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Fiesta Bowl Pick

Stanford vs. Oklahoma State

1/2/12

Stanford and Oklahoma State square off in the Fiesta Bowl on January 2nd, in what will be the nightcap of the 6 games on that day. Oklahoma State and their high powered offense, led by 28 year old Brandon Weeden are -4 point favorites at 5 Dimes over Stanford and their high powered offense, let by Andrew Luck. The posted total is currently 73.5 points.

We always address the psychological angles in these bowl games and there's one in this game that can't be overlooked. The only question being, will it impact the outcome. Oklahoma State feels snubbed. They lobbied hard for a shot in the Title game against LSU. They felt they deserved the game and many agree. Here's a quote:

“I don’t think there’s any question Oklahoma State should be in the big game,” Gundy said following the rout of Oklahoma, which ended an eight-game losing streak to the Sooners in the Bedlam series.

When asked to compare his team to Alabama, Gundy added, “We lost in double overtime on the road. We didn’t lose at home. They had their shot. Give us ours.”

Now, anyone that's ever played a team sport at a high level of competition, knows what motivation like that can do. It can truly be the difference in a ball game, all things being equal. But let's take a closer look at the game itself first, based on both teams strengths.

Both of these teams are going to move the ball offensively and put some points on the board. Oklahoma State is going to air it out which in turn has the potential to set up the running game. While Stanford goes about things more traditionally on offense, with a fantastic running game which obviously sets up the passing game behind the arm of Luck.

How each team plays defensively will determine the outcome here. Stanford's weakness defensively is it's secondary. Obviously, going up against a passing offense like the Cowboys with a weakness in the secondary could be lethal. But the Cardinal makes up for that with their pass rush which has kept opposing QB's on their toes all season. Stanford has also been very good against the run this year.

Oklahoma State may have some problems here defensively. They rank 84th in the nation against the run and 102nd against the pass. (Stanford is 5th against the run and 79th against the pass). It's a defense that likes to gamble. Here's a good lesson to those math gurus out there that like to suggest turnovers are random events in football games. The Cowboys make no secret of the fact that they are trying to strip the ball every  chance they get. In fact the attention they have given to stripping the ball has often led to missed tackles and large gains for opponents. They also gamble with their pass coverage, often taking chances and breaking for the ball early. Their gambles have paid off as they lead the nation in turnover margin at +20 and are going after an NCAA record.

No teams have been able to stop either one of these teams offensively this year. Both teams will move the ball. Defense is where this game will be won. Most teams have been able to move the ball on Oklahoma State. They simply outscore opponents. Stanford, on the other hand, has shut down just about every team they have faced but 3. Now, those 3 happened to include USC and Oregon, but they did hold USC to 34 in regulation time, and USC ended the year as perhaps one of the top 3 teams in the nation and they also had a great defense, which Stanford was able to penetrate.

Stanford should be able to dictate the pace here by way of their running game. Keeping the Oklahoma State offense off the field as much as possible will be key. Luck should also be able to take advantage of that gambling Cowboy secondary and make them pay for taking chances. If Stanford is then able to do what they have done well all year defensively, which is get after the quarterback, this game should be theirs. Stanford is the more complete team here in all phases of the game. Anytime we have such a big game, where both teams figure to have offensive success, we like to be taking points.

This game has the potential to be epic. One that is referred to for decades to come. We'll take all the points we can get, which right now is +4. For the record, our score prediction model likes Stanford straight up by a score of 42-37. Stanford +4

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