OSU-Arkansas State: Matchups & Prediction

It really shouldn't come down to special teams because Oklahoma State is much more talented than Arkansas State. The Indians were blown out in their opener by Missouri 44-17 and it wasn't that close in the statistics. Last week Arkansas State crushed Tennessee-Martin, a below average Division I-AA team, 56-7. However, Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts, who is a very good coach, believes that special teams will be a deciding factor in the game.

Roberts is having a case of wishful thinking because he has a solid kicking game with Eric Neilhouse, who is a returner that has hit his only field goal try of the season, a 32-yarder against Missouri. Neilhouse has hit 98 of 100 PAT attempts in his career was 8-of-10 on field goal tries, including a 49-yard boot last season against Middle Tennessee. Jarod Little is averaging 41.3 yards a punt this season and the veteran is the key to a 36-yard net punt average.

Those numbers are all strong, but Joe DeForest is still pulling rabbits out of his hat. Last week it was the onside kick, not to mention the success of his controversial move to the spread punt formation that resulted in a fumble recovery when a dying kick hit the back of the leg of a Florida Atlantic player. The extra man power there to recover the punt was the result of the spread formation allowing more players to get down the field in coverage. In the first game of the season the Cowboys successfully went for two after their first touchdown. Also, junior kicker Bruce "Sunshine" Redden is perfect in his debut season with three PATs and fthree ield goals. Freshman punter Matt Fodge has a 40.1 yards per punt average and has pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line six times.

DeForest can scheme and his special team key players, including return specialist Daniel McLemore, have been performing at a high level. If it does come down to special teams then the Cowboys should leave happy. I just don't think it will.

OSU defense vs. ASU running back Antonio Warren and the running game
We think it really comes down to this. Warren has rushed for 249 yards on 30 carries in two games. The 5-11, 203-pounder has good speed and has improved his patience to allow blocks to be set up. He also has developed a whoosh move to take off in open field. Without him gaining yards the ASU offense will grind to a halt. Play action isn't very effective when the run game doesn't work. The attacking and swarming OSU defense hasn't faced a back this good yet, but they will in Big 12 play. Consider stopping Warren and freezing the ASU offense as a real honest prelim before Big 12 play. We think Warren is going to be seeing a defense the likes he hasn't so far this season.

OSU quarterback Bobby Reid vs. ASU secondary
Hopefully, Reid can relax and have fun. The running game will need to take control early and that should include some Reid keepers, but then the passing game needs a good workout. Reid should have some confidence in being named the top quarterback and he has the tools. Decision making will come under scrutiny. As a subplot to the match up with an experienced but still young secondary that has given up 221 yards per game is the need to identify playmakers at both wide receiver and tight end.

OSU center David Washington vs. ASU middle linebacker Devrett Wade
This will be a nice test of Washington's athleticism. In ASU's base 4-3 defense, which they will vary a lot with a three-man front, Washington will at times have to get out on the middle linebacker. Wade is Arkansas State's leading tackler and defender with 24 tackles, 10 unassisted, four tackles for losses, and two sacks. At 6-0, 230 pounds he is a shorter stronger guy that can move. Will Washington be able, when called upon, to get and get him or will the guards have to reach him. Washington, at 6-4, 295, will try to be a wall between Wade and more tackles.

Prediction
In the matchup of Cowboys and Indians this modern day gridiron battle resembles some of those in the old west. The Cowboys have the guns and the Indians have the bows and arrows. The Cowboys simply have more and better athletes. That's not always a guarantee, but in the friendly confines of Boone Pickens Stadium it should be enough. On defense, ASU has not been a good tackling team and they have given up ample rushing yards. The Oklahoma State offensive line will win the war in the trenches and after the running game clicks then we will all get to see what Bobby Reid throws like when he is the main guy at quarterback. Expect some big plays on the ground and in the air with a few mistakes to go with them.

To score Arkansas State has to be able to run the football and the OSU defense playing with loads of confidence will stop that. Then when he has to throw Nick Noce will be hassled like he hasn't been so far this season. The Indians have given up six sacks and that could be doubled by the end of the game on Saturday.

It won't be a huge blowout, but it will be better as the Cowboys win 34-6.

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