Around mid-afternoon on Sunday, the Playoff committee is expected to announce that Ole Miss and Oklahoma State are playing each other in the Sugar Bowl. We're gonna be writing a whole bunch about the Cowboys between now and New Year's Day, but let's take a quick at who this team is, what they do well and what their weaknesses are.
Oklahoma State started the season 10-0...
... but finished 10-2 and 7-2 in the Big 12.
The high point of the Cowboys season came in Week 10, when they not only handed eighth-ranked TCU it's first loss of the season, but did so by a 20-point margin. Until that point, most folks had figured OSU was a product of its back-loaded schedule, but the TCU win changed that perception -- a week later they beat Iowa State to become 10-0 and climbed to No. 6 in the Playoff rankings.
Then Baylor came into Stillwater and dropped 700 yards on them (a good chunk of that with a third-string quarterback) to win, 45-35. OK State's starting quarterback, Mason Rudolph, was injured in the second half of that one, which left their offense severely outgunned in what amounted to the Big 12 championship game the following week against Oklahoma -- the Sooners crushed them by 35 points to end their season on a two-game losing streak.
Their star QB could be healthy for the Sugar Bowl.
Rudolph, who ranks third in the Big 12 in yards per game and passer rating, played just three snaps against Oklahoma and underwent surgery for a fractured foot last Monday. But head coach Mike Gundy said on Saturday that he expects his quarterback to be practicing within in two weeks and is "confident" that Rudolph will be ready for the bowl game.
The Pokes will need him, because they throw the ball a LOT.
Oklahoma State is 12th in the country in passing attempts per game and 95th in rushing attempts per game (the latter is two spots ahead of Ole Miss). They're the epitome of a pass-first offense, throwing on just 53 percent of standard downs (103rd among 128 FBS teams) and 25 percent of passing downs (110th).
But their monster passing numbers aren't the product of simple volume -- they also rank in the country's top 10 in yards per game and yards per attempt. Rudolph is a balanced passer, showing both efficiency (his 62.6 completion percentage is fourth among Big 12 QBs) and explosiveness (his 57 completions of 20-plus yards are best in the conference).
This is, of course, a less than ideal matchup for an Ole Miss secondary that's been torched for most of the season.
They're not so hot at running the ball, though.
I mentioned how infrequently they go to the ground, and like the passing numbers, this isn't a case of a volume-efficiency mismatch. The Pokes' 3.27 yards per carry against Power Five opponents ranks 89th in the country. That's more than a yard worse than Ole Miss' average.
Then again, when you throw as well as they do, you don't really need to run all that well. They're still 16th nationally in offensive S&P+.
The OSU defense can be had.
So I got you kind of nervous with those passing numbers, yea? Well here's the good news: Chad Kelly should be able to pile up some gaudy stats of his own against this defense. In the two late losses, Oklahoma State's D allowed a combined 1,224 yards and 103 points.
The secondary is allowing 263 passing yards per game against Power Five opponents, which ranks 90th in the country. The biggest problem seems to be keeping the play in front of them -- while they rank a respectable 45th in passing success rate, they're 85th in passing IsoPPP, which measures how well you limit explosive plays. The Cowboys have allowed 33 completions of 20 yards or more, which would rank third worst in the SEC.
They're not a whole lot tougher in the front seven: they're allowing over 208 rushing yards per game against Power Five teams, they're 67th in defensive rushing success rate and 70th in overall havoc rate (the percentage of plays in which a defense either records a tackle for loss, forced a fumble, or defensed a pass).
On the positive side, they do force turnovers (ninth most in the country) and get after the quarterback (23rd in adjusted sack rate).