The clash between the Arizona Wildcats and Oklahoma State Cowboys that will take place Thursday evening is big for both teams. The odds may be against the Wildcats, but this is a team and program known to pull off an unexpected win or two when seemingly everyone doubted them. It will be tough, but anything can happen when Nick Foles is making plays happen down the field.
For the Cowboys, they're a team ranked in the top-10 looking to make a statement to the nation. A statement showing the team is for real and is capable of competing for a BCS bowl game. They have all the momentum after dismantling Arizona in last year's Alamo Bowl and they're looking to add a solid win to their resumé.
What To Watch For:
Arizona's Wide Receivers vs. Oklahoma State's Secondary:
Juron Criner is not playing, nor did he even make the trip to Stillwater because of an undisclosed medical condition. Jonny Thomas, the Cowboys' starting safety, is ineligible for the game (and the rest of the season). What does that mean?
For the Cats, it will be interesting to see if anyone can step up with a big game in Criner's absence. Dan Buckner had a solid debut for UA last week, but a majority of his routes were for no more than a few yards. Gino Crump, a relatively unknown senior, has not played in many big games, but he impressed in week one and has drawn praise from his entire coaching staff. Austin Hill, a redshirt freshman, could step up, though his ability to block is pretty questionable at this point. Fan-favorite David Douglas could also fill in, though the senior has seen more time in the slot-position.
As for the Pokes, the unit did allow 212 passing yards to LA-Lafayette in the first game of the season, though a large amount of those yards came in garbage time. Still, though, allowing 34 points is a cause for concern and UA will present much more of a challenge.
The Arizona Secondary vs. Justin Blackmon:
If I'm coach Stoops, I double-cover Justin Blackmon on every day. We all saw first-hand what the nation's best receiver can do in the Alamo Bowl last season and it probably wasn't a good idea to try single-coverage on him. If Arizona hopes to win, they must at least slow down the wide receiver. Trevin Wade will start on him and he should receive a ton of help from Robert Golden and the other safeties. He is the ultimate priority for the defense.
If the other playmakers for the Cowboys come away with big yardage, so be it. The 'Cats will live with that. What they won't live for is another torching from the best receiver in the country.
How Do The Wildcats React?
60,000 screaming fans are expected at Boone Pickens Stadium for the primetime matchup. How does this Wildcats team -- a team with a ton of inexperience and youth defense, along with an offensive line that struggled in a home game last week -- react to the sellout crowd? It is essential for Foles, Wade, and the other seniors on the roster to do their very best to keep their teammates calm and collected before, during, and after the game.
Final Thoughts And Predictions:
This is going to be a tough game for Arizona. The odds are stacked against them and the Cowboys are looking to establish themselves on national television as one of the powers of college football this season. Nick Foles makes a few plays early on to keep the game close and interesting, but in the end, Oklahoma State's dynamic offense takes over and the Wildcats fall 45-21.