This Enemy Intel holds more weight than most, as CU hasn’t played Oklahoma State in 6 years. I’m really leaning on Cade Webb and Cowboys Ride for Free for knowledge on the Cowboys. Luckily, he was nice enough to answer my questions.
Mason Rudolph is obviously a great quarterback, one of the top 3 that CU has faced this season. Based on what I saw, he has a strong arms, deceptive legs, and good command of the offense. What are his weaknesses? I saw some intermittent accuracy issues and panic under pressure during the OU game, are those consistent in his career or a product of circumstance?
I think you hit his strengths on the head. He's an accurate quarterback and can make every throw on the field. I think he does struggle with accuracy at times, but it's usually when he comes under pressure. When he is under duress in the pocket, he tends to panic. However, he's gotten better about that as he's become a better running quarterback of late. Against OU, I think his accuracy issues were a product of the weather, and poor pass protection.
OSU seems like the prototypical Big 12 team. Prolific offense, softer defense. Is this is an accurate description? What are their strengths and weaknesses?
I don't think "soft" would be the word I would use to describe the defense, but I think you're spot on about the OSU offense. They throw the ball down the field incredibly well, and they're starting to run the ball at a pretty nice clip. On offense, they struggle with complex blitz schemes and a good defense can take them out of their game. When that happens, OSU tends to shell up on offense. They can't do that against CU. On defense, their strength is in the defensive line, specifically the interior defensive line. They're usually able to defend the run with their front seven. They don't defend the pass as well as they defend the run, but they still do a decent job of limiting downfield opportunities.
Justice Hill and Chris Carson have been very effective in the latter part of the season. How do the Buffs stop this running game? How about the offense in general?
I'm not sure how the Buffs can stop the OSU running game. I think they'll have to pick their poison with OSU. Not many teams are able to completely take them out of their game. If CU decides to limit the vertical passing game, then expect OSU to run the ball successfully. They're generally able to do both well, but I think it's pretty tough to say that CU would be able to contain both aspects of this Cowboy offense.
It seemed like the defensive line was the strong point of the Cowboys defense, is that accurate? How do you move the ball on OSU?
It absolutely is. As I mentioned above, they're typically able to defend the run with their front 6 or 7. They did that incredibly well against TCU, who is a very prolific running team. If they do that against CU, I expect CU to try to air it out. One thing that has historically given OSU trouble is dual-threat quarterbacks. From watching the Buffaloes, it seems like Liufau prefers to make plays with his legs, but has the arm to make defenses pay if they key too hard on that. I think CU will find more success through the air than they will on the ground.
Who are some players to watch on offense? On defense?
The OSU offense goes as Mason Rudolph goes. As I said above, he makes all of the throws and when he's on, he's nearly impossible to stop. That said, he can be rattled with pressure. Something to watch there. You also need to be aware of James Washington and Justice Hill. Washington is the top receiver for the Cowboys and is an incredibly dangerous deep threat. OSU loves going to him in one-on-one situations. Hill, the true freshman running back for the Pokes, has led the resurgence of the running game. He is a downfield runner with deceptive speed. If he gets an inch, he can make you pay. On defense, watch for Vincent Taylor and Jordan Sterns. Taylor is a future NFL guy at the DT spot, and is incredibly athletic for a guy his size. Not many teams have been able to slow him down, so expect to hear his name a few times. Sterns, a first-team All-Big12 safety, is a punisher. He's exceptional in run stop defense, but is athletic enough to help out in the pass defense.
What is your prediction for the game?
I like OSU in this game. I think CU has a really good secondary, but OSU does enough on offense that if CU slows the passing game, OSU should still be able to move the ball on the ground. OSU is fighting for 10 wins, but CU has a lot on the line too. I expect a very physical, very close game. Give me OSU 31-27.
Ok, hypothetical: the Big 12 blows up in 10 years like some predict, will you join the ex-Big 12 club in the Conference of Champions?
Conference of Champions? When did Colorado move to the SEC? *winks* But seriously... I think the Pac-12 would be a great fit for Oklahoma State. I've been a proponent of blowing up the conference (at least when expansion was a hot-button topic), and I thought the Pac-12 or SEC would've been the most likely landing spot. I think OSU would thrive in either of those conferences.