The Cowboys (10-2) will draw the third in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 1 against Ole Miss.
The Rebels (9-3) feature wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, a decorated junior who totaled 76 catches, 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns on the year. He was the only SEC receiver with 1,000 yards, and he’s the active career leader in receptions (196), receiving yards (2,322) and touchdown catches (18).
Treadwell is on pace to break single-season school records for catches and receiving yards, and he’s caught a pass in all 34 of his games at Ole Miss. He recorded a school-record five-straight games with 100 receiving yards earlier in the season, scoring a touchdown in each one.
“We’ve had the privilege over the years at Oklahoma State to face a lot of offensive (NFL) first-rounders who were very productive players that are still playing in the league now,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “Not that he’s not dangerous and that he’s not going to make his plays. He’s done it against some of the supposed best defenses in the nation. It’s going to happen, you just hope we do a lot of things to where it’s not easy for him. In the end, you hope you’re battling in the fourth quarter with a chance to win.”
Treadwell lost out to Baylor’s Corey Coleman for the Biletnikoff, with TCU’s Josh Doctson rounding out the finalists. Coleman led the nation with 20 touchdown catches, and he averaged 18.4 yards per catch and 113.6 receiving yards per game in leading the Bears to a 9-3 season.
He became the first Biletnikoff winner in Baylor history.
“Corey’s cool. I really spoke to Corey a lot,” Treadwell said. “I just sat down with him, talked to him and asked him about their schemes and what routes he’s running. He just described and broke down everything to me. Josh, we talked a little bit. He was with his family most of the time. He’s a great guy also. Real humble dude, well-spoken and his mom is very nice. She actually came up and introduced herself to me, gave me a hug or whatever. Corey, he’s a little silly, but he’s cool, too. Both of those guys are just as passionate about the game as I am. We all just gave congratulations to whoever won it. We all deserved it, but the winner really deserved it, and Corey took it home. That was a big, huge accomplishment for any player.”
Doctson caught 79 passes for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns. Against Oklahoma State, however, both Coleman and Doctson were held under 100 receiving yards. Each was matched up against OSU senior cornerback Kevin Peterson, who is regularly put on an island with the opposing team’s top receiver.
Treadwell is up next. The Cowboys take on the Rebels Friday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
“He’s not the first great receiver I’ve gone against,” Peterson said. “I went against the other two Biletnikoff finalists this year and held my own against them. It’s going to be fun going into this game and seeing what we can do.”
“Doctson and Corey Coleman are both good receivers,” junior safety Jordan Sterns said. “Treadwell is just a bigger guy. He’s just as good. It’s a challenge, but you’ve got to know where he is on the field at all times. I can’t really compare them. They’re all great. They all know how to catch; that’s one thing I can say about them. They’re all pretty physical. That’s what I think separates those three guys from a lot of guys in the country. That’s why they were all finalists for the Biletnikoff.”
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Peterson was one of 15 national semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the nation’s top defensive back. He’s started 32 games the last three seasons in the OSU secondary, and he was a first team All-Big 12 selection after starting all 10 games outside of the season opener due to injury.
He leads all OSU cornerbacks with 37 tackles on the year, including 31 solo tackles. He’s second on the team with six pass breakups.
“They’ve got great receivers - Treadwell and the other guys,” Peterson said of Ole Miss. “They’ve had success all year. I think they’re the best offense in the SEC. They pride themselves on their receivers. They go to them a lot, and they bank on them a lot. Obviously they’re going to them in the game. They’re going to try to attack us in different ways.
“They’re really powerful receivers. They run good routes, they’re athletic, they’re big, they’re strong. They do everything you ask of them. If you go to an offensive coordinator and tell them to put together a prototypical wide receiver, they’d probably get three (from Ole Miss) that pop out. They do what they do really well. We’re going to try to lock them up as best we can.”
Of course, Peterson won’t be alone. Sterns, as well as senior cornerback Michael Hunter, will look to help slow an Ole Miss offense that has set numerous offensive school records this season: scoring (483 points), touchdowns (62), total yards (6,177) and passing yards (4,004).
“It’s going to be a huge challenge for us on the back end,” Hunter said. “They’re very talented; not only Treadwell, but 88 (Cody Core), 3 (Damore’ea Stringfellow), the slot guy, 8 (Quincy Adeboyejo), and also the tight end (Evan Engram). He’s a very good receiver as well.
“We’re going to have a huge challenge coming up this week, but we’re competitors. You want to play the best to see how good you are. We were actually talking about that not too long ago, about how we’re going to end playing all three of those guys that were finalists for that award. We’re looking forward to it. The other guys we did pretty good against as far as the one-on-one matchups. We’re looking forward to it.”
Hunter sees Treadwell as a mix of Coleman and Doctson.
“He’s a lot bigger than Corey Coleman, but he runs a lot better than Josh Doctson,” Hunter said. “I think he’s a mix between both of those guys. He’s very talented, has very big hands, catches pretty much everything thrown his way. We’re going to have a very big challenge, but we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”
“I don’t know if I can touch Corey Coleman’s speed,” Treadwell said. “As far as route-running and catching, for sure. They all do something great; we all do. I feel like we all have our own game, but I definitely feel like I’m up there with them as far as wide receivers.”
Oklahoma State will find out in four days.