Arizona Wildcats (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) at No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS), Thursday September 8th, 2011. 8:00 PM EST, College Football Week 2
Boone Pickens Stadium Stillwater, OK
By Jay Horne, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Az +14.5/OSU -14.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
Less than a year ago, the Oklahoma State Cowboys capped off their 2010 season by thrashing the Arizona Wildcats 36-10 in the Alamo Bowl in route to the Cowboys first 11 win season in school history. This season with a ton of returning talent, Oklahoma State will attempt to build off their 2010 momentum. No. 9 Oklahoma States first big challenge will come this Thursday Night when they host the ‘Cats, in a rematch from last years Alamo Bowl, inside Boone Pickens Stadium.
The Wildcats ended 2010 by losing 5 straight games which was concluded by that embarrassing loss to Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl. That loss has stayed in the minds of all those wearing a Wildcats helmet and Arizona will get their chance for revenge this Thursday night in Stillwater. The Wildcats kicked off their season last week by dominating Northern Arizona 41-10. Even though the score indicates a blowout, Arizona led the game by only 14-10 at halftime.
However, the Wildcats offense caught fire in the 2nd half thanks to QB Nick Foles. Foles posted stellar numbers on the afternoon completing 34 of 42 passing for 412 yards with 5 touchdowns and more importantly 0 interceptions. Sure the Wildcats were against an inferior Northern Arizona defense out of the FCS, but Foles threw the ball very well just as you would expect from a seasoned veteran. All-Pac 12 receiver Juron Criner did not disappoint on offense either catching 6 passes for 151 yards with a touchdown. Criner has long been one of the best weapons for the Arizona offense and he will be a guy the Oklahoma State defense will have to focus on again this Thursday night.
One of the major concerns from the Wildcats season opener was the questionable play of the defensive secondary. The Wildcats back 7 appeared lost at times during the first half against the pass and that will be a major concern when they battle Oklahoma State. The Cowboys can move the ball up and down the field just as well as any team in the country through the air. QB Brandon Weeden completed 24 of 39 passing for 338 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions in last weeks 61-34 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. The 3 interceptions from Weeden were uncharacteristic of the senior quarterback and he will have to do a better job of protecting the ball this week as those mistakes will be more costly against a team of Arizonas caliber.
Cowboys WR Justin Blackmon picked up right where he left last season catching 8 passes for 144 yards. Blackmon won the Biletnikoff Award last year as the nations top wide receiver and will be a nightmare for any defense he lines up against this season. While the Arizona defense will surely put a lot of focus on Blackmon, Weeden does a great job of spreading the ball around to all receivers. Junior Tracy Moore caught all of 212 yards through the entire 2010 season, but grabbed 7 passes for 112 yards last week to help the Cowboys post 458 yards of total offense.
The key for Arizona will be playing well on the defensive front. If the Wildcats can put pressure on Weeden, they may be able to force some turnovers and allow their offense to control the football. If they do not get any pressure on Weeden, their secondary will be ripped apart. These Oklahoma State receivers are among the best in the nation and the more time to they have to get open the more dangerous they will be to the Arizona defense. Arizona QB Nick Foles should have some success against the Cowboys defense, but the Wildcats defense cannot afford to give up quick scores and turn this game into a shootout which would heavily favor Oklahoma State.
Jays Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This is a big time Thursday night game that the entire nation will be watching. While I believe Oklahoma State is the superior team, I believe Arizona will play well and keep this game close. If Nick Foles plays well and I think he will, Arizona will cover. Take Arizona +14.5.
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