Purdue's defense will be greatly tested when it faces Oklahoma State.
While we wait to hear more news about the coaching search I thought we should turn our attentions to our bowl opponent. Oklahoma State was part of a conference that sent nine of its 10 teams to bowl games this year. That is damned impressive. Yes, everyone got a free win against Kansas, but this is one of the few conferences with nine conference games instead of eight. As a whole, the Big 12 lost only four games to teams outside the league. Kansas lost to Northern Illinois and Rice, while Oklahoma lost to Notre Dame and Oklahoma State lost to Arizona State.
That is it. The cowboys clearly come from a very tough league that was almost the opposite of the Big Ten this season. That does not mean that this is a definite loss. Purdue has a puncher's chance in this one, especially given that the Nordfense is gone. The Boilermakers also have 30 days to prepare, which will help, because the Cowboys are going to score. A lot.
2011 Record: 12-1, 8-1 Big 12 (Big 12 champions)
Bowl Result: Beat Stanford 41-38 (OT) in Fiesta Bowl
2012 Record: 7-5, 5-4 Big 12
Blog Representation: Cowboys Ride For Free
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 1-0
Last Purdue win: 33-20 on 12/30/1997 in San Antonio, TX (Alamo Bowl)
Time & TV: Noon, ESNPU
Odds: Oklahoma State by 17.5
The only meeting ever between Purdue and the Cowboys came in 1997, when the Boilers broke open a 10-6 halftime lead to win 33-20 in the Alamo Bowl, which was only the sixth bowl game in Purdue history. It was the cap to a surprising Purdue season where the boilers erased 12 straight losing campaigns to finish 9-3 with a bowl win. It also set the stage for the Big Ten title run two years later.
The Cowboys have gotten a lot better since then. Last season they were with a double overtime loss at Iowa State of playing LSU for the National Championship. Instead they played and beat Andrew Luck and Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. This season was a step back, but this is still a program that has enjoyed great recent success.
We were supposed to have a home-and-home with the Cowboys starting next year (I think), but it was cancelled for unknown reasons.
Oklahoma State Offense vs. Purdue Defense
The Cowboys have had three quarterbacks throw for over 1,000 yards this season, which is a little scary when they can plug-and-play guys like that. By the end of the season junior Clint Chelf (102 of 175, 1,391 yards, 12 TDs and 6 INT) had earned the top job, but freshmen J.W. Walsh (104 of 156, 1,478 yards, 11 TDs and 3 INT) and Wes Lunt (80 of 128, 1,096 yards, 6 TDs and 7 INT) have both played a significant amount. As you can see, this is very much a pass-first offense that will test Ricardo Allen, Josh Johnson, Landon Feichter, Frankie Williams, and Taylor Richards. As a team OSU has 4,001 passing yards and 29 TDs, but the 16 interceptions could be a weakness.
Johnson will likely be given the unenviable task of covering Josh Stewart (96-1,154-7). Stewart is very much the typical possession receiver and, with 65 more catches than the No. 2 receiver is by far the first target on every play. Charlie Moore (31-500-5), Blake Jackson (28-565-2), Joseph Randle (28-224-0) and Austin Hays (25-369-2) aren't exactly bad, but Stewart is clearly the focus.
Randle is a running back that is sure-handed coming out of the backfield. He also has 1,351 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Jeremy Smith is the short-yardage back with only 331 yards and seven more touchdowns. Chelf and Walsh have not been afraid to run, either. Combined they have over 400 yards rushing and Walsh has seven rushing scores.
Chelf is protected by a very good offensive line, making it imperative that Purdue's good defensive line shows up. The line has given up only 10 sacks on the season and is one of those smaller, faster lines. Evan Epstein and Lane Taylor are the lone senior starters, while Brandon Webb and Taylor at the guard spots are a solid 326 pounds. The other three starters weigh in under 300.
As a team Oklahoma State is averaging 44.7 points per game. They are going to score points. Part of their numbers come from an 84-0 thrashing of Savannah State to start the season. This team did very nearly lose to Kansas though, winning just 20-14 in the rain. That's the only game in which they were kept under 30 points.
Oklahoma State Offense vs. Purdue Defense
Purdue's best chance is to practice the same thing I preached before the Indiana game: run the ball and keep a very good offense off the field as much as possible. There is somewhat of a vulnerability there as the Cowboys have given up 140 yards per game and 19 touchdowns on the ground. The pass defense also gives up 285 yards per game, so Robert Marve should be able to throw the ball a bit.
Oklahoma State has just 22 sacks in 12 games led by Nigel Nicholas with four. The secondary only picked off nine passes all season too, so this is not a unit that thrives on takeaways. In fact, Oklahoma State was -5 for the season on takeaways. Purdue was +3, so this has to be an area Purdue wins.
Linebacker Alex Elkins leads the team in tackles with 73 while safety Daytawion Lewis has been solid with 68 tackles. Shamiel Gary and Lyndell Johnson each have two interceptions, but this is not a brick wall of a defense. It doesn't need to be, however, when the offense can score 35 points with ease.
Purdue will have a chance to score. Even with the shutout of Savannah State on its resume the Cowboys give up nearly 30 points per game. Their defense is statistically slightly worse than Purdue's, but they more than make up for it on offense. It would not surprise me if both teams scored at least 30 points, so the key for Purdue is to prevent them from scoring 40 or 50. A 20-14 win is not realistic.
Raheem Mostert finally played again in the Indiana game and showed why we need him on returns. In a game like this, where he is going to get 5-7 returns, he'll be a huge asset. Unfortunately, OSU has one of its own in Justin Gilbert, who has 792 return yards and a touchdown. Charlie Moore is also an actual threat to return a punt, unlike anything Purdue has done.
Not that I expect them to be used much, but punters Cody Webster and Quinn Sharp are both very good. Sharp averages better than 45 yards per kick and is also 25 of 31 on field goals with a long of 51. He closed the season by hitting 15 of his last 16 kicks. The senior has been a Groza and Ray Guy semifinalist for two straight seasons.
Yikes! This is a scary team to face and one that will be tricky to beat unless Purdue can win the turnover battle and keep their offense on the sideline as much as possible. Purdue is headed to a shootout and has show by scoring 209 points in four of its six wins that it, too, can score points. Unfortunately for us Oklahoma State is hardly Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, Marshall, or Indiana. Their offense is likely the most explosive we have seen all season and the defense, while not great, on paper looks capable of doing enough to win.
Clearly we have to concentrate on at least slowing down Randle and Stewart. If they get going Purdue doesn't have a chance. If they can be slowed, especially Randle on the ground, it can force the Cowboys into a few things. Randle is likely going to think awhile about heading to the NFL because last year he was even better with 1,216 yards and 24 scores. He can be stopped, though. Kansas State limited him to 43 yards on 15 carries.
Ultimately, it is a bowl game and they are supposed to be fun. Remember 2007 when Purdue and Central Michigan raced up and down the field in a 51-48 Motor City Bowl? We could see something like that. Even in a loss it can be fun to see two offenses just score a ton of points.
Celebrate Purdue's First New Year's Day Bowl win since 1967 if:
- Robert Marve goes out guns blazing.
- Akeem Shavers repeats last year's bowl performance
- The defense forces multiple turnovers
- OSU scoring drives are limited to field goals instead of touchdowns.
- It starts raining and that slows the game down.
Nurse your hangover if:
- Oklahoma State moves the ball at will
- Randle rushes for 150 yards
- We completely refuse to cover Stewart
- The team doesn't respond to Patrick Higgins in transition
- Purdue turns it over more than twice