Big Ten Bowl Previews – Gator Bowl and Heart of Dallas Bowl

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Heart of Dallas Bowl

TEAMS:  Purdue (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten Conference) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12 Conference)

TIME:  January 1st, 12:00 p.m. EST

TV:  ESPNU

LAS VEGAS LINES:  Oklahoma State -17; Over/Under 70.5 points

The Heart of Dallas Bowl, formerly called the TicketCity Bowl, will feature a team from the Big Ten, the Purdue Boilermakers, and a team from the Big 12, the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  On paper and in Las Vegas, the Cowboys are expected to have their way with out-gunned Purdue team.  However, if this bowl season has taught us anything, it is you never can tell what is going to happen when the two teams meet between the lines.

Dec 27, 2011; Detroit, MI, USA; Purdue Boilermakers cheerleaders perform during the second half against the Western Michigan Broncos at the 2011 Little Caesars Bowl at Ford Field. Purdue won 37-32. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue has been playing with their backs up against the wall since the beginning of November when they lost their sixth game of the season.  At that point, many had written off Purdue thinking that there was no way that they could win their final three games to make it to bowl eligibility, but that is exactly what they did.

Purdue started the year as a dark horse team that could contend for the Big Ten’s Leader’s Division, since Penn State and Ohio State were ineligible to win it.  Early in the season it appeared that Purdue was going to be a contender as they started out 3-1.  However, a showdown with Michigan loomed.  Michigan steamrolled the Boilermakers as would the next four teams after that.  At that point in the year, injuries to key players were starting to take their toll on Purdue.  Head coach Danny Hope was able to rally the troops and get wins in their final three games to allow Purdue to be bowl eligible.

After the season, head coach Danny Hope was fired.  He will be replaced by Darrell Hazell who led Kent State to a remarkable season in the MAC East this year.  However, for the bowl game, interim head coaching duties will fall to offensive coordinator Patrick Higgins.  The players received a boost though when coach Hope emailed them and said that he would be in attendance for the game, as would new head coach, coach Hazell.  it’s quite possible that Purdue will need all of the support and positive vibes they can get playing a very talented and offensively-minded Oklahoma State Cowboys team.

Dec 1, 2012; Waco, TX, USA; An Oklahoma State Cowboys cheerleader roots for the Cowboys as they face the Baylor Bears at Floyd Casey Stadium. The Bears defeated the Cowboys 41-34. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

For Oklahoma State, an invite to this bowl was an easy formula.  Start the year alternating wins and losses.  Follow that up by winning three games in a row including a win over TCU and #24 Iowa State, and then finish the season by losing 3 of your last five games, including their last two games.  The Cowboys lost their main offensive play-makers in quarterback Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon, but they still return junior RB Mike Randle, the leading rusher in the Big 12.  His explosive play-making capabilities are something to behold!  Oklahoma State also was the fourth most prolific scoring offense in the country scoring an average of 44.7 points per game.

Something to keep your eye on for the Cowboys is how they are able to relay offensive calls in the game.  Offensive coordinator, Todd Monken has been hired to be the head coach for Southern Mississippi.  As a result, the plays may be coming in a little slower than they would if Monken was still there calling them himself.  No matter, the people that will be calling the plays have seen the team all year, they know what works and what doesn’t.  As long as the Cowboys don;t try to get cute, they should be able to easily handle the out-matched Boilermakers squad.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

In a game pitting one of the best run offenses in the nation in Oklahokma State against one of the worst run defenses in the nation in Purdue, don’t be surprised to see Cowboys running back Joseph Randle have a career day!  On the season Randle amassed 1351 rushing yards, the best in the Big 12, and scored 14 TDs, placing him in the top-5 of the Big 12 in that category.  The Purdue defense yielded 179 yards rushing per game.  Besides carrying the ball 257 times on the year, Randle also made 28 pass receptions for 228 yards.  His shiftiness and quick-changing capabilities are going to be difficult for the Boilermaker defensive front to slow down.  In fact, in Purdue’s last two games, their rush defense allowed 173 and 164 yards respectively on the ground.  Add to it, they gave up 6 total TDs in that span as well.  If that does not change, it could be a very long day for the Purdue faithful!

While Joseph Randle is likely the focus of the Cowboys offense, junior quarterback Clint Chelf has come off the bench to start the last 5 games for the injured J.W. Walsh and Wes Lunt.  He is expected to be at the helm for this game as well.  In Chelf’s limited play he has passed for 1391 yards and 12 TDs, but he has thrown 6 INTs.  In fact, Chelf has thrown at least 1 INT in all but one of the 5 games he has started.  Purdue, while not only having a porous run defense, also has a suspect pass defense, too.  They give up an average of 227.5 passing yards per game which places them 9th out of the Big Ten’s 12 teams.  Oklahoma State needs to be wary of falling into a rut with their play calling.  Randle will likely get over 20 carries on the game, but having Chelf throw the ball 45-50 times could be problematic for the Cowboys.

Nov 10, 2012; Stillwater OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys wide receiver Josh Stewart (5) catches the ball during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

The primary receiving threat for Chelf is Josh Stewart who posted 96 receptions for 1154 yards and 7 TDs.  Far and away he was the most targeted receiver for the Cowboys.  Stewart had nearly three times as many receptions as his next closest teammate.  If the down and distance get ahead of Oklahoma State, look for Chelf to find Stewart to make a big play.  On the year, Purdue gave up nine plays of 40+ yards and six plays of 50+ yards or more.  I will not be surprised to see Oklahoma State take a few shots deep down the field.

Along with Josh Stewart, the Cowboys will throw to TE Blake Jackson and WR Charlie Moore,  Both players caught more than 25 passes and 500 or more yards.  Moore found the end zone 5 times while Jackson was able to punch it in twice.

The success of the Cowboys is their ability to spread out the defense and force you to defend both the pass and the run.  As a result of the balanced offense for Oklahoma State, they were fourth in the nation in average points scored per game with 44.7 points.  The Cowboys scored at least 30 points in every game this year save for one.  On the flip side, Purdue only scored 30 points in four games this year.

For Purdue to be competitive in this game, they are going to need an other-worldy performance from their defensive front line, led by All-Big Ten defensive tackle Kawann Short.  Short was 5th in the Big Ten in sacks, recording 5 on the year.  While Short is busy blowing up the middle of the offensive line, his fellow defensive tackle Bruce Gaston has become an underrated force.  Also, Ryan Russell off of the edge has also been a dominant threat for the Boilermakers.  The ability of Purdue’s defensive line to clog up the line of scrimmage and limit the holes for Mike Randle as well as throw off the timing of Clint Chelf will be a major factor if Purdue is to win this game.

Offensively the strength of Purdue is their running game.  Injuries plagued the Boilermakers all year.  When healthy, Purdue will trot out three very good, and yet, different running backs.  Akeem Shavers, Akeem Hunt, and Ralph Bolden who should be back after straining his hamstring toward the end of the year.  Shavers was the Boilermakers top rusher, leading the team with 778 yards and 6 scores.  Hunt was the homerun hitter for Purdue with his sprinters-like speed.  He only rushed for 335 yards and 2 scores, but one of those scores went for 81 yards.  Bolden was injured much of the year, but when healthy, he is as good as any back in the Big Ten.  Look for Purdue to run, run, run the ball against Oklahoma State.  While the Cowboys gave up the 3rd fewest rushing yards in the Big 12, more importantly, the ability for Purdue to run the ball effectively will keep the Cowboys offense on the bench.  If they can do that, then Purdue has a shot to win the game!

Oct 27, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Purdue Boilermakers quarterback Robert Marve (9) throws during the third quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers defeated the Boilermakers 44-28. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback play for the Boilermakers has been a revolving door between Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush.  For this game, look for Marve to get the start.  Marve is coming off his best game of the year, a near-350 yards passing performance including 4 TDs.  Marve is coming off his second knee surgery, so his mobility in the pocket will be limited.  The Purdue offensive line, which has given up 22 sacks this year compared to Oklahoma State which as given up 10 sacks, needs to keep Marve clean and give him time to find his receivers like leading receiver Antavian Edison.

PREDICTION

Purdue – 21

Oklahoma State – 45

I will be along later today to give you some insight into the Orange Bowl pitting Northern Illinois against Florida State.  Take care, enjoy your New Year’s Day and be safe…until we talk again!

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Tags: Gator Bowl Heart Of Dallas Bowl Mississippi State Bulldogs Football Northwestern Wildcats Football Oklahoma State Cowboys Football Purdue Boilermakers Football