Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5)
By Ted Miller
The Pac-10 finally begins its bowl season on Wednesday with Arizona taking on Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Here's a look.
WHO TO WATCH: Quarterback Nick Foles needs to come up big for Arizona to notch the upset. Foles led the Pac-10 with 291 yards passing per game this year, and the Wildcats didn't consistently run the ball well. Oklahoma State's defense is OK versus the run, but it's terrible against the pass, ranking 115th in the nation. Further, the Cowboys own one of the nation's most potent offenses with receiver Justin Blackmon, running back Kendall Hunter and quarterback Brandon Weeden. They are going to score points. The question is can Foles and the Wildcats passing attack keep up?
WHAT TO WATCH: And speaking the Wildcats defense, it got gashed late in the season, particularly on the ground. If Hunter can pile up yards in the early going, then it could be a long night for the Wildcats. So Arizona's run defense will need to make a statement against Hunter and company with physical play. Then, if the Cowboys take to the air --their 354 yards per game ranks No. 2 in the nation -- Wildcats ends Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore will need to pressure Weeden and make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Problem is: The Cowboys do a great job in pass protection, surrendering just 10 sacks this year, which is tied for eighth fewest in the country.
WHY TO WATCH: For one, Pac-10 fans should be eager to see one of their own in a bowl game. Further, this one figures to showcase lots of offense, so it should be entertaining if you enjoy a spinning scoreboard. Arizona is trying to avoid ending its season with a five-game losing streak. Oklahoma State fans are eager to see their Cowboys stick it to Arizona coach Mike Stoops, whom they developed a distaste for when he was Oklahoma's defensive coordinator.
PREDICTION: Arizona would be challenged to keep up the scoring pace with the Cowboys in any event, but they are going to have to throw the ball to win, and it's a big problem that center Colin Baxter, who's started 48 consecutive games, won't be available because of knee surgery. He's the guy making all the line calls for the Wildcats. That's a good reason to expect the Cowboys defense to get at least a couple more stops than the Wildcats. Oklahoma State 44, Arizona 38.