Instead of picking three key matchups like we have done throughout the regualr season we're going to run the gamut and hit on all of the match-ups between the Oklahboma State Cowboys and Ole Miss in Saturday's game, and then give you an overall prediction. I can cut to the chase with that and let you know that, in my opinion, it will be a close game.
I think the two teams are pretty evenly matched and I think both teams are sufficiently motivated, which is a key in bowl games, as they both lost to in-state rivals in their last regular season game. Both teams have voiced the frustration with their results.
OSU Offensive Line vs. Ole Miss Defensive Line
Cowboys All-American offensive tackle Russell Okung is fine and will be in his usual left tackle position to guard against the likes of Marcus Tillman, Kentrell Lockett or Greg Hardy getting in the backfield to raise havoc.
The Ole Miss defensive line is very good as nose tackle Jerrell Powe is a beast inside. The senior leadership of center Andrew Lewis, guard Noah Franklin, and tackles Andrew Mitchell and Brady Bond, as well as Okung, have a lot of pride and want to get the job done.
The option that Oklahoma State is likely to run, and Zac Robinson's ability to run, will be huge in keeping the Rebels defense honest. This is a potential game deciding area and it is two very strong position groups. Advantage: Even
OSU Backfield vs. Ole Miss LInebackers
Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Trahan almost went to Oklahoma State, and along with Jonathan Cornell, Allen Walker, and freshmen back-ups Joel Kight and D.T. Shackelford the Rebels linebackers have combined for 223 tackles. They have combined for only two turnovers.
With Zac Robinson being a senior and with Keith Toston and the possibility of Kendall Hunter coming on for some big plays the Cowboys need to strike it big. I like their chances. Advantage: OSU
OSU Receivers vs. Ole Miss Secondary
Okay, the Rebels corners aren't huge which is a good thing. Big defensive backs have really given the OSU wide receivers trouble with press man coverage. Marshay Green is a big-time player at corner and free safety Kendrick Lockett is a solid player.
The Cowboys need to count on Justin Blackmon as he has all the potential to make big plays. I also like Josh Cooper's chances, along with Tracy Moore of making big plays in this one. Moore is getting better exponentially and that is a good thing. Advantage: Ole Miss
Ole Miss Offensive Line vs. OSU Defensive Line
I'm torn here. You have to remember that Ole Miss has rebuilt its offensive line this season. John Jerry is a three-year starter that is outstanding, and even though Bobby Massie is a freshman, he has played well.
For the Cowboys Bill Young has done amazing things defensively and he has certainly helped the likes of Swanson Miller, Derek Burton, Jermiah Price, Jamie Blatnick and others to really improve. I did not think I would say this a year ago but the OSU defensive line is a very solid group. Advantage: Even
Ole Miss Backfield vs. OSU Linebackers
Jevan Snead is a solid quarterback although when the running game struggles and the defensive line can put on the pressure, Snead can melt down as he did in several of the Rebels losses this season.
Dexter McCluster is a flat-out stud. His speed and toughness is not only admirable, but it is a motivator for his teammates. He is a game breaker.
Oklahoma State gets a lot of that same mental advantage ouf ofits linebackers. Andre Sexton is a flat-out leader. Donald Booker is a major playmaker and he is going to be around 95 percent for this one coming off the ankle injury vs. OU. Patrick Lavine is another solid playmaker. Advantage: Even
Ole Miss Receivers vs. OSU Secondary
Shay Hodge is good, very good, but remember who covered the talented Georga wide out A.J. Green. Perrish Cox will handle Hodge and the Cowboys will threadbare on depth will get the job done on the back end. Advantage: OSU slight edge
Josh Shene's numbers are just a little better than Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey. OSU punter Quinn Sharp is just a little better statistically than the Rebels Tyler Campbell, and both Sharp and Andrew Ritter are great on kickoffs. The returns with Cox for the Cowboys and Jesse Grandy and Green for Ole Miss are both good. Advantage: Ole Miss, slight edge
Cotton Bowl Prediction
It really is too close to call but I'm going to say the option run by Oklahoma State and the ability of Zac Robinson to run when things break done will work wonders against Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix and his wild and crazy looks and disguises on defense.
On the other side, it is very important that the Cowboys keep McCluster from going off with big plays. If the OSU defense does a solid job on holding McCluster off the scoreboard or serious setups then I'll go with the Cowboys close.
It comes down to run or be run on. The winner there wins the game in a big time pride matchup between the two BCS power leagues.