Cotton Bowl Key Matchups

The matchups are pretty easy to put together because when the Cowboys and the Rebels kick off in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2 they will each be looking at a team that very much resembles their own.

On offense Ole Miss runs an attack that is very similar to that of the Cowboys. They are very multiple in formation lining up in many of the same sets that are used by the Cowboys with a real affinity for the shotgun. The Rebels average scoring 34.2 points per game compared to the Cowboys' 36.6. Ole Miss averages 431.8 yards per game (143.6 on the ground and 288.2 in the air); the Cowboys lean more to the run with 226.8 of their 414.6 yards per game coming on the ground, and 187.8 through the air.

Mississippi is multiple on defense as well and it will use many of the same defensive formations that O-State defensive coordinator Bill Clay employs. As for personnel, the Rebels use the same designations for their players with a 4-2-5 lineup that includes, like the Cowboys, two linebackers and three safeties. They are strongest at defensive end and at the corners with active safeties that serve as their three top tacklers on the season. The Rebels have allowed 21.4 points per game compared to the Cowboys' 24.6. Ole Miss allows an average of 375.3 yards per game (101.8 on the ground and 273.5 through the air); the Cowboys have allowed an average of 397 yards per game (157.4 on the ground and 239.6 passing).

It's pretty close with Oklahoma State a little stronger on offense and Ole Miss appearing to have a slim advantage on defense. There are several one-on-one matchups that we examine below that could go a long way toward turning the tide in Big D.

Ole Miss DE Charlie Anderson vs. OSU LT Doug Koenig or Matt Hardison This has been a trouble spot for much of the season for the Cowboys as teams saw Nebraska success early with zone and trick blitzes off the left edge. Hardison is new to the position and has improved some during the course of the season. When he won over the job and was healthy, Koenig was effective, but a bad back compromised his performance late in the season. The Rebels present a problem in their defensive right end Charlie Anderson. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound senior is just the kind of defensive end that gives the Cowboy tackles the most difficulty in that he is more of a speed rusher than he is a bull rusher. This season he led Ole Miss in sacks with five and he also made 13 tackles for 59 yards in losses. Add to that nine quarterback hurries and you can see the concern. To take it a little farther, Anderson is similar to Cowboys defensive end Greg Richmond. He is athletic enough to back into short zone coverage and send a linebacker, safety or even a corner to rush in his place. The Cowboys will need to be ready with protection plans to handle Anderson and what Ole Miss might do with him.

Ole Miss cornerback Von Hutchins vs. OSU wide receiver Rashaun Woods Woods is aching to go out with a big day in the Cotton Bowl, and there is nothing that fires up the Cowboys' two-time All American more than a challenge. Woods has specialized in beating every big name cornerback that tried to stop him. Von Hutchins is a big timer as he leads the Rebels in interceptions with four, and he is the stopper for Ole Miss when it comes to covering big time receivers. Of his four interceptions, one each came against Florida, Arkansas and LSU. Two players that thrive in the big games make for just the kind of showdown to send Rashaun Woods out with several touchdowns and a big smile on his face.

OSU defensive end Greg Richmond vs. Ole Miss left tackle Tre' Stallings Richmond is a consensus All-Big 12 selection and enters the Cotton Bowl as one of the top pass rushers in the nation with 12 1/2 sacks. He will get a big challenge in his final game as a Cowboy as Mississippi's Tre' Stallings is one of the premier young offensive tackles in college football. The 6-4, 317-pound sophomore can engulf opposing pass rushers. He has good feet and long arms that made him the selection to guard Eli Manning's backside against enemy intruders. There is no doubt that Stallings has seen some pretty good competition in defensive ends in the SEC, but Richmond is very quick and has developed new moves this season as he has also attracted attention from the pro scouts. This will be one of the most fun to watch one-on one-matchups on Jan.2.

OSU cornerback Darrent Williams vs. Ole Miss wide receiver Chris Collins We said these teams are a lot alike, so it is natural that we have a receiver-corner matchup when you flip the ball in the Cotton Bowl. Darrent Williams missed the last two games of the regular season, but he still finished with six interceptions and a first team selection to most of the All-Big 12 teams. Williams is the Cowboys stopper corner, although they don't typically move him to match up with a specific receiver. He won't see Chris Collins all day, but the 6-2, 195-pound senior is Manning's "go-to" guy. Collins has speed to go with his size and he is the Rebels all-time leading receiver. This fall he had 69 receptions for 874 yards and seven touchdowns. That is almost double the catches and yards of any other Ole Miss receiver. Collins' height is an advantage over Williams, but Williams strength and speed have served him well. Look for the times they line up opposite each other.

OSU Free safety Jon Holland vs. Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning Manning really excels because he is a smart quarterback who does an excellent job of reading coverages. Holland will be the player Manning will most watch and make his decisions based upon. In just his first season at Oklahoma State, Holland has had a good year with two interceptions. Against Manning he will need to do his best to disguise the Cowboys' coverages, and be ready to make a play. Manning will also scramble from time to time and Holland is just the kind of tackler to discourage Manning from scrambling on a consistent basis.

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