Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (10-3 SU, 10-3 ATS)
Valero Alamo Bowl
Date/Time: Thursday, December 29, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: OKST +3/COLO -3
Over/Under Total: 62.5
The Oklahoma State Cowboys take on the Colorado Buffaloes on December 29 in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Itís a pleasing battle between two conference runner-ups, a pair of dangerous teams that each only lost three games this season. Neither team finished the season the way they would have liked. Oklahoma St. was beaten in Norman by in-state rival Oklahoma on the 3rd, while Colorado was blasted 41-10 in the conference title game by Washington in their last game on the 2nd.
To get too caught up In Coloradoís failure to compete against CFP-bound Washington in the Pac-12 conference game will have us missing the boat. This Buffaloes team had a renaissance season in 2016 unlike anything anyone expected. Coach Mike MacIntyre, his staff, and the upperclassmen leadership on this team were responsible for this turnaround, one of the more-drastic and surprising in recent seasons. A Colorado team that couldnít get anything right in its first few years in the conference was suddenly beating top Pac-12 teams left and right, while covering spreads at a pulsating rate. Even after failing to cover at the end of the season in a win over Utah and in the Washington loss, they were still 10-3 ATS, covering their first 8 spreads of the season.
Both of Coloradoís first two losses were forgivable. First was a loss at Michigan against a peaked Wolverines squad. Colorado was hanging in there until losing Sefo Liufau to injury. And then was a 4-point loss to a USC team that had drastically altered course. The loss to Washington was disconcerting, but they did a lot of good things this season with wins over Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Washington State, and Utah. To get through this deep conference with an 8-1 record in their first nine Pac-12 games is amazing. Liufau was as gutty as it gets, turning all his pain into power and soldiering through a series of nagging injuries to come out shining in the end.
Liufau was battered in the Washington game, which was costly in more ways than one. Top aerial weapon Bryce Bobo was also hurt and is questionable for this game. Liufau has been a real gamer, but beyond that, a vocal leader. The 4-year starter has experienced just about the entire scope of the different things a player can go through in a college football career. His stats might not blow anyone away, but his presence behind center was key in this teamís revival, as he will leave this team in far better shape than it was when he joined. Supporting him in the offense is a line that got its act together better this season. Liufau is a formidable runner himself with almost 500 yards and 7 scores, while the real heavy lifting in the ground game is done By Phillip Lindsay and his 1189 yards and 17 touchdowns. Aerially, Shay Fields and Devin Ross are the heavy-hitters, with Bobo, Lindsay, and son of Mike, Jay MacIntyre leading the way.
Granted, the Colorado defense did not shine against Washington to end the season and face another challenging offense this week. The game against the Huskies notwithstanding, this defense had been a good and balanced one for a large part of the season. They held a powerful Washington State offense to 24, Stanford to 5 points, UCLA to 10, and only let a USC team that had been pounding opponents to score 21 points. They rushed the passer well this season and got 26 turnovers, led by Tedric Thompsonís 7 interceptions. Getting after quarterbacks was Jimmie Gilbert with ten sacks, with Jordan Carrell chipping in, as well.
Oklahoma State started the season 2-2, before peeling off a 7-game win streak, all in conference. The loss to Oklahoma was upsetting to close the regular season, but this was a successful season for the Cowboys considering how it began. QB Mason Rudolph was a handful with 3777 yards passing with 25 TDs and just 4 interceptions. They were a top-ten aerial offense, as the Cowboys averaged 38.7 points a game this season.
In his second full season of starting, Rudolph was effective and even ran in 6 touchdowns. The ground game is led by 1000-yard rusher Justice Hill, with Chris Carson also adding production and depth. Running back Rennie Childs ran in 7 scores, as well, so their ground-game was impactful, though it lagged behind the passing-game, with James Washington one of the top in the conference with 1209 yards, along with Jalen McCleskey and his 61 catches. Pass-catchers Chris Lacy and Jhajuan Seales were also key role guys in this offense, where thereís room for a lot of different players to thrive.
Eight times this season, the Oklahoma State defense allowed 30 or more points. There were times when the nationís 108th ranked defense struggled to contain opposing offenses. At the same time, they usually played in consort with the offense and couldnít have been that bad with Oklahoma State coming off a recent 7-game win streakóall against Big 12 teams. They were still able to register 24 turnovers with some good play in the pass-rush department at times. Up-front, Tralund Walker and Vincent Taylor were pretty tough, while CB Ramon Richards and S Jordan Sterns made plays in the secondary.
The Oklahoma State offense can be scary with a deep aerial package that could wreak havoc on the undersized Colorado secondary. But over the course of the game, I see the greater balance and experience on both sides of the ball, along with Phillip Lindsay, starting to make a difference for the Buffs. In what should be an entertaining back-and-forth game, I see Colorado crossing the wire with their noses ahead. Iím taking the Buffaloes.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the Colorado Buffaloes minus 3 points.
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