 13 games last season.

Second-guessing: Purdue's early strategy. The Boilermakers faked a punt deep in their own territory on their first drive, which would seem to signify they came to play. However, facing a fourth-and-4 at Oklahoma State's 17-yard line while trailing 14-0 in the first quarter, Boilermakers interim coach Patrick Higgins elected to kick a field goal. Sam McCartney missed the 34-yarder and OSU scored on the following drive to take a commanding 21-0 lead. Is Purdue playing to win or not? With Oklahoma State's high-octane offense, that's sending mixed messages.

What it means: Not a whole lot. Oklahoma State was better than its 7-5 record with a handful of blowout victories against good teams this season, like Texas Tech, West Virginia and Iowa State. The Pokes were within reach of a BCS bowl with just five quarters to play in the season, but landed in the Big 12's No. 8 bowl tie-in against an overmatched Boilermakers squad playing up in a bowl game because Ohio State and Penn State were both ineligible. Purdue barely managed six wins in a down Big Ten.

Heart of Dallas Bowl keys

December, 30, 2012
Let's take a look at three keys for an Oklahoma State victory in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

1. Don't let Purdue in the game. Don't mess around here. Oklahoma State is a demonstrably better team with a better résumé than the Boilermakers. There are two ways to lose games as a heavy favorite, like Oklahoma State will be in Dallas: Turning the ball over and giving up big plays. Purdue doesn't have a very explosive offense, so the latter will take defensive busts. OSU has been susceptible to turnovers at times this year, too. Prevent both of those things, and Purdue's going to need something miraculous to win this game.

2. No shame in chucking it. Joseph Randle is the Big 12's leading rusher, but his success hasn't exactly correlated to wins this season. Excluding the Savannah State blowout, OSU is just 3-4 when he goes for 100 yards rushing and 3-1 when he's held to below 100 yards, including blowout wins over Texas Tech and TCU. Both of those teams are better than Purdue, but if OSU gets a little locked in on the passing game and Clint Chelf throws the ball 50-plus times, that's no big problem.

3. Don't overthink it on the headset. Todd Monken is gone, and things might get a little awkward. Exactly how Oklahoma State will handle playcalling duties sounds a little cloudy. Either way, it's not going to be Monken, but these coaches have seen this team plenty. They know what works and what doesn't. Overthinking it and doing more than a few uncharacteristic things is a good way to make mistakes and lose this game. You can't emphasize it enough: OSU is the much, much better team in this game. Do what it does, and it wins easily. Make mistakes, and it gets interesting.

Pregame: Heart of Dallas Bowl

December, 30, 2012
Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) vs. Purdue (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten)

WHO TO WATCH: Oklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart may be the most underrated player in the Big 12. He caught 96 passes for 1,154 yards to notch his first 1,000-yard season as a sophomore, despite the Cowboys starting three different quarterbacks throughout the season because of injuries. The 5-foot-10, 178-pound Denton, Texas, native had a huge encore after a strong freshman season as Justin Blackmon's protege, and has at least 147 receiving yards in three of his past four games.

WHAT TO WATCH: To get the answer to two questions: Can Oklahoma State prove it wants to be in this game, and can Purdue overcome one of the biggest Vegas lines of the bowl season, at well over two touchdowns? With an 11-point lead in Bedlam, the 7-3 Cowboys had somewhat of a shot to crash the BCS. The Pokes blew that lead to rival Oklahoma and lost to Baylor a week later, tumbling all the way down to the Big 12's No. 8 bowl tie-in -- muddled at 7-5 with four other Big 12 teams. Meanwhile, Purdue had to win its final three games of the season just to reach a bowl, though all three wins came against non-bowl teams with a combined four Big Ten wins. Purdue's got the edge in the "Want To Be Here" rating, but the Pokes are the better team on paper. Can they prove it on the field?

WHY TO WATCH: Hey, you have to watch. It's the Big 12's only New Year's Day Game, even though the Big Ten has five bowl games the same day. You've always got to be careful with big underdogs in bowl games. They love to play fast and loose in the last game of the year with nothing to lose. Purdue might make this entertaining, and teams with interim coaches (Patrick Higgins steps in for the fired Danny Hope at Purdue) have done OK this bowl season. Ask Cincinnati, San Jose State and Utah State about that trend.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 37, Purdue 17. Upset potential aside, I'm going with the safe bet for the Pokes here, who will win this game with another solid game from Clint Chelf and open up a really interesting spring quarterback derby in Stillwater. Purdue's Robert Marve finished the season in style, despite playing on a torn ACL, but that ends against Oklahoma State, who finally gets an interception from one of the starting corners, Justin Gilbert or Brodrick Brown.

Bonus predictions from Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett!

Brian Bennett: There's a reason why the Boilers were the biggest underdog on the board in bowl season. They've got an interim coach in Patrick Higgins and have been exposed by some of the better offenses on their schedule, which is a frightening prospect against the high-flying Cowboys. I believe a healthier defensive line will give Purdue a chance in this one, and Oklahoma State is not going to be really pumped up to be in this game a year after playing in a BCS bowl. Robert Marve tosses a couple of scores and Akeem Shavers runs for 135 yards. But in the end, the Pokes -- led by 175 receiving yards from Josh Stewart -- have a little too much for Purdue in a wild one. ...Oklahoma State 31, Purdue 27

Adam Rittenberg: Again, the Big Ten team might be more motivated than the Big 12 squad, but can Purdue keep up on the scoreboard? I don't think so. Although cornerbacks Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen give the Boilers' a chance against the pass-happy Pokes, Purdue isn't consistent enough or dangerous enough on offense to pace Oklahoma State. I agree Marve has a nice performance in his final college game and Antavian Edison scores twice, but Purdue will be playing catch up after a rough first half and falls short. ... Oklahoma State 38, Purdue 28

A closer look: Heart of Dallas Bowl

December, 20, 2012
As the bowl season approaches, we're going to be looking a little closer at each game. We'll go down the Big 12 bowl schedule in chronological order.


Oklahoma State (7-5) vs. Purdue (6-6)

Where: Cotton Bowl, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

When: Tuesday, Jan. 1, noon ET


About Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State knew 2012 wasn't going to be easy after running away with an outright Big 12 title in 2011. That's what happens when you lose two of the best offensive talents in school history, receiver Justin Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys suffered a frustrating early-season loss on the road to Arizona, plagued with penalties and turnovers. OSU fixed some of those problems as the season went on, but after winning five of six games in the middle of the season after a loss to Texas that opened conference play, OSU ended its season with a pair of close, painful losses on the road to Baylor and Oklahoma. That sent OSU tumbling from a possible BCS bowl to the Big 12's lowest bowl tie, a game I affectionately refer to as the Zombie Cotton Bowl. The stage is a far cry from last year's primetime matchup against Andrew Luck and Stanford, but the challenge for OSU is staying motivated against an overmatched opponent and a less-than-exotic location.

About Purdue: It's never a good thing when the best accomplishments on your schedule are losses. For Purdue, though, that's definitely the case. The Boilermakers lost an early-season matchup to undefeated Notre Dame by just three points, and in October, lost to 12-0 Ohio State in overtime after giving up a game-tying score in the final seconds. Purdue rescued an 0-5 start in Big 12 play with three consecutive wins to close the season, but those three wins to move from 3-6 to 6-6 came against teams with a combined four Big Ten wins. Not exactly impressive, especially in a down year across the Big Ten. Two of those wins came by just three points, too, including a win over Illinois, who went winless in Big Ten play.

Cowboys to watch: Mike Gundy christened Clint Chelf as his starting quarterback for the bowl game after a few strong performances in the final four games of the season. The junior finished third in the quarterback derby in the spring, but he's performed admirably after injuries to starter Wes Lunt and backup J.W. Walsh, who reemerged with a short-yardage formation in recent weeks. Josh Stewart is the team's leading receiver and an All-Big 12 caliber receiver who'll probably top 100 catches for the season in the bowl game, but the team's best overall player is running back Joseph Randle, the Big 12's leading rusher with 1,351 yards, more than 300 more than any other back in the Big 12. He averaged 5.26 yards a carry and scored 14 times. OSU's defense was disappointing in the secondary this year, but keep an eye on defensive tackle Calvin Barnett to be disruptive up front.

Boilermakers to watch: Quarterback Robert Marve, a Miami transfer, had a big finish to the season with seven touchdowns and just one interception during the three-game winning streak. That included a 348-yard day in the finale against Indiana. We'll see if he can keep it going. Receivers Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross both topped 50 receptions and Gary Bush added 41 more. Defensive lineman Kawann Short will be a handful for a good offensive line at OSU. He finished with 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.

Did you know? I joke about this bowl sometimes, but the former TicketCity Bowl has taken on a whole new sponsor and a truly admirable cause. Heart of Dallas is a non-profit organizaton and a first-time bowl sponsor who will help benefit charities that serve the homeless population in Dallas. If you can, get out and support the game. Another interesting note? The Big Ten is 0-2 all-time in this game.

Heart of Dallas Bowl

December, 2, 2012
Purdue Boilermakers (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-5)

Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET, Dallas (ESPNU)

Purdue take from Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett: Purdue will be playing in its second straight postseason when it kicks off the Heart of Dallas Bowl, but that wasn't enough to save head coach Danny Hope's job. Hope was fired on Nov. 25 after a 6-6 season, and assistant Patrick Higgins will serve as interim coach for this game.

Hope was confident this would be his best team at Purdue, and the Boilers got off to a decent 3-1 start that included a close loss at Notre Dame. But with an excellent opportunity to make noise in a probation-ravaged Big Ten Leaders Division, the Boilermakers lost their first five conference games, including multi-touchdown losses to Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Penn State.

The team did rally to win its final three games to salvage a bowl trip, sparked by Robert Marve returning as the starting quarterback. Fans had been calling for that move for weeks, and Marve delivered despite tearing his ACL in the second week of the season and eschewing surgery.

Hope did make some inroads in increasing the overall team speed, and the offense boasts some exciting playmakers such as running backs Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt and receiver Antavian Edison. Defensive tackle Kawann Short is a potential first-round NFL pick, and Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson form one of the Big Ten's top cornerback tandems -- and they will be needed against Oklahoma State's high-powered passing game.

This team was talented enough to push Ohio State to the absolute brink in Columbus yet unfocused enough to fall behind 44-7 at Minnesota. How the Boilermakers respond and play against the Cowboys without their head coach is anyone's guess.

Oklahoma State take from SoonerNation's Brandon Chatmon: OSU coach Mike Gundy has done one of the best coaching jobs of his career as the Cowboys made Big 12 history with three quarterbacks throwing for 1,000 yards or more. Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf each had their moments this season as the starting quarterback for the Pokes and each signal-caller led OSU to a double-digit win over a Big 12 opponent.

The constant in the Cowboys’ offensive attack is running back Joseph Randle, the Big 12’s leading rusher with 1,351 rushing yards. His toughness, versatility and playmaking set the tone for OSU’s offense. It could be the final game for the junior, who may elect to leave early for the NFL after three seasons as a key member of OSU’s offense.

OSU’s defense had an up-and-down season, holding four Big 12 opponents to 21 points or fewer before allowing more than 600 yards of total offense to Oklahoma and Baylor in its final two games. Defensive tackles Calvin Barnett and James Castleman have been the tone-setters for the Cowboys' defense. When they play well, OSU’s defense is noticeably better.

Keep an eye on the Cowboys' defense on third down. In the losses to OU and Baylor, the Cowboys allowed more than 50 percent of third downs to be converted.