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Arizona-Oklahoma State game breakdown

This story is courtesy of the Arizona Daily Wildcat

Recent history hasn’t been kind to the Wildcats in games against Oklahoma State. Luckily for Arizona though, head coach Mike Gundy and the Cowboys lost their two best players in Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon and return just four starters on the offensive side of the ball.

Surprisingly, the Wildcats actually match up pretty well. Not well enough to win, mind you, but the game might be closer than expected.

UA passing versus OSU pass defense

Matt Scott broke out in his first start under head coach Rich Rodriguez, passing for 387 yards and getting 74 more on the ground — both career-highs. That was against Toledo.

With Oklahoma State, it’s a whole different ball game. The Cowboys have one of the strongest tandem of corners in the country, as junior Justin Gilbert and senior Brodrick Brown combined for 10 interceptions and 25 pass breakups last season.

In 2011, with Nick Foles at the helm, the Wildcats passed for 398 yards against OSU, but only scored 14 points as a team.

The Wildcats have talent and height with Dan Buckner, Austin Hill and Terrence Miller, so at the very least it will be a fun matchup to watch.

Advantage: Oklahoma State

UA rushing versus OSU rush defense

If Arizona wants to win this game, it needs to run the ball effectively. That’s all there is to it. In last year’s matchup, the Wildcats ran the ball 21 times for 41 yards. That can’t happen again, but it’s easier said than done.

The OSU linebacker corps of Shaun Lewis, Caleb Lavey and Alex Elkins is solid, and safety Daytawion Lowe led OSU in tackles. But if Ka’Deem Carey, Daniel Jenkins and Scott can get some yards, it will open up the passing game and the Wildcats will have a chance.

Advantage: Arizona

OSU passing versus UA pass defense

This is the area the Wildcats need to pounce on. The Cowboys are starting a true freshman in quarterback Wes Lunt, so Arizona will have to take advantage of his inexperience. If the pass rush, which did a decent job against Toledo’s two quarterbacks, can remain prevalent, Arizona will be in good shape. OSU also lost three of its top four receivers from last season.

Advantage: Arizona

OSU rushing versus UA rush defense

Joseph Randle rushed for 1,248 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011. His backup had 666 yards and nine touchdowns. Arizona starts a walk-on, a converted safety and a guy coming off an ACL injury at linebacker. You do the math.

Advantage: Oklahoma State

Special teams

John Bonano almost lost the game against Toledo, missing two field goals within 25 yards. He shouldn’t continue down that path, but Oklahoma State has the best kicker in the country in All-American Quinn Sharp. Sharp also doubles as a solid punter, and the cornerback Justin Gilbert had two return touchdowns in 2011.

Advantage: Oklahoma State

Coaching

A few years from now this might not be the case, but Arizona probably won’t be facing OSU a few years from now. Mike Gundy has an established system, a roster filled with his own recruits and a history of dominating this matchup. Rich Rodriguez does not.

Advantage: Oklahoma State