Three key matchups for the 2015 TicketCity Cactus Bowl:
vs. Washington nose tackle Danny Shelton
Huge indicator of how the Cowboys will do in moving the ball because much like with the Oklahoma State defense and the influence of Ofa Hautau, Shelton is the guy that influences plays for the Huskies defense. He does such a good job of it that he was a consensus All-American. The Cowboys have struggled some with handling big inside linemen but have done better recently and did much better in Bedlam. A must watch area for Friday night.
Edge: Big to Shelton
vs. Washington cornerbacks John Ross and Sidney Jones
Sheperd is coming of age and is at the height of his career so far. He is capable of being a dominating receiver and against the corners for Washington he will have a major advantage.
Sidney Jones is a true freshman who has struggled some and Ross is a former wide receiver who was playing offense as recently as late October before being moved over to help the defense.
If not Sheperd, then look for freshman James Washington or Jhajuan Seales to pick up some big plays in the passing game. This is a must area for the Cowboys to take advantage of, and in order to do it they must protect Mason Rudolph and play well up front.
Edge: Big to Sheperd
vs. Washington offensive tackles Micah Hatchie and James Atoe
Atoe is the biggest lineman the Cowboys will face this season as he is 6-7 and 381 pounds. He had better be on his horse on his kick-slide technique because Bean and Ogbah can fly and are very athletic.
Hatchie is solid, but the Cowboys should gain some benefits here. It will be interesting to see which defense ends up with the most sacks because as good as Washington is on the pass rush, Oklahoma State is pretty good as well.
Edge: Moderate to Ogbah and Bean
Huskies quarterback Cyler Miles has a head start and is more veteran but the rapid advancement of freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph puts Oklahoma State very much in the game in quarterback play and may even give the Cowboys an advantage.
Washington has the three All-Americans on defense but the Huskies play in the secondary is a major concern. The same is true for Oklahoma State but I feel the Cowboys are better, and Washington is not as dangerous with its passing offense. The Cowboys have to stop the run and Dwayne Washington and they have to not allow a trick play on offense or on special teams make a difference in the game.
The Cowboys have worked very well and have really relished the opportunity to go to a bowl when that reward looked iffy late in the season. Teams motivated and happy to be at a bowl tend to play better, and I think Oklahoma State is one of those teams. I will predict they jump out to an early and maybe a very impressive lead and then go on to win.