Do not confuse this with Top Matchups and Predictions which will make it's seasonal debut later this week. However, with some Cowboys calling my radio show on Triple Play Sports Radio and asking about some breakdowns, I decided that this new segment might be fun and interesting as we will take it week by week. We'll take some game specific and season long statistical breakdowns and look at them. Some will be more predictions and guesses, but some will become more trends as we progress through the season.
Here we go with week one.
How will the Cowboys defense perform vs. the Ragin Cajuns versus what they did last season?
First, we have to look at last season and it wasn't pretty as the Cowboys allowed three second quarter touchdowns that gave ULL a 21-17 halftime lead. The Cowboys threw two interceptions which helped the Cajuns as they only had to go 39-yards for the third touchdown, but the other two drives covered 80 and 61-yards. Louisiana only rushed for 34-yards on 25 carries, but they threw for 334-yards on 36-of-62 passing. The Cajuns also converted third downs at a 45 percent clip with 8-of-19. They also converted on 2-of-4 fourth down conversions.
This Louisiana team is believed to be more intent on establishing the run and being balanced, which they will have to do to have a chance to win. They are young on the offensive line but pretty squared away in the skill positions. Remember, the best pass catching tight end in the country by receptions and yards, Ladarius Green, did not play in the game a year ago and will this Saturday.
I believe this Oklahoma State defense will be the best yet for Bill Young as defensive coordinator. I like the defensive tackle depth more than I have since you had Kevin Williams and LaWaylon Brown started inside on the defense. Christian Littlehead is green but I can see his talent. Nigel Nicholas has caught on and is playing well. For depth there is James Castleman, Anthony Rogers, Davidell Collins, and Maurice Hayes. Then it helps having two senior defensive ends in Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones outside those players.
Here is what I think, last year compared to this year.
Stat: (Last Year/This Year)
Total Yards: (368/304)
Rushing Yards: (34/52)
Passing Yards: (334/252)
Third Down Conversions: (8-of-19/5-of-17)
Fourth Down Conversions: (2-of-4/0-of-2)
Turnovers Forced: (2/3)
If Quinn Sharpe is going to handle all of the kicking then how many times will his foot touch the football?
This could come down to simple math if you think the offense this season will mirror what it was a year ago, which I don't. This year's offense will play a little more in line with the defense. Last season Sharp punted 51 times and the Cowboys had 106 kickoffs with Sharp handling 98 of those kickoffs. That would add up to 157 touches on the toe. Dan Bailey handled all PAT and field goal attempts and those added up to 101. Add both together and that comes out to 258 touches.
I believe that Sharp is up to the task, but both backup kicker Bobby Stonebraker and backup punter Michael Reichenstein have worked hard and if the opportunity presents itself then special teams coordinator Joe DeForest and head coach Mike Gundy will be inclined to let them kick a few.
I see Oklahoma State punting a few more times, but not many. Let's say 55 punts with Sharp handing 53 of those. I see 109 kickoffs with Sharp handing all of those. I also see 66 extra points and 35 field goal attempts. Let's say Stonebraker gets to handle two of each, so Sharp attempts 64 extra points and 33 field goals. The grand total of Sharp touches comes to 259. That's a lot of touches for a kicker/punter in a season.
This came directly from my radio show and what a great question because Randle and Smith are pretty close in ability and value to the team. Last season Randle really became more of a third down back by NFL definition as he is really a standout receiver out of the backfield and, while powerful too, is really good in space. Smith became the designated touchdown scorer in short yardage and goal line situations. Last season Randle combined with caries and catches for 119 touches. Smith combined for 57 touches. The aspect of this that will bring Smith up a bunch is Kendall Hunter got more of the touches in situations that would have called for Jeremy Smith than those that called for Joseph Randle.
As a team, the Cowboys had 450 rushing attempts last season and 532 pass attempts. Did you ever think you would see that? I expect those two number to come closer together this season. You have to get to those numbers before you can look at a breakdown.
I see Oklahoma State rushing the ball 491 times this season with 496 pass attempts for a total of 987 combined offensive plays. To make this more simple I answered on radio with weekly averages and will do so here as well.
Per game, I see the running backs as a group getting 44 opportunities. I would break it down by the following, and this is again per game:
Joseph Randle: 18 rushing carries and four receptions for 22 total opportunities per game
Jeremy Smith: 12 rushing carries and one reception for 13 opportunities per game
Fullbacks: one rushing carry and .5 receptions