Oklahoma State Football: Alamo Bowl keys to victory

The Oklahoma State football team takes on the Colorado Buffaloes out of the PAC-12 in the 2016 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

On Dec. 29, the Oklahoma State football team will take the field for the final time during the 2016 season. The Colorado Buffaloes are the opponent the Pokes face in the 2016 Alamo Bowl at the Alamodome in San Antonio. OK State 9-3 (7-2 Big 12) enters the game ranked no. 12, while the Buffs 10-3 (8-2 PAC-12) enter ranked no. 10. Meanwhile, the spread favors Colorado by three points and the over/under is 62 points, according to ESPN Pick Center. Moreover, ESPN gives OK State a 48.9 percent chance to win this game.

This is a huge opportunity for the Pokes to carry momentum into the 2017 season and finish the 2016 season possibly ranked inside the top 10.

Now let’s take a look at Oklahoma State’s keys to victory in the 2016 Alamo Bowl.

1. Overcome the Buffs’ pass defense

The Buffs defense gave up as many passing touchdowns as passes they picked off, averaging 1.2 passing touchdowns allowed and 1.2 interceptions per game. Defensive backs Tedric Thompson and Chidobe Awuzie are two players that formed one of the best pass defenses in the PAC-12. Thompson picked off opposing quarterbacks seven times.

However, OK State averages more than 320 passing yards per game. Quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington need big performances to overcome the challenge of the Buffs pass defense. Yet, Washington figures to be the focus of the Colorado pass defense so the Pokes need other receivers to step up. Jalen McCleskey and Chris Lacy are names to watch.

Rudolph did not play well in the Pokes last game against the Oklahoma Sooners. He threw for 186 yards on 11-25 without a single passing touchdown. However, there is little doubt to Rudolph’s ability to bounce back.

2. Stop the run

Something OK State could not do against OU, stopping the run game. The Buffs have a great running back in Phillip Lindsay who can gash defenses that do not prepare well. But the OK State front seven played well at times down the stretch of the regular season. Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor and linebackers Chad Whitener and Devante Averette need big games to slow down Lindsay and Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau. Whitener is expected to return for his senior season along with Rudolph and Washington, so the motivation level with him won’t be a problem.

OK State gives up 205 rushing yards per game. Lindsay rushed for 1,189 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Keeping the Cowboys’ high-powered offense neutralized and on the sides is likely in the works for the Buffs. If the Cowboys can hold Lindsay in check for most of the game, then a victory looks more certain.

3. Rely on Justice Hill and Chris Carson

One of the best surprises of the latter stages of the season was the emergence of Hill and Carson in the backfield for the Cowboys. Hill is the first thousand yard rusher for the Cowboys since Joseph Randle in 2012. Carson averaged more than seven yards per carry after returning from injury in the middle of the season. Moreover, OK State actually averaged more rushing touchdowns per game than passing touchdowns per game.

The Buffs’ defense allows 4.0 yards per carry so there are vulnerabilities in this defense. Considering USA Today named Hill a Freshman All-American and Hill got named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, he is more than a force to be reckoned with.

Carson and Hill form a thunder and lighting combination of sorts. Hill is extremely elusive but still breaks tackles. Carson recently started running with more power and just trucking defenders. Both running backs represent the best backfield the Pokes had since 2012.