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Stepping up in the bowls: Arizona

12/27/2010

Arizona kicks off the Pac-10 bowl season on Wednesday with a big test against Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

The Wildcats are underdogs against a Cowboys team that was hoping for a BCS bowl berth until it lost its season finale against rival Oklahoma 47-41. The Cowboys own one of the most potent offenses in the nation. They have really only been slowed down once this year: during a visit to Kansas State when the Cowboys played was without the services of Justin Blackmon, who is only the nation's best receiver.

But let's ask this question: Who might dramatically change this game if he -- or they -- stepped up with a marquee performance?

Running backs Keola Antolin, Nic Grigsby and Greg Nwoko: This is fairly simple. What if Arizona can consistently run the ball against the Cowboys? Well, that would be a game-changer for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it would shorten the game and help play keep-away from the potent Oklahoma State offense. Further, if the Cowboys are forced to commit more bodies to stopping the run, it also would open things up downfield for quarterback Nick Foles. The reason three guys are listed here is all three will get carries, and each brings something different to the attack. Antolin is the starter and the most consistent. Nwoko brings a power element. Grigsby is a home run threat who's struggled with injuries. Of course, these guys need the Wildcats to win battles on the line of scrimmage, but it's up to the backs to turn those creases into big plays. If this troika manages to combine for around 180 or 200 yards -- significantly more than the season average of of 135 -- then expect Arizona to be in pretty darn good shape.