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SQ Valero Alamo Bowl Preview

Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

In the only matchup between the Pac-12 and Big 12 this bowl season, Colorado takes on Oklahoma State in what figures to be a close game

The 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl features Oklahoma State 9-3 (7-2 Big 12) pitted against Colorado 10-3 (8-1 Pac-12). The game takes place at 9 PM Eastern time on Dec. 29 and can be seen on ESPN

For Colorado, the Alamo Bowl will be a disappointment after a season in which they finished as runners up to Washington in the Pac-12. When Washington was chosen for the Playoff, Colorado thought they would make the Rose Bowl, only to be passed over in favor of USC

Oklahoma State too will be ruing missed opportunities, as a win in their final game against Oklahoma would have seen them in the more prestigious Sugar Bowl. Regardless of circumstance, both teams will be ready to go and looking to end the season on a high note in the Alamodome.

Storylines Heading Into the Game


Sefo Liufau’s Last Chance to Prove His Worth

Colorado gunslinger quarterback Sefo Liufau is currently projected to be a seventh round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, but he could do himself a lot of favors with a strong showing against a rather porous Oklahoma State secondary that ranks 97th in passing yards allowed. In his last outing against Washington in the Pac-12 Championship game, Liufau left injured on the first drive of the game, only to return in the second half and proceed to throw three interceptions. Liufau has proven to be a very streaky quarterback, and Colorado will need the good Liufau to show up in order to have a chance to win.

Mason Rudolph and James Washington Are Back For More

In a statement released on Twitter, Oklahoma State’s dynamic duo of quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington both announced they would be back for their senior seasons in 2017.


This is huge news, as those two have connected for over 1,200 yards and nine touchdowns through the air this season. Expect Rudolph to look Washington’s way early and often on Thursday as he tries to break down Colorado’s tricky defensive schemes. 

Mike MacIntyre’s Remarkable Turnaround of Colorado

Back in the 1990s, Colorado was a perennial power under coach Bill McCartney. With the turn of the century came a turn in the fortunes of the Colorado football program. This year’s Alamo Bowl marks the first time the Buffalo return to a bowl game since 2007, when they lost the Independence Bowl to finish 6-7. Perhaps more extraordinary is Colorado’s quick turnaround. This is a program that over the past five seasons has recorded win totals of three, one, four, two, and four, before vaulting all the way to 10 (maybe 11) wins in 2016. For his efforts, MacIntyre was named the College Football Coach of the Year

Key Stats

.316 - Colorado ranks 12th in the nation, only allowing opponents to convert on 31.6% of third down opportunities. However, in their three losses, Michigan, USC, and Washington went a combined 21/47 or 44.7% on third down. Against a team like Oklahoma State that loves dictating the pace of a game, it is crucial that Colorado gets key stops on third down and gets their defense off the field. 

4 - Mason Rudolph has only thrown four interceptions on the season, however, Oklahoma State has lost two of the three games in which he has thrown an interception. One of the strengths of the Colorado defense is picking off passes. This season, they took away 15, good enough for 17th in the nation. Rudolph has been great at protecting the ball, but he has yet to face a secondary as hawkish as the Colorado secondary. 

7 - In their three losses, Oklahoma State put up a total of seven points combined in the fourth quarter, while giving up 34. For a team as reliant on their offense as Oklahoma State is, that will not cut it. Quarterback Mason Rudolph has developed into an astute leader over the course of the season, but he and the rest of the offense need to finish out games instead of playing well for only three quarters. 

Key Players

Phillip Lindsay, RB, Colorado - I wrote about Lindsay as a key for Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship game, and I’m going to write about him again. In that game, Lindsay rushed 19 times for 53 yards, an average of 2.8 YPC. If you take away his one rush of 25 yards, that leaves 18 rushes for 28 yards, or 1.5 YPC. That’s not good enough to win a football game. It’s clear that Colorado tried to get him going by giving him the ball 19 times, but the front seven of Washington was too stout. Oklahoma State on the other hand ranks 94th in the nation, yielding 204 rushing yards per game. Look for Colorado to make Lindsay a priority again early in this one. 

Vincent Taylor and Tralund Webber, DL, Oklahoma State - Taylor and Webber have been massive for the Cowboys this season, combining for 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. At 6‘3” and 310 pounds, Taylor is a big run stopper in the middle of the defensive line, but he also possesses surprising agility with a knack for getting to the quarterback. In contrast, Webber stands at 6‘5” and only 250 pounds. He relies more on his speed and quickness to get around the edge and wreak havoc in the backfield. If these two are on their game, they give Oklahoma State a huge advantage in the trenches.

Why Colorado Wins

Colorado has played a tough schedule this season, with games against Michigan, Washington, USC, Stanford, and Utah. They are a battle-hardened team, who, until their capitulation against Washington, had been getting better with every game. Nothing about this Colorado team stands out, but they are efficient on offense and opportunistic on defense. Although Liufau has not been having his best season statistically, he has become a much better game manager for the Buffs. The seniors on this Colorado team have seen the program do a complete 180˚, and they will be giving everything they have to go out with a win.

Why Oklahoma State Wins

There is no doubt that Oklahoma State possesses the two most talented players in this game in Mason Rudolph and James Washington. Earlier this season, Washington had a game of 296 receiving yards and two touchdowns. But beyond those two stars, Oklahoma State has a loaded offense. Running back Justice Hill has over 1,000 yards on the ground and wide receiver Jalen McClesky is a reliable red zone target with seven touchdowns on the season. The Oklahoma State offense will put up points (their lowest output on the season was 20 against Oklahoma), so if the defense can string together a few stops, the Cowboys have a good chance of taking this one.

Prediction

The Alamo Bowl is a strength on strength matchup with the Oklahoma State passing game going up against the Colorado secondary. In all three of Colorado’s losses, they have been outmatched physically by teams that were simply better than they were. However, they managed to do well with teams running fast-paced, passing-based offenses. Oklahoma State will need to mix in a good dosage of the run game and try to control the game if they hope to beat Colorado. If they fall behind early and rely completely on the passing game, it could be a long evening for them.

Colorado Wins 27-24

Edited by Emily Berman, Coleman Gray.

SQuiz
Who won the 2015 Alamo Bowl
Created 12/28/16
  1. Baylor
  2. Kansas State
  3. USC
  4. UCLA

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