When the final tick runs off the clock at the Rose Bowl, stay tuned into ESPN for the final bowl game involving a Pac-12 team: The Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The Stanford University Cardinal will represent the conference in its only other BCS appearance, against the Oklahoma State University Cowboys.
These two teams are exactly what the Fiesta Bowl—which has been marred by controversy involving its governing officials—needs to get everyone’s attention back on football. Last year, Oklahoma took on an irrelevant Connecticut team, so obviously no one watched. The Fiesta Bowl posted its lowest TV ratings, and the stadium was 6,000 under capacity.
With Stanford and Oklahoma State though, the Fiesta Bowl sold out easily and everyone at home will be catching this game on TV as well. The Cardinal and The Cowboys are both high scoring offenses, and should provide a very entertaining game. This will serve as Stanford golden boy Andrew Luck’s last collegiate game before he begins his journey to the NFL as the most coveted pro prospect in a long time. But make no mistake, the Cowboys—who lost their opportunity to compete in the natty when they choked on the road against Iowa State—are coming into this game mad as heck. They would like nothing more than to completely destroy the Cardinal before they close out the season, and prove that they—not the Alabama Crimson Tide—should be facing LSU on Jan. 9th.
So, who’s going to win?
Stanford’s power run game has been pretty much unstoppable all season, and could mean big trouble for an Oklahoma State team that is not known for stellar defense. Because let’s fact it: we all know that Big 12 teams don’t believe in playing defense to begin with. The Cardinal is averaging 43.6 points per game, so they are going to light up the scoreboard a whole bunch of times in the Fiesta Bowl. Opponents have only averaged 20.3 points against them, so their defense is no joke as well. The offensive attack will be lead by Andrew Luck, who even more effective through the air than he is when handing off to his boy Stepfan Taylor, but more on him in a minute. Luck closed the regular season with 3170 yards, 35 tubs and nine picks. He’s very fluid in the pocket, and often can get himself out of tough situations. Now, as for Taylor, he has torn opponents apart on the ground, rushing for 1153 yards from 207 carries, and eight touchdowns. And let’s not forget about Stanford trio of tight ends, who cause even more headaches for opposing defenses.
However, after the Cardinal took on USC in the best Pac-12 game of the whole season, Stanford didn’t look like the same team as the one that dominated teams all season. Luck looked less confident, and it showed: The Cardinal didn’t score more than 31 points in any of its final three games and they gained no more than 403 yards per contest. Luck personally failed to pass for more than 260 yards, and he threw at least one pick in each of his final five games. The Cardinal is on a downswing, and if they don’t watch their backs, they could easily drop this one to Pistol Pete and the Cowboys.
Brandon Weeden and the Cowboy offense were ranked second nationally in scoring, with almost 50 points per game. All season, they always scored at least 30 points per game, and in the final six games they put up an astonishing 562.8 yards per game. Weeden (and Luck, for that matter) completed 70% of his passes this season, along the way to posting 4328 yards and 34 TDs. Weedon could be in some trouble though, because Stanford’s defense knows how to put QBs on their backs: they rank 6th nationally with 38 sacks this season.
Weedon’s favorite target, a man who needs no introduction, is the other reason besides Andrew Luck that people will want to see this game. He had 113 catches for 1336 yards, averaged more than a 1st-down per reception, and 15 touchdowns. He was a Heisman Trophy contender, alongside Luck. And man, when the ball got in his hands…he made MAGIC happen.
His name is Justin Blackmon. You might’ve heard of him.
Expect Blackmon to have a HUGE game against the Cardinal, and he will need to if his team is to win.
And they will win.
Blackmon is the most dynamic playmaker on the field, but the real reason that the Cowboys will win is their opportunistic nature on defense. While they aren’t very good down to down, they force more turnovers than anyone outside of Bayou territory. Look for them to capitalize on a slumping andrew luck and make it a second time in as many years that Fiesta Bowl rings will be handed out in Oklahoma.
Stanford is making its first appearance in the Fiesta Bowl, but its second BCS appearance after a win in the Orange Bowl last season over Virginia Tech. Another post-season victory would give Stanford much-needed cred, as they are going to lose all of their Luck (pun absolutely intended) when the man himself declares for the draft. Since Barry Sander’s days as a Cowboy, Oklahoma State hasn’t had much to get excited about, what with rival Oklahoma and Texas dominating the Big 12. This is their time, their moment, to show the nation that this season wasn’t a fluke.
Kick off is at 5 p.m. Pacific time; remember to stay on ESPN for the coverage.
It’s gonna be a great Pac-12/ Big 12 showdown in the desert!