Fiesta Bowl: Key Matchups and Predictions

Welcome to the BCS Cowboys! Before we go any further, all Oklahoma State fans take a breath and understand and celebrate where your football program has climbed. Winning an outright Big 12 Championship and going to a BCS bowl is a lofty perch.

With a nice prize (conference title) already in the bag, what are the prospects for the Fiesta Bowl against Stanford? There is a lot of value as many fans look at this as a battle for No. 2 in the nation and in a crazy year like this that in itself will garner a lot of respect. On the surface, Oklahoma State is faster, more athletic and plays at a higher tempo with a great sense of urgency. Just as the school Stanford would imply, their team is very cerebral and capitalizes on making fewer mistakes and being in the right place at the right time. The eyeball test also reveals that these guys aren't a bunch of slugs. The team speed of the Cardinal does not match the Cowboys but they do have good athletes.

Both teams are mature with strong and mature leadership based at quarterback, in the offensive line, in the "go to" receivers, and for Stanford at linebacker and for Oklahoma State at defensive end and in the secondary.

What match-ups will decide the game, I have a very interesting first one that I've never really used before.

Oklahoma State vs. Stanford first quarter

I believe this decides the game and for the simple reason that if Stanford leads or is playing from an even standpoint on the scoreboard then they can do things the way that makes them comfortable and sit there and run their tank and unbalanced sets and power the ball at the Cowboys, attempting to wear them down. They burn the clock, control the ball and frustrate Weeden, Blackmon and Co. with having to sit on the sidelines and watch. If OSU takes control and runs plenty of tempo then the Stanford defense gets tired and the offense feels the pressure of having to keep pace. They only had that happen once this season and it was a failure at home in losing to a very talented and athletic Oregon team 53-30.

Advantage: Oklahoma State

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck vs. OSU middle linebacker Caleb Lavey

The thinking part of the game in which Luck is a master and Lavey, while young, is very good. The key part of this is with Stanford's power formations and getting players in the gaps to defend the run. Miss here and the Stanford goal of four-yards or better on run plays gets a huge bump. Lavey must recognize and communicate with his teammates on the defensive front and not leave any gap unmanned.

Advantage: Andrew Luck

OSU wide receiver Justin Blackmon vs. Stanford secondary

Stanford head coach David Shaw and his defensive co-coordinators Derek Mason and Jason Tarver have all preached that not stopping, but containing the All-American Blackmon is priority No. 1. I can't believe that. I call it a smoke screen. These guys have an NFL pedigree and they know you have to stop the run first, even if the opposition has a Blackmon or Fitzgerald, which they have compared Blackmon to. If you are Monken you have to test the honesty of the Cardinal coaches, run Blackmon deep early and if have the secondary goes with him go to a steady diet of running Randle and Smith and tossing to the backside receivers. I believe Blackmon will be more open and less covered in numbers than is being let on.

Advantage: Justin Blackmon

OSU running backs Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith vs. Stanford linebackers

See above, I think the Cowboys have to run the ball in the wide open ways they have had success with it all season. Stanford is smart at linebacker but not overly athletic and quick. This is not a mental matchup, but purely physical and speed and you like the biceps and the wheels of Randle and Smith.

Advantage: Randle and Smith

OSU defensive ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones vs. Stanford offensive tackles Jonathan Martin and Cameron Fleming

Both teams have protected their prize quarterbacks with great success as Luck has only been sacked nine times. That's right, nine times in 12 games! Weeden has only been sacked 11 times in 12 games. Stanford's offensive tackles are pretty, yes, they are big and look like the NFL scouts like to see in offensive tackles. Blatnick and Jones aren't bad either and for both, this is the final time and those are two highly motivated and passionate players. They'll need all the motivation and passion they can muster here.

Advantage: Martin and Fleming

Game Prediction

I go back to my first matchup and I believe it holds the greatest key, Stanford is very successful when it can play as a front runner or even up with an opponent, but because of their desire and reliance on their running game they struggle playing from behind. The pressure to keep up with a quick-strike Oklahoma State offense is something only Kansas State really had success with. Stanford is in that league in talent and ability, really better than K-State, but they don't have as much practice. If OSU strikes early and often then the Cowboys gain control of the game. I believe they will and I have Oklahoma State winning because of it.

Oklahoma State 41, Stanford  31

Cowboys finish up the 2011 season at 12-1 and now it's Go Bama, win ugly, and think about it Associated Press national title.

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