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Why Oklahoma State can win the Sugar Bowl without a rushing attack

It’s finally game day and Oklahoma State has a chance at 11 wins for the first time since 2011. Unlike 2011, or any season in the Gundy era, the Cowboys will have to do it without a running game.

Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The OSU rushing attack is 108th in the nation, while the Ole Miss rush defense is ranked 27th. If the numbers are any indication of how the game will play out, Oklahoma State is going to need to find other ways to move the ball and score. Will the Pokes be able to do so?

Of course they will. They’ve been doing it all year. In Oklahoma State’s best win, the Cowboys rushed for 81 yards as a team against TCU, highlighted by Raymond Taylor’s 28 yards. When the Cowboys put up 70 points on Texas Tech, only 184 out of 662 total yards came on the ground. Nearly half of the yards were thanks to J.W. Walsh who no doubt has caught the eye of the Ole Miss scouting report. The only time the running game looked respectable all season long was against UTSA. Even when the Cowboys rushed for eight yards, yes eight, against Baylor, the game was still in striking distance for most of the contest. If Oklahoma State wanted to compete with the likes of Oklahoma and Baylor and fight for a spot in the playoffs this year, they would have needed a run game. But to win this game tonight, they really don’t.

Ole Miss is ranked 98th in the country in passing defense, giving up 255 yards a game through the air. Friendly reminder the Rebels play in the SEC. Ole Miss is getting shredded week in and week out through the air in one of the poorest passing leagues in the country. To put this into perspective, Oklahoma State is ranked six spots ahead of Ole Miss at 92nd respectively. Oklahoma State is giving up less yards through the air against Big 12 offenses, than Ole Miss is giving up agaisnt SEC offenses.

Whether or not the Cowboys can take advantage of this mismatch depends on the availability of Mason Rudolph. But even if Walsh has to play a majority of the game, you won’t be seeing a repeat of Bedlam.