Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (10-3 SU, 10-3 ATS)
Date/Time: Thursday, December 29, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: OKST +3/COLO -3
Over/Under Total: 62
In the Alamo Bowl, the Oklahoma State Cowboys face the Colorado Buffaloes in San Antonio on December 29. It's one of the more interesting "earlier" bowl games, with the 9-win Cowboys taking on the resurgent 10-win Buffaloes. Neither team ended the season the way they would have liked. Colorado fell in the conference title game, 41-10, to Washington on December 2. Oklahoma State, meanwhile, was beaten by Oklahoma. Still, each team showed a lot of moxie in losing only three games and fans should expect a competitive end to the season for both teams.
Oklahoma State looked a bit ragged to begin the season, including a bizarre loss to Central Michigan. While the regular season-ending loss to Oklahoma was a letdown perhaps, the Cowboys did well to end the season with a 7-game winning streak prior to that loss. They did a lot of things right and possess a pretty scary aerial offense led by Mason Rudolph and his 3777 yards with 25 touchdowns and only 4 picks. They averaged 38.7 points per game and some of their better showings came in the latter part of the season.
Mason Rudolph was big on the season in commandeering one of the Big 12's better offenses. Though the ground game lags behind the passing-game, they had some decent production on the ground with 1000-yard rusher Justice Hill. Backs Chris Carson and Rennie Childs were also good contributors on the ground. Receiver James Washington was dynamic with 1209 yards. Jalen McCleskey was key with his 61 catches.. Jhajuan Seales and Chris Lacy also got business done aerially. It was a full and complete offense that proved to be a challenge to the opposing defenses they faced.
The Cowboys' defense lacks some of the appeal on the other side of the ball. Thirty or more points were scored by opponents eight times this season. During their 7-game winning streak, however, they played in rhythm with the offense and gave them enough room with which to work. And that was against all Big 12 offenses. Tralund Walker and Vincent Taylor were big in the pass-rushing department. Safety Jordan Sterns and CB Ramon Richards made plays in the secondary. They're perhaps at least a bit better than they appear to be on paper, which paints a dire picture.
The season may have ended on a bad note for Colorado. After all, they weren't even faintly competitive with the Huskies in the conference final. But to get hung up on that fails to capture the essence of the Buffaloes' 2016 season. After being in a bad way in this conference since joining, they won the Pac-12 South division and beat teams that normally bully them. They peeled off a long run of conference wins and covered spreads left and right. They failed to cover the spread in their last two games and were still 10-3 against the spread. Coach MacIntyre really whipped this group into shape, with key veterans on the squad galvanizing the team. It would have been nice to see them give Washington a run for their money, but it wasn't in the cards. One would seem to be rightfully assured that the Buffs are looking to close the season on a positive note.
With wins over Utah, Washington State, UCLA, Stanford, Oregon, and others, Colorado really stepped it up in 2016. The loss to Michigan with Sefo Liufau going down was somehow forgivable, as was their 4-point loss to one of the hottest teams in the country in USC. We saw an entire Colorado squad turn the struggles and tumult of the last several years into battle-hardened experience. Liufau was brave and stalwart this season, helping lead the team to 8 wins in their first 9 conference games. And it was a deep Pac-12 this year.
Liufau was again battered in the Washington game. They also lost a key contributor in Bryce Bobo, who is questionable for this game. Liufau has led vocally and by example and has experienced the full gamut in his 4 years at starting QB. His stats fail to capture the whole story, though he was proficient this season through the air and on the ground. When looking back at Colorado players who contributed the most to the program, Liufau's name will shine up there near the top. To his credit and the entire team, to go from conference doormat to the title game is a pretty remarkable achievement. There were certainly other teams that far exceeded expectations this season, but no one came from as far back and traveled the same amount of distance that Colorado did in reviving this program. Liufau's support system was robust this season with Phillip Lindsay one of the best in the conference with 17 touchdowns and 1189 yards on the ground. Shay Fields and Devin Ross make for a nice 1-2 punch aerially, with solid contributions through the air from Lindsay, Bobo, and Mike MacIntrye, as well.
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Exploited by Washington in their last game, the Buffaloes defense left a bad last impression in the conference title game. Prior to that, however, this had been a reliable defense, one that offered consistency and balance for the majority of the season. They faced some pretty potent offenses in the Pac-12 this season and more often than not, provided a lot of resistance. USC only got 21 against this bunch, WSU got 24, Stanford put up 5 points, and UCLA scored 10. They secured 26 turnovers on the season. Tedric Thompson was big with 7 picks, while Jimmie Gilbert helped spearhead the pass-rush with ten sacks.
On one hand, everything was building up for a crescendo for Colorado and to end up in the Alamo Bowl might be anticlimactic on some levels. But does a Colorado team that has been shut out the bowl picture for years have a right to be arrogant now? It's hard to feel that positive about the Colorado secondary against an Oklahoma State aerial attack that has size and versatility to pit against the smallish Buffaloes' pass-defense. Then again, in terms of balance, the nod clearly goes to Colorado. I see the Oklahoma State defense letting the Cowboys down just enough to leave room for a Colorado cover. I'm taking the Buffaloes.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Colorado Buffaloes minus 3 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Oklahoma State vs. Colorado game from the comfort of your own home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!