Only five players nationally threw for more yards per game this season than Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and he only threw four interceptions... what can you tell Colorado fans about the Cowboys' quarterback, and about Oklahoma State's offense overall?
Robert Allen: "Mason Rudolph is a mature quarterback that had excellent training at Northwestern High School in Rock Hill, S.C., from his high school head coach Kyle Richardson. They ran a similar spread offense at his high school to what Oklahoma State has run under offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich So Yurcich picked out Rudolph and zeroed in on him in recruiting, even though South Carolina is not a typical recruiting territory for Oklahoma State.
"He was committed to Oklahoma State in June before his senior season and the reason he wasn’t more heavily recruited was the fact he decided on his own to skip Nike and other combines as well as lots of camps to spend more time at home in the spring and summer throwing to his receivers. It obviously paid off and may have helped Oklahoma State in that he was severely under-recruited. His brother, Logan, a tight end and a senior this year is set to sign with Clemson.
"Rudolph led his team to the Class 4A State Championship as a senior with over 7,000-yards passing and 64 touchdowns and just 8 interceptions. He also ran for 16 touchdowns and is much more mobile at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds than most want to give him credit for. He moves really well in the pocket.
"The running game is vastly improved because of improved play in the offensive line and with freshman running back Justice Hill and senior running back Chris Carson playing much better. The receivers are strong with James Washington (fast and plays over his 6-foot-0 height) being the leading receiver, and Jhajuan Seales, Chris Lacy, and slot Jalen McCleskey all being good targets. The numbers don’t lie. It is a very explosive offense."
It appears the Cowboys have had a bend but don't break defense at times this season... what are the strength and weaknesses of Oklahoma State's defense? And who are the Cowboys' top playmakers on that side of the ball?
"The defense has been pretty good at stopping the run, but there have been games where they struggled, primarily Kansas State. They have been solid against the pass, but the double move has been an issue as several schools including Baylor and Texas Tech used the dongo and sluggo for big plays. Up front defensive tackle Vincent Taylor is a force and also leads the nation in blocked kicks. Safety Jordan Sterns is as hard a hitter as there is in college football and is another force that causes ball carriers and receivers alike to keep their eyes open for him."
This is the 11th straight season the Cowboys have gone to a bowl game under Mike Gundy. Is this year's Alamo Bowl bid one the team and fans are excited about? How motivated do you think Oklahoma State is going into this contest?
"I think the fans at Oklahoma State always suffer a little when the team loses late in the season to Oklahoma. However, independent of the fans is this team is made up of high character guys. They like each other and they are all pretty dedicated and serious about having success. This team watches more video and does more extra working out whether it is on the field or in the weight room than any team I can remember. I think they will be sufficiently motivated and it helps with so many players being from the San Antonio area as there are five starters and two others that play a lot. They will want to win and impress on their teammates the pride of playing in their hometown."
Do the Cowboys have any injuries of note for the Alamo Bowl?
"No new injuries as Oklahoma State lost a starting wide receiver in Marcell Ateman before the season, a defensive end in Vili Levini during the season. They have a guard back in Larry Williams, who was starting, but I expect Michael Wilson to continue to play that position. Williams will add to the depth."
Lastly, how do you see Thursday night's game shaking out and what is your score prediction?
"I believe Colorado is really good on the defensive side of the ball but I still expect that Oklahoma State will score some. I believe Oklahoma State will struggles some with Sefo Leifau, everybody does it seems. I just don’t know how good the CU receiver corps is compared to the receiver groups you see in the Big 12, which are exceptional. If Colorado can pass for 300-yards or more that will be trouble for the Cowboys. If they don’t then I believe Oklahoma State has a little more on the scoreboard at the end than Colorado. I think it is close and competitive, but I’ll go with the Cowboys 41-35."