No. 18 Oklahoma State (1-0) and Arizona (1-0) are meet for the third time in less than two seasons. Game kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Oklahoma time.
How much will the playbook open for Wes Lunt?
Coach Mike Gundy said a couple weeks ago that OSU has not had to “dumb down” the offensive playbook for true freshman quarterback Wes Lunt. Against Savannah State, Lunt threw one pass down field, a 42-yard connection with Isaiah Anderson. The heavy dose of lateral and short passes largely had to do with the level of competition, but I’m sure coaches also wanted to make things easy on Lunt initially. That will have to change tonight.
Can the defense “contain” Matt Scott?
Scott is a threat as a runner and a thrower in Rich Rodriguez’s spread offense. Ryan Robinson and either Cooper Bassett or Nigel Nicholas are new starters at defensive end, but the Cowboys believe they have greatly improved their depth at defensive tackle. And OSU has lots of speed and athleticism at the outside linebacker spots. As I wrote in my pregame story, trying to slow down Scott and Co. will be a good first test for a defense that is supposedly the best OSU has had during Gundy’s tenure as head coach. Keep in mind that defensive coordinator Bill Young is not on this trip, and Glenn Spencer will again be the acting DC tonight.
How much will Tracy Moore contribute?
It’s hard to believe that Moore, the Cowboys’ top returning receiver, has not caught a pass in OSU’s last two games — because he hasn’t played receiver. Moore was demoted to only special teams duties in the Fiesta Bowl after mouthing off during practice, then suspended against Savannah State after his third minor brush with the law in six months. Does Moore respond with a monster game? Do coaches slowly work him back into the offense? How’s his chemistry with Lunt?
I’ve seen a handful of games at Arizona Stadium. This crowd can get rowdy, especially the ‘Zona Zoo student section that stretches across the entire lower bowl behind the Wildcat bench. But they’ll also leave at halftime — like against Toledo — if the game is no longer interesting. A good start will also continue to build the confidence of Lunt on a much bigger stage. I’m curious to see if they rely on the run early, or go ahead and allow Lunt to let it rip.
Protect Wes Lunt
Lunt saw no pass rush at all against Savannah State. That will change tonight, as I’m sure the Arizona defense will try to rattle the young quarterback. The Wildcats tallied two sacks against Toledo, 1.5 coming from safety Marquis Flowers. That tells me they will blitz, which means Joseph Randle, Jeremy Smith, Kye Staley and Co. need to be ready to block in the backfield. As well as Parker Graham, the left tackle, in his first real task of protecting Lunt’s blind side.
Gundy said after the Savannah State game that he was disappointed that the Cowboys put the ball on the turf a couple of times. OSU had two turnovers—a J.W. Walsh interception and a fumble by receiver Austin Hays—and Randle escaped a fumble in the red zone when the play was negated by a Savannah State penalty. Arizona made tons of mistakes against Toledo. Two missed chip-shot field goals. Three turnovers. Two touchdowns called back because of a penalty. That won’t fly against a ranked team.
Uniform prediction: White helmet, white jersey, gray pants
I’ve cheated. The team is already out for warm-ups. This is the first repeat combo since OSU went to the 48 possible looks, and a recent combo revived. The Cowboys wore white-white-gray when they throttled Texas Tech 66-6 in Lubbock in November.
Final score prediction: OSU 37, Arizona 23
Arizona crowd keeps the Wildcats in the game as Lunt gets used to his first road environment—and real college football game. But The Cowboys pull away in the second half.