Arizona-Oklahoma State: Three things to watch
Before Arizona and Oklahoma State kick things off in Stillwater on Thursday night, let's take a look at what to watch for in this contest.
And in case you missed it earlier at the NFP, take a look at what Wes Bunting will be viewing from a scouting perspective.
ICONNick Foles will be without top receiver Juron Criner against Oklahoma State.
1. The scoreboard exploding: This rematch of last year's Alamo Bowl features two teams with very prolific offenses, highlighted by future NFL quarterbacks. Arizona’s Nick Foles amassed 412 passing yards and five touchdowns in a blowout win over Northern Arizona last week, and only Case Keenum has more 400-yard games since the start of 2009. However, he will be missing top receiver target Juron Criner, who will be out with an undisclosed illness. Criner caught six passes for 151 yards and a touchdown in the opener, so he will be missed. It'll be up to Dan Buckner, the Texas transfer who caught four passes for 38 yards in his Arizona debut, as well as David Douglas and Gino Crump, who had five catches and a touchdown last week, to step up their games in Criner's absence. Meanwhile, the Cowboys received another 100-yard-plus receiving effort from star Justin Blackmon in their easy victory last week, and Blackmon beat Arizona deep in the Alamo Bowl with a 72-yard touchdown reception. So quarterback Brandon Weeden, who will continue to run the prolific offense despite the loss of Dana Holgorsen to West Virginia, will be looking for Blackmon early and often against this untested Wildcats secondary.
2. Will Arizona show up emotionally?: Head coach Mike Stoops maintained this week that his team was competitive against the Cowboys in the bowl loss, citing a few mental errors as sources of letting the game get out of hand -- blown coverage on the long touchdown catch by Blackmon, a fumbled punt return that set up the Cowboys' first score and one of Foles' interceptions being returned for a touchdown. But at the end of the day, Arizona was crushed 36-10 to complete a five-game season-ending losing streak. The Wildcats must enter this one confident and focused without letting the nerves get in the way of their game plan.
3. Will the Pokes be susceptible without Thomas? The Cowboys lost starting safety Johnny Thomas when he was declared ineligible for the season, so senior Markelle Martin is the elder statesman in charge of leading an untested secondary. Fellow safety Daytawion Lowe is a quality player, but the cornerbacks are young and will be tested all night by the aerial attack of the Wildcats, especially if they are playing from behind. Will Foles be able to find big plays down the field? And how will the Pokes respond from a scheme standpoint if they struggle against the pass?
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