OSU-Montana State: Matchups

First-year head coach Mike Gundy warned his football team on Thursday that it was not good enough to overlook anybody, including season-opening foe Montana State. Gundy asked his players to give total effort every play of every game this season, starting with the contest with the Bobcats on Saturday night at Boone Pickens Stadium. We agree with Gundy. The Cowboys have some talent, they have a strong coaching staff, they have nice new facility additions, but they also have some questions.

Before we get into the key matchups with Division I-AA 18th ranked Montana State here are some questions we will be looking for answers to on Saturday.

1) Who will step up at running back and become the kind of running presence this offense can depend on?

2) Who will step up at wide receiver to make sure opposing defenses have to play the talented D'Juan Woods honestly?

3) Is the rennovated defensive line as good as we have thought throughout preseason camp?

4) How quickly can the freshmen defensive backs get acclimated to college football and be depended on in crucial situations?

5) Will Joe DeForest take almost a completely new cast and forge them into one of the best special teams units in the country as he has in the past?

Now the matchups ...
OSU defensive line vs. MSU offensive line and QB Travis Lulay
Defensive tackles Ryan McBean and Xavier Lawson-Kennedy have got to play a lot, play hard, and be successful. The defensive ends are good, but if Montana State's offensive line can man up with McBean and XLK then the defensive ends and any blitzing linebackers are going to find blockers will be there to pick them up. That inside duo has shown up in the spring and now again in the fall, but the most important night for them to show up is Saturday. New defensive coordinator Vance Bedford wants to be aggressive, and it all starts with the two big guys, and backups Larry Brown and Jeray Chatham who will rotate in. If those four don't get push and attract extra attention from a very solid offensive line then Travis Lulay, who has six consecutive 300-yard plus passing games, will have fun giving the OSU secondary a crash course in tackling the man with the ball. Lulay is good but not even Peyton Manning is good with a defender in his face or from his rear end and that's where Lulay needs to be on Saturday.

OSU secondary vs. MSU's transfer wide receivers
Martel Van Zant is out and freshman safety Andre Sexton is sporting a cast. The already thin secondary is spread thinner and besides the handful of veterans frehsmen Jacob Lacey, Calvin Mickens, T.J. Bell and Quinton Moore are going to be initiated by fire. If the defensive line does its job then the Cowboys should be fine. If not, the freshmen could have a long night ahead of them. Yes, Rick Gatewood, the Bobcats' go-to receiver is out, but Tramaine Murray and Jevon Miller are seniors that transferred from Washington State. You have to think as seniors they know what they are doing. It will be a good educational experience, but it is much better to teach off a win, and the only way MSU wins is if OSU can't rush and the secondary can't cover.

OSU running game vs. MSU's 3-4 defensive front
I know Larry Fedora is a spread, no-huddle guy. I also know that the running back position has been a case of musical chairs in fall practice, but the music needs to stop for good in the opener. The Cowboys' offensive line should blow big holes in Montana State's 3-4. The likes of tackles Charlie Johnson and Corey Hilliard with guards David Koenig and Kellen Davis are athletic and can move. Somebody needs to be brave enough to run through those holes - Mike Hamilton, Julius Crosslin or Calvin Roberts it doesn't matter. Heck, let the quarterbacks keep it and run. Somebody please run and control this football game.

OSU receivers vs. MSU's secondary
If we are looking for the receiver answer then we should consider this a key matchup. Montana State's secondary is solid with corner Andre Fuller and safety Ryan Force being the top duo of the four. D'Juan Woods should be able to get open all night, but there needs to be three of four receivers breaking big plays. We think Luke Frazier will be one, but the others are a mystery. We're hoping for Tommy Devereaux and maybe one or both of the freshmen, Jeremy Broadway and Ricky Price. Last season MSU used a lot of cover one and cover zero and gave up a ton of big plays, run and pass, up the middle. Don't expect those risky coverages because I think you'll see a lot of cover two, cover three, and quarters across. That means short passes and yards after the catch.

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