The Sugar Bowl: Could Be Lights Out For The Scoreboard

The Sugar Bowl folks are going to need to make sure they have all their laptops fully charged for all the stats that people are going to be running through all night.

While Oklahoma State, (7-2 in Big 12 play, 10-2 overall) versus Ole Miss, (6-2 in the SEC and 9-3 overall), presents a game basically of runners up, it also presents a matchup of prolific skill position players and potentially explosive offenses.

Oklahoma State was the unexpected one in the Big 12 this season, running off 10 straight wins to start the season before ending with losses to Baylor and Oklahoma and finishing tied for second in the conference. While the Big 12 was full of Trevone Boykin, Baker Mayfield and Seth Russell QB talk when the season started, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph not-so-quietly threw for nearly 3,600 yards to go with 21 touchdown passes and a 62% completion rate. Even in the loss to Baylor, Rudolph threw for 430 yards and three touchdowns. The Cowboys just got “out-gun-slingered” that night, (yes, I am now making up words and phrases…it’s been a long season). Sophomore wide receiver James Washington has been a more than capable primary target in the air raid offense that the Cowboys have. Washington has 52 receptions for 1,977 yards and 10 touchdowns. Oklahoma State actually has 10 receivers that finished the season with doubles digits in receptions and six of those receivers have more than 20 catches.

That says a lot about the Oklahoma State offense right? Exactly…not enough running game. The team’s top rusher is Chris Carson with only 504 yards and he has only 4 touchdowns. J.W. Walsh leads the team in touchdowns with 11 but has only 67 carries all season. He can be explosive and will need to be here.

The high octane offense is going to be handful for an Ole Miss defense that has been up and down all year. The Land Sharks, in theory, are second only to Oklahoma in terms of quality of defenses that Oklahoma State will face all season, and that Oklahoma defense held Oklahoma State to only 23 points. But the Rebels defense has not been consistent this season. Marquee wins over Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU have been offset by mind numbing losses to Memphis and Arkansas. Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Allen completed 73% of his passes against Ole Miss and the Razorbacks put up 605 yards of total offense in that OT win. Now Ole Miss must also make up for the loss of its defensive anchor Robert Nkemdiche who was suspended following marijuana charges being filed against him in Atlanta in mid-December.

So, if you are Ole Miss and are worried about the consistency of your defense, what’s the answer? Light up the scoreboard, of course. Quarterback Chad Kelly has not only become the leader of the offense after transferring from Clemson, but his intensity has made him the emotional leader of the team. That same intensity that led to problems with the coaching staff at Clemson, and led to him being arrested after a bar altercation in 2014 is finally being channeled into on-field production. Kelly has 3,740 yards passing and 27 touchdown throws this season in guiding the Rebels to #12 in the country in yards per game at 515. Wideout Laquon Treadwell has rebounded splendidly from the broken leg that ended his 2014 season prematurely. The junior has 76 receptions for 1,082 yards and 8 touchdowns, but more importantly, his speed will spread the Oklahoma State defense and force the defensive backs to make a lot of one on one tackles in open space.

Oklahoma State’s defense is particularly vulnerable, even by Big 12 standards. The Cowboys gave up 700 yards of offense in the loss to Baylor late in the season and even in the win over TCU they gave up 663 yards and each time, more than half the yards given up were in the air and opponents were getting over on Oklahoma State on third down efficiency at the end of the season.

The leading rusher for Ole Miss is Jaylon Walton with less than 700 yards total on the season, so clearly the Rebels will be in a throw first, run only when needed mode. Oklahoma State is going to have to air it out in order to stay in the game. The over/under on this game is most places is around 67. The over/under on the stats keepers being exhausted after the game is considerably higher.

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