Cactus Bowl: Oklahoma State (6-6) vs. Washington (8-5), Friday January 2nd 7:15pm, ESPN.
The Cowboys are, at best, an average offense. They ranked 76th in scoring (27.3ppg), 92nd in total yards per game (371), 44th in passing yards per attempt (7.7), and 102nd in rushing yards per attempt (3.55).
Identity was often an issue, with multiple injuries at quarterback and on the offensive line, but for what it's worth the offense finished as strongly as possibly by racking up 38 points on Oklahoma.
This has not been an ideal year for the Cowboys at quarterback. Original starter JW Walsh went down in week two. Backup Daxx Garman played for most of the season before sustaining a concussion with only two games remaining. That left OK State with true freshman Mason Rudolph (6-4, 217).
Rudolph passed for 281 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in a 28-49 loss to Baylor in his first career start. Next, he capped the season by completing 19 of 35 passes for 273 yards, 2 scores, and a single pick to secure a stunning 38-35 victory over arch-rival Oklahoma.
The kid has only started two games, but the results have been encouraging, and he is expected to start the Cactus Bowl. The 53% completion percentage and three interceptions are less than stellar, but maintaining a 9.3 yards per attempt average is impressive, especially considering that the defense provided very little support in either contest.
Likely Starters: LT Daniel Koenig (Sr., 6-6, 300), LG Chris Grisbhy (Sr., 6-5, 325), C Paul Lewis (So., 6-3, 295), RG Michael Wilson (So., 6-6, 300), RT Zachary Crabtree (RSFr., 6-7, 290).
The Cowboys allowed 37 regular season sacks (3.08 per game), which ranked 117th in the country. Considering that Washington tied for 2nd in the nation with 49 sacks and boasts Hau'oli Kikaha, the nation's sack leader, this does not bode well for OSU.
While running stats do not reflect purely on the offensive line, the 3.55 yards per carry on the ground (108th) also underwhelms.
Speaking of the ground game underwhelming, OK State's leading rusher is Desmond Roland (Sr., 6-2, 210) with 647 yards on 171 carries (3.78ypc). Not great efficiency, but he has chipped in a team-high 10 rushing scores.
Roland is a big, tall back that will be challenging in goal-line situations, but he was intended to be one half of a thunder-and-lightning tandem with the explosive Tyreek Hill, who has been dismissed from the team as a result of domestic violence.
That leaves Rennie Childs (So., 5-10, 205) as the primary backup. In limited duty he rushed for 261 yards and 3 TDs.
WR Brandon Shepherd (Jr., 6-1, 195) caught 34 passes for a team-high 639 yards and 4 TDs. James Washington (Fr., 6-0, 193) snagged 26 balls for 423 yards and a team-leading 5 TDs as a true freshman.
David Glidden (Jr., 5-7, 185) was extremely productive in the slot with 40 catches, 568 yards, and 2 TDs.
Both Shepherd and Washington have had hundred-yard receiving days catching passes from Mason Rudolph, and even Glidden racked up 99 yards and a score in the loss to Baylor, so chemistry with the true freshman doesn't appear to be a question.
A true frosh quarterback making only his third career start. A backfield boasting a starter that averages less than four yards per carry and a key backup that has been dismissed from the team. An offensive line that has surrendered over three sacks per game.
None of that sounds very good, but in reality I expect OSU's passing game to be at least respectable. Rudolph looked better in the final two games of the season than Daxx Garman looked throughout the year, and the wide receiver corps boasts underrated talent.
The real issue will be protecting Rudolph from the likes of Hau'oli Kikaha, Andrew Hudson, and Danny Shelton. The over/under on sacks should probably be placed at around four, especially if Roland struggles to establish a run game and/or the Huskies get it going offensively and jump to an early lead.
Expecting Rudolph to lead several scoring drives while avoiding any critical mistakes is likely asking too much as long as the Husky pass rush makes it impossible for him to get comfortable in the pocket.