Oklahoma State football: How will Cowboys' shorthanded defense fare vs. Miami Hurricanes in Cheez-It Bowl?
ORLANDO, Fla. — Here’s a look at key players and major questions for No. 21 Oklahoma State as it takes on No. 18 Miami in the Cheez-It Bowl at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Camping World Stadium:
3 players to watch
Receiver Dillon Stoner: He’s coming off a career game with 247 yards and three touchdowns, but the strength of the Miami secondary is at safety, and that’s who will be covering Stoner most of the game. The Hurricanes might devote extra help to covering Tylan Wallace, meaning Stoner and other receivers will need to make plays when they get one-on-one opportunities.
Linebacker Calvin Bundage: Defensive end Trace Ford’s knee injury in the Baylor game required surgery, so the need for others to pick up the slack in the pass rush is high. Bundage has been outstanding as a pass rusher from his outside linebacker spot, where he has a team-high 6.5 sacks.
Safety Tanner McCalister: Miami’s top receiver, Michael Harley, plays mostly in the slot, meaning coverage duties often will fall on McCalister and Thomas Harper. Harley has 730 yards and six touchdowns on 49 catches — all team highs for the Hurricanes.
2 big questions
Will the OSU defense be the same without some key players? Ford and Rodarius Williams, who opted for the NFL, are two of the Cowboys’ most important players in their position groups. A lot will be asked of their backups and the players around them to fill the void in coverage and in the pass rush.
Which Spencer Sanders will show up? Sanders has had an inconsistent season, looking like a budding star at times, and looking like the struggling freshman version of himself at others. But a bowl game presents less pressure and a little more room for playing loose, which could be ideal for the ultra-competitive Sanders.
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1 wild prediction
Two OSU running backs will go over 100 yards. The Hurricanes have a solid defense, but nothing otherworldly. They rank 83rd nationally against the run, giving up 180.6 rushing yards per game. Despite such an odd year at the running back position for the Cowboys, they still rank 36th nationally with an average of 194.7 yards per game.
Scott Wright, Staff writer