Once a highly anticipated showdown, pitting power conference squads and pairing Mike Stoops and Stillwater, Oklahoma State-Arizona just doesn't conjure the same cool factor.
Remember the Alamo Bowl? Yeah, couldn't resist.
The teams played just nine months ago in San Antonio, with the entertainment value significantly one-sided for Cowboys fans, who soaked up the comfortable 36-10 win.
What suggests this meeting – 7 p.m. Thursday at Boone Pickens Stadium – will be any different?
Maybe by Thursday, realignment revelations will have created a new Pac-16 rivalry, returning the juice that has so far been missing from this clash. Or maybe Stoops will spout off something fun.
And it may take that, as the key matchups – again – seem to lean, often heavily, OSU's way.
Strength vs. Strength
Arizona's Nick Foles and Juron Criner vs. the OSU pass defense.
Foles and Criner were considered one of the elite pass-and-catch duos in the country a year ago; and are again. But that tandem never got untracked against the Cowboys in San Antonio. Criner caught but one pass for one yard. Foles did complete 32 of 50 throws for 280 yards, but was picked off three times. Foles-to-Criner did work wonderfully in UA's opening 41-10 romp past Northern Arizona, good for six catches, 151 yards and a score.
OSU's front four appears to be improved and the veteran secondary is packed with playmakers. Watch Criner and Cowboys corner Justin Gilbert under the microscope.
Weakness vs. Weakness
Arizona's offensive line vs. OSU's defensive line.
Who wins this aspect – more specifically the pass rush – plays heavily into whether Foles finds time to do his thing. The Wildcats are breaking in an entirely new line, with just one career start spread among five new regulars before the opener against Northern Arizona.
The Cowboys are young, too, on the interior, but can lean on ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones.
Strength vs. Weakness
Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and Co. vs. the Arizona secondary.
These Cowboys have picked apart plenty of stout secondary units, mounting up staggering statistics over the past 14 games. Arizona's defensive backs have been much maligned and are missing injured cornerback Jonathan McKnight. Shaquille Richardson, McKnight's sub, was exposed at times by Northern Arizona, who completed 16 straight passes during one stretch.
OSU's offensive line vs. Arizona's defensive line.
The Cowboys are veteran and deep and coming off a Saturday night performance that featured premium running and passing, to the tune of 666 total yards. The Wildcats have young talent at the tackles, but the ends are unproven and the position lacks quality depth.
OSU's special teams vs. Arizona's special teams.
With punter/kicker Quinn Sharp and deadly return men in Justin Gilbert, Josh Cooper and Josh Stewart, the Cowboys should again be among the nation's best in the kicking game. The Wildcats' kicking situation was already in disarray, before two botched field goals and a missed PAT against Northern Arizona.
OSU's experience vs. Arizona's inexperience.
The Cowboys are sensing their shot at greatness with a veteran squad that has experienced success. Arizona counts 13 true or redshirt freshmen on its two-deep.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater
Record: 1-0, beat Northern Arizona 41-10 in season opener Saturday night.
Best player: Quarterback Nick Foles, who threw for the most yards of the opening weekend – 412 – and struck for a career-best five touchdown tosses.
Why the Cats could beat OSU: The Cowboys beat Arizona 36-10 in December in the Alamo Bowl and there's been little excitement, so far, surrounding this matchup. If it's the same in the Cowboys locker room, a lack of full focus for a team with Foles-led firepower would be unwise.
Why the Cats will lose to OSU: Arizona will arrive with some of the nation's elite offensive skill players in Foles and wideout Juron Criner, but has too many holes elsewhere, as well as injury issues in key spots.
By John Helsley, Staff Writer