Although a late-season loss at Iowa State and a handful of poll votes kept Oklahoma State out of the national championship game, the Cowboys can still make their case for national respect, playing on the biggest stage in school history.

OSU vs. Stanford

OSU won its first outright conference title in school history to clinch a BCS bid. Likewise, Stanford had a shot at playing in the national championship before turning the ball over five times in a November 12 loss to Oregon that derailed that dream.

Oklahoma State Boasts the Best Offense in School History

The Cowboys rank third in the nation in total offense and second in scoring. Quarterback Brandon Weeden has rewritten virtually every OSU passing record, throwing for 4,328 yards and 34 touchdowns while completing 72.6 percent of his passes. He is complemented by two-time Biletnikoff Award winning wide receiver Justin Blackmon. The junior has already announced he will turn pro next year after catching 113 passes for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns.

The Cowboys’ Running Game

While everyone knew coming into the season that the Weeden-to-Blackmon combination would put up big numbers through the air, the big surprise has been the Cowboys’ running game this year. Sophomore running back Joseph Randle rushed for 1,193 yards and 23 touchdowns on the season. He went over 100 yards in total offense seven times this year and scored 16 touchdowns in his last six games. But while Randle has been a nice added dimension to the offense, Oklahoma State is still a pass-first team, ranking second only to Houston in passing offense.

Andrew Luck for Stanford

For Stanford, quarterback Andrew Luck really needs no introduction. The fourth-year junior finished second in the Heisman voting for the second straight year and already has NFL scouts drooling. After opting to skip last year’s NFL draft and return this season, Luck has continued to grow his own legend, moving past John Elway in most Stanford passing records. He threw for 3,170 yards, 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season.

The Cardinal Offense

Despite the accolades for Luck, however, the Cardinal actually features a balanced offense, ranking 29th nationally in passing and 22nd in rushing. Running back Stepfan Taylor rushed for 1,153 yards and eight touchdowns. The junior topped 100 yards of total offense in six of the Cardinal’s final seven games this year. While Stanford’s season offensive numbers are certainly impressive, one red flag is that the offense slowed down significantly toward the end of the season. The Cardinal didn’t top 31 points in any of its final three games and was held more than 74 yards per game lower than their season average.

Defense vs. Defense

While the focus will understandably be on the two offenses, the game could hinge on defense. Stanford ranks fifth in the nation against the run, and it will need to slow down Joseph Randle and make Oklahoma State’s offense one-dimensional. On the other side, the Cowboys’ “bend but don’t break” defense gives up a lot of yards (106th in the nation in total defense) but leads the nation in takeaways, putting the potent offense back on the field. Stanford’s first priority on offense must be ball security and not letting Oklahoma State’s defense give the ball back to Brandon Weeden.

TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL: #4 Stanford (11-1) vs. #3 Oklahoma State (11-1)

[Monday, Jan. 2 at 8:30 PM ET on ESPN]

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