After facing a squad that had the ability to test the Arizona defense in spurts, the Wildcats will now host a team that has the potential to do more than simply keep UA on its heels. The Oklahoma State offense is widely regarded as one of the best in the nation year in and year out and is facing an Arizona defense that is still trying to find its way.
While the unit is still young and learning, it is still a much better group than what the Cowboys faced a week ago. On top of that, OSU trots out an 18-year old true freshman in Wes Lunt at quarterback.
That may not matter a whole lot considering how strong the rushing attack appears to be. Led by Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State rumbled its way for 395 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns (not a misprint). Randle compiled 107 yards and two touchdowns on just six carries while backup Desmond Roland ran for 104 yards and three touchdowns on only nine carries.
The passing game was effective when it needed to be. Lunt was removed from the contest early after completing all 11 passes he threw for 129 yards. He didn't throw any touchdowns (or interceptions for that matter), but he managed an offense that blew the opposition out of the water.
Lunt has plenty of weapons to utilize in the passing game. Leading the way this past weekend was freshman Austin Hays – who benefited from extended playing time due to the blowout as well as the absence of suspended wideout Tracy Moore. Hays finished with eight receptions for 77 yards and a score.
Moore – the Cowboys' top returning receiver from 2011 - will be back this weekend, so he will be a player to keep an eye on as well. Also pay attention to senior Isaiah Anderson, who is OSU's top returning receiver outside of Moore. The shifty Anderson caught four passes for 63 yards this past Saturday.
The majority of the Cowboys' offensive line are veterans. Two seniors as well as a pair of juniors make up four of the five starters and provide the offense with a more-than-capable group to hold down the trenches. OSU's near 400-yard rushing performance as a team was largely due to the running lanes the line opened up for the running backs.
It will be a tough test early and one of the strongest offensive teams UA will play all season long. It's going to be a very difficult contest to win and the Wildcats will need to be at their best to have any shot of coming away with a victory over the Cowboys.
Players to Watch
#1 – RB, Joseph Randle – Randle is one of the most talented and explosive running backs in the nation. He is probably going to test Arizona's defense early and often. A year ago, Randle had his way with the Wildcats' defense in Stillwater, rushing for 121 yards and two scores on just 15 carries. Given that Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Josh Cooper are all gone, expect Randle's workload to grow significantly this time around.
#11 – QB, Wes Lunt – Lunt is still a bit of an unknown and it should be interesting to see how Arizona attacks him. He's a tall, pro-style, pocket-passer who displayed perfect accuracy in his collegiate debut and should be able to test Arizona's secondary throughout the game. It will be his first real test and I would expect UA to send the hounds early and make him feel uneasy from the beginning of the contest.
#87 – WR, Tracy Moore – Moore is going to be hungry to play as he missed his first game of the season due to a suspension. The team's top returning wideout from 2011, Moore is expected to help take some pressure off of Lunt and be OSU's number one option in the receiving corps. Moore is a very strong wideout at 6-foot-1, 233-pounds and is going to be a handful for Shaquille Richardson, Jonathan McKnight and the rest of the secondary to handle.
#82 – WR, Isaiah Anderson – Anderson has patiently waited his turn to be a starter at Oklahoma State and that time has finally arrived. The 5-foot-10 speedster can make plays with the ball in his hand and should be a much more productive player in his final year as a Cowboy. Arizona could have difficulty with Anderson underneath the defense as his speed and quickness may become a mismatch against certain defenders.
Five keys to the game
1. Contain Randle as much as possible: It's going to be next-to-impossible for Arizona to completely shut Randle down. His combination of speed, size and power creates a natural mismatch that the Wildcats are inevitably going to have trouble with. What UA must avoid is him running rampant and doing so often and early. Prevent long runs and keep him from getting his motor going early.
2. Bring more pressure: For much of the Toledo game, defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel brought limited pressure outside of the front-three. Whether or not that was due to strategy or lack of confidence with his current set of players is hard to determine, but I would expect the Wildcats to be a bit more aggressive knowing that they are going up against a true freshman under center.
3. Fill the gaps: Oklahoma State is going to find holes in UA's developing defense. The quicker players seal them up, the harder it's going to be for the Cowboys to move the ball on a consistent basis. Their speed is going to be tough to defend, but if the Wildcats react quickly enough, it can limit the big plays.
4. Lockdown the receiving corps: For as good as Oklahoma State looked this past weekend, you'll be hard-pressed to find an FBS squad who played a worse opponent. The Cowboys' passing game was efficient, but hardly tested against lowly Savannah State. Arizona, while still learning to pick up the new scheme, is a much more formidable opponent and has the capability of causing problems for a Cowboys' passing attack that is missing its three biggest components from a season ago.
5. Prevent OSU from controlling the clock: Despite gaining nearly 300 more total yards of offense than Toledo, UA lost the time of possession battle and the team was noticeably tired at the end of the contest. Luckily, Toledo appeared out of gas as well and Arizona was able to pull off the victory, but Oklahoma State won't be as forgiving. If the Wildcats can win the time of possession battle or even keep it close to even, they should be able to give themselves a shot in this game.
Oklahoma State Offensive Preview
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