January 2, 2010

Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi

MORE: Cotton a consolation prize for Rebels, Cowboys | Bowl schedule/results


Oklahoma State run offense vs. Ole Miss run defense: The Cowboys average more than 190 rushing yards behind Keith Toston, who ran for 1,177 yards and 11 TDs. But he only accounted for one touchdown in the Cowboys' three losses. Ole Miss allowed at least 175 rushing yards in three of its four losses. That includes giving up 317 rushing yards in the regular-season finale against Mississippi State.
Edge: Oklahoma State


Oklahoma State (9-3)
vs. Ole Miss (8-4)

WHEN: 2 p.m., Saturday.
WHERE: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
TV: Fox (Pat Summerall will do play-by-play, with Daryl Johnston as analyst).
THE LINE: Ole Miss by 3.
RECORDS vs. BOWL TEAMS: Oklahoma State 5-3, Ole Miss 3-3.
NCAA SCHEDULE STRENGTH: Oklahoma State 30th, Ole Miss 50th.
BCS RANKINGS: Oklahoma State 19th, Ole Miss unranked.
OFFICIALS: A crew from the ACC.
COACHES: Oklahoma State - Mike Gundy (2-1 in bowls); Ole Miss - Houston Nutt (3-5 in bowls).
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Two teams that entered the season with visions of grandeur hope to end an otherwise disappointing season on a positive note. The loser may be the season's most disappointing team.
KEY STATS: Ole Miss is among the most error-plagued teams in the country. QB Jevan Snead's 17 interceptions account for most of the Rebels' 26 turnovers, and Ole Miss has a minus-9 turnover margin. Oklahoma State is at plus-2.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Officially, Dexter McCluster is listed as a flanker. But he can line up at quarterback in the "Wild Rebel" set, he can split wide or he can line up as a tailback. He leads the Rebels with 985 rushing yards and has added 39 catches for 475 receiving yards. He's aiming to become the first player in SEC history with 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season.
Oklahoma State pass offense vs. Ole Miss pass defense: The loss of All-American WR Dez Bryant after three games was a blow from which the Cowboys never seemed to completely recover. QB Zac Robinson has passed for 1,966 yards. But he has thrown for fewer than 150 yards, with three touchdowns and five interceptions, in his past four games. Ole Miss has given up just 11 touchdown passes and ranks 12th in the country in pass defense. The Rebels also have 34 sacks.
Edge: Ole Miss

Ole Miss run offense vs. Oklahoma State run defense: Dexter McCluster has rushed for more than 100 yards in four of the past five games. Brandon Bolden has gained 614 yards for an offense that averages 182.8 rushing yards per game. Oklahoma State has not allowed an opposing runner to gain 100 yards this season. The Cowboys are sixth in the nation in run defense, but they played six teams ranked 81st or worse in rushing offense.
Edge: Even

Ole Miss pass offense vs. Oklahoma State pass defense: Jevan Snead has had an inconsistent season. He has thrown for at least 235 yards in five games but for 175 or less five times. He has thrown 22 touchdown passes but also 17 interceptions. Protection has been an issue at times, although the Rebels have allowed only 14 sacks. Oklahoma State has a mediocre pass rush that has produced 25 sacks. Perhaps that helps explain the dismal showing from the Cowboys' secondary. The Cowboys have allowed more than 242 passing yards per game and 16 touchdown passes. On a plus side, they've managed 14 interceptions. LB Patrick Lavine leads with five, and CB Perrish Cox has played at a high level.
Edge: Ole Miss

Oklahoma State special teams vs. Ole Miss special teams: Perrish Cox can be a big-play threat on kickoff and punt returns for Oklahoma State, but the Cowboys are soft in coverage. K Dan Bailey has converted 13 of 18 attempts, but he's 9-for-10 inside 40 yards and has a long field goal of 51 yards. P Quinn Sharp averages 44.4 yards. Ole Miss is solid in coverage, but its punt-return team is lacking. Jesse Grandy averages 25.7 yards on kickoff returns. K Joshua Shene has hit 15-of-18 field goals, but his longest is just 45 yards. P Tyler Campbell averages 43.6 yards per attempt.
Edge: Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State coaches vs. Ole Miss coaches: In his fifth season at the helm of Oklahoma State, coach Mike Gundy has a 36-26 record. But the Cowboys have yet to beat the powers of the Big 12 South - Texas and Oklahoma - under Gundy. Houston Nutt has won 17 games in two seasons at Ole Miss. That's three more than the Rebels managed in four seasons before he arrived.
Edge: Ole Miss

X-factor: Last season, RB Kendall Hunter led the Cowboys with more than 1,500 yards. This season he has been hampered by leg injuries that forced him out of five games and limited his playing time in three others. He's expected to be at full strength for the Cotton Bowl, which figures to give a huge boost to the Oklahoma State offense.

Oklahoma State will win if: Containing McCluster is the top priority for the Cowboys' defense. They need to keep him from making big plays and force Ole Miss into obvious passing situations. Oklahoma State's running game must be productive.

Ole Miss will win if: The Rebels' offensive line has to provide protection for Snead, who must avoid turnovers.

Olin Buchanan: Oklahoma State 24, Ole Miss 21
Tom Dienhart: Ole Miss 41, Oklahoma State 31
David Fox: Ole Miss 35, Oklahoma State 31
Mike Huguenin: Ole Miss 27, Oklahoma State 20
Steve Megargee: Ole Miss 31, Oklahoma State 24

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.


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