The Cactus Bowl features two similar teams in how they performed through the season. Washington and Oklahoma State both finished their campaigns with wins and will look to continue that trend into better 2015 seasons. The Huskies are a -6 favorite in Tempe.
Not many expected OK State to win at Oklahoma in the Battle of Bedlam, but even after being down by 14 points at halftime, they improbably came back and won in overtime to notch their sixth win of the season. That happened to be the Cowboys’ only relevant win of the season as they were coming off five straight Conference losses by an average of 26.6 points per Game. They opened the year 5-1 with a loss to Florida State, but none of those wins came against teams with winning records.
The same can actually be said about Washington even with an 8-5 record. Technically, the Huskies did beat a team with a winning record, but that was against Eastern Washington of the FCS. They fell to the powers of the Pac-12, but definitely put up more fight in their losses than OK State, staying competitive with the likes of Stanford and Arizona.
Washington didn’t have an otherworldly defense, struggling in the secondary, but they did have three players on the All-American team. The Huskies had 49 sacks on the year, led by two-way player Shaq Thompson along with LB Hau’oli Kikaha and DE Danny Shelton. This doesn’t help an inconsistent Oklahoma State offense.
The Cowboys have looked surprisingly solid with Mason Rudolph at the helm. The bowl will be Rudolph’s third start of his career as the Cowboys lost J.W. Walsh early and Daxx Garman more recently to injury. In Rudolph’s two starts, he has 4 TDs and 3 INTs for 9.23 yards per attempt. The problem for OK State is that playmaker Tyreek Hill was booted off the team in mid-December. The speedy tail back averaged over 150 all-purpose yards per Game and will be missed. RB Desmond Roland will need to step up, but he’s not the same kind of runner, as seen in his 3.8 yards per carry. against this defense, Rudolph will need to have another great Game against a weak secondary.
The Cowboys aren’t great on the defensive end and allowed 32 points per Game on the year. They didn’t really stop anyone. That’s good news for a Washington team that isn’t exactly a high-scoring unit.
The Huskies are a balanced group led by Cyler Miles, who has closed the season really well. Miles is completing 66.7% of his passes for 16 TDs and only 3 INTs. He and top receiver Jaydon Mickens (535 yards, 3 TDs) have been clicking lately. This is still a team that leans heavily on the ground Game and that’s where Dwayne Washington comes in as he’s rushed for 100 yards in three straight Games for a total of five touchdowns. If that ground Game gets going, it could be trouble for the Cowboys.
Chris Petersen would very much like to grab a bowl win in his first season as Washington’s coach, while Oklahoma State may not be of the same mindset. This team put everything into the Oklahoma Game and may not put the same amount of effort into this one.
The Huskies are 4-1 ATS in their last five overall and 1-3-1 ATS in their last five vs. the Big 12. The Cowboys are 2-7 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 2-5 ATS in their last seven overall.
Our Pick – Washington -6