Oklahoma State, Colorado set for explosive Alamo Bowl (Dec 29, 2016)
SAN ANTONIO -- In many respects, No. 10 Colorado and 12th-ranked Oklahoma State are mirror images of each other as both teams utilize spread offenses, employ mostly stingy, turnover-causing defenses and have special teams that excel.
That's a reason, but not the only one, that perhaps the top non-College Football Playoff bowl games of 2016 will be contested by Colorado and Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Wednesday at the Alamodome.
There's also the fact that the game features old rivals from the Big Eight and Big 12 Conferences with plenty of desire to build momentum for the future with a victory to end this season.
It's the highest-ranked Valero Alamo Bowl matchup ever and the first time with both teams being ranked inside the Top 12. The 2016 Valero Alamo Bowl will be the third consecutive Top-15 matchup the bowl has produced and marks the third year of a conference agreement to match the No. 1 Big 12 and No. 1 Pac-12 teams outside of the CFP selections.
For Colorado (10-3), which lost to Washington in the Pac-12 Conference championship game, the trip to the Alamo City represents its first bowl appearance since it lost to Alabama in the 2007 Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.
"We're excited about Colorado going to their first bowl game in 10 years," Buffaloes' coach Mike MacIntyre said. "It's a chance for us to get the monkey off our back for the bowl games and it's a lot of fun. Our kids will be excited about it. It's going to be a heck of a football game with a great atmosphere."
The attention of the Colorado players is even more piqued by the fact that Oklahoma State's talent jumps out at them when they watch the Cowboys' scouting video.
"Our guys have seen Oklahoma State and they realize how good they are, so that motivates them a lot, too," MacIntyre said. "I've told all our guys, 'You have to compartmentalize.' They have to really understand that and take care of that. I think they will. They're excited."
The Buffaloes are also pumped about having quarterback Sefo Linfau back behind center. Linfau missed most of the first half of the Pac-12 Championship game because of an ankle injury but he's healthy and ready.
The four-year starter owns or has tied 87 school records (58 passing, 20 on offense and nine others). He has thrown for 2,171 yards and was responsible for 18 touchdowns (11 passing, 7 rushing) this season, earning the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award.
Oklahoma State cornerback Ramon Richards likens the Colorado offense his unit is charged to stop to the potent Baylor offense in its prime.
"Colorado has a wide variety of skill players, and those guys are what makes their team go," Richards said. "They kind of remind me of what Baylor had a couple years ago. The quarterback gets the wheels turning. Those are the type of teams I like to play against - the type of challenge I like."
The Buffs' defense was dominant toward the end of the year before wilting some in the Pac-12 title game. With defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt leaving Boulder for a similar position at Oregon in mid-December, the unit will be a partial question mark.
Oklahoma State (9-3), which lost its regular-season finale to Oklahoma in the de facto Big 12 Championship game, has great balance on both sides of the ball.
The Cowboys' offense runs through quarterback Mason Rudolph; when he plays well, Oklahoma State usually wins. Rudolph has surpassed 350 yards passing in five games this year, including two of the past four contests and threw for a school-record of 540 yards in Oklahoma State's win over Pitt. Additionally, Rudolph is the only player in the country this season who has surpassed 3,500 passing yards while throwing less than five interceptions.
A big part of OSU's defensive success is due to winning the field position battle. The Cowboys lead the nation in opponent's starting field position, as their average drive has started at their own 23.8-yard line, a factor that's helped the Cowboys rank fourth in the Big 12 in scoring defense.
"I like our attitude," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "Both teams played in their conference championship game, and I'm sure they wanted to win just as much as we did. You go through a week or so after you lose to get the guys back up and going.
"Our first couple of practices were pretty average, but since that point the leadership and the chemistry of the team has taken over and we've been tremendous."
This is the first meeting between the two teams since Colorado moved to the Pac-12 in 2011 and it should be a good one.
The series between Oklahoma State and Colorado dates to 1920. The two teams played every year as members of the Big Eight Conference and that extended into the Big 12 era. The schools have met in football 46 times with Colorado leading the series, 26-19-1, but the Cowboys won the last two in 2008 and 2009.