The Joseph Randle Effect

In anticipation of the Fiesta Bowl matchup between Oklahoma State and Stanford, most of the national attention is being thrust upon Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon on the Cowboy side and rightly so. After all, Blackmon is the two time reigning Biletnikoff winner and Weeden is the leading passer from the nation's most pass-happy league.

But when Oklahoma State's No. 2-ranked offense is at its best is when Joseph Randle is at his best in the backfield.

That should be cause for concern for a Stanford team that has had trouble stopping the run.

Stanford is ranked fifth nationally in run defense but in the Cardinal's three toughest games this season — a triple-overtime win against USC, a 31-28 escape of Cal and a 53-30 blowout loss to Oregon — they've had to face the three best running backs they've seen this year. All had good performances against Stanford.

USC's Curtis McNeal came on strong near the midway portion of the season, finishing with four 100-yard games in his final eight and never rushing for fewer than 80 yards. His best game this season: a 20-carry, 145-yard outing with a season-high two touchdowns against Stanford.

Cal was able to stay closer than expected with Stanford by relying on the nation's No. 17 rusher, Isi Sofele, who had 20 carries for 96 yards and was able to establish a balanced attack that kept the Golden Bears competitive throughout.

And lastly, LaMichael James from Oregon. Oregon is the most similarly structured team to OSU that Stanford will have faced with a one-loss record, a top five total offense and scoring offense, and a lightning fast style of play.

The Ducks relied on James against Stanford and he delivered with 20 carries for 146 yards and a season-high three touchdowns in his team's blowout win.

This is where Randle comes into play.

When Randle has been at the top of his game and productivity, so has the Cowboy offense. His impact out of the backfield is nearly immeasurable in its importance at times for OSU.

Take this for example: OSU's margin of victory is 38.1 points per game when Randle scores two or more touchdowns. When Randle scores one or fewer, the margin of victory is 3.6 points per game.

Randle also accounted for 1,182 yards of total offense in the eight games he has gone for two or more scores. That's 147.8 yards per game.

That formula was done excluding the Kansas blowout, where Randle had just one touchdown before getting the rest of the day off in the second quarter of a 70-28 romp.

The games Randle was least effective were nail biters against Texas A&M (30-29), Texas (38-26) and OSU's lone loss, a 37-31 setback against Iowa State. He had one total touchdown (against UT) and averaged 66.6 rushing yards in the three contests.

Following a stretch of four games where Randle scored at least three touchdowns per game, he scored four on two occasions against Baylor and Missouri, he hit a bit of a snag. He lost two fumbles against Texas Tech in a 66-6 Cowboy romp, which was the last of his three-plus touchdown games. The next week he had the worst game of his season, a 49-yard rushing performance and two receptions for three yards with zero scores, in OSU's loss in Ames. He lost two more fumbles in that game.

But Randle is a hard man to keep down.

Against a fast and athletic Oklahoma front seven, offensive coordinator Todd Monken created a gameplan with Randle as the workhorse who would lead OSU to its first Big 12 Championship. And Randle was excellent.

He torched the Sooners for 151 yards on 19 carries on a cool 7.9 yards per carry with two touchdowns. He also chipped in four receptions for 31 yards.

Randle has only gone over 20 carries three times in 2011 and hasn't done it since OSU's win in College Station on Sept. 24, but that doesn't mean he isn't capable of carrying his fair share of the workload for this explosive Cowboy offense.

Again, the national attention is placed firmly on the Weeden2Blackmon connection but if Randle is at his best, he could be the key to a Cowboy victory in the desert on Jan. 2.


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