Monday, December 31

The Insight Bowl

I'll be honest: I don't know a damn thing about the Insight Bowl – other than it was the Copper Bowl - and based on the teams that are playing and have played there, nobody else does either. Near as I can tell, it's basically an excuse to hand out paychecks to a couple of .500ish BCS conference teams and call it a night. Hey, whatever works. At least it's an opportunity for the Big 10 to get a win.

Apparently the bowl has bounced around Arizona since its inception; this year it’ll be in Tempe. The good news is that three out of the last four years have been interesting; the bad news is that most of those years also involved Pac-10 teams. Not this year...

Indiana (by Coach Lawrence)

Check out this stat: In 2003, Indiana won just 2 games. The following season it was 3, then 4, and then 5 in 2006. Great pace for bowl eligibility, eh? Ten games into the season, Indiana was 6-4 having gone completely chalk – beating Indiana State, Western Michigan, Akron, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ball State while losing to Illinois, Michigan State, Penn State, and Wisconsin. But the 2007 Big Ten is a conference where mediocrity is the norm (seven teams went 3-5, 4-4, or 5-3 in conference and the best nonconference victory was Ohio State over the Pac 10’s last-place finisher Washington... yeah) and everybody beat up on I-AA/MAC teams, so 6 wins wouldn’t cut it as the entire conference, save for a should-be-relegated Minnesota, finished bowl eligible. Chalk be damned, Indiana lost a 3-point game against a Northwestern team who couldn’t beat Duke, then with the season on the line beat Purdue with a 49-yard field goal. Insight Bowl, here we come.

Offensively, Indiana defines what it means to be a one-receiver team. Not counting the QB’s passing yards, James Hardy averages 90 ypg receiving and nobody else averages over 55 ypg receiving or rushing. In fact, QB Kellen Lewis is the leading rusher (54 ypg) as the team both gains and gives up 155 ypg on the ground.

Keys to Victory:
1) The ground game must support Hardy. When Indiana is successful (ie, wins) they gain 200 ypg on the ground between a cadre of rushers. In losses, they’re held under 100 total. In case you didn’t know, Oklahoma State has a pretty good receiver of their own in Bowman, and I’m not sure Lewis can win a straight up QB battle.

2) And Hardy has to bring it. The split stats don’t really say anything dramatic here, but it’s simple logic. Oklahoma State has a pretty good offense; Indiana probably can’t shut them down so they will need big productivity from their biggest star.

3) Defensively, key on Savage. Oklahoma State carries the ball 12 more times in wins than in losses, and actually throw for more yards per game when they lose. Despite having a good air game, OK State would prefer to keep it on the ground. If Indiana can force them to abandon that and if Hardy can match Bowman in receiving, then they will have a great chance to win.

Oklahoma State (by Coach Pendley)

The good news: when your team scores enough points to have your offensive coordinator hired by another team, it means that you're doing something right. The bad news: when teams laugh at your defensive coordinator calling in asking about coaching vacancies, it means you can't even stop Iowa State. Such is life in Stillwater. At this point, Oklahoma State is eerily similar to Texas Tech in their offensive levels of production and overall team performance. Again, that’s not a bad thing necessarily, it’s just a thing. There’s no shame in having the kind of offensive firepower that most teams can only dream about, but – again – if they could actually stop anyone they’d be a BCS contender.

As for OSU’s actual performance this season, it’s reminiscent of their other recent seasons. They’ll win a few conference games (.500 in-conference, yet again) but suffer some head-scratching losses along the way (Troy? At home?).

At least Bobby Reid is Mike Gundy's man - except for the fact that 1) Zac Robinson is the QB and 2) Mike Gundy is a damn loon. Other than that, he's totally right. Robinson put up 2,364 yards and a 19/8 ratio – along with another 757 yards and 7 TDs on the ground, so he did well for himself. Still, in this offense the QB is going to put up numbers anyway, and if you're looking for an offensive problem blame WR Adarius Bowman going and getting himself injured, since that means Dez Bryant (who?) is now the #1 WR. On the ground, Dantrell Savage has been a beast, running for 100 yards in all but the first game of the year with 8 TDs to boot. If you're looking for a defensive problem you can probably get away with blaming the team, though.

So yeah, pick your poison with the Oklahoma State defense. Do you like the nearly 30 ppg allowed? How about 154 yards per game on the ground? What about allowing 292 yards a game in the air – turning every QB that plays them into Andre Woodson? The good news is that they do a half-decent job of getting to the QB (21 sacks), but the bad news is that unless it’s the QB, the front 7 will have issues getting in the backfield (64 tackles for loss).

Keys to Victory:
1: Limit the non-James Hardy players on offense. Hardy is simply a beast, and because the pass defense rhymes with “mucks”, I don’t expect them to be able to shut Hardy down. What they can do is shut down his other WRs, as both Andrew Means and Ray Fisher aren’t anything worth calling home over. Indiana doesn’t do much on the ground; QB Kellen Lewis is their leading rusher, for god’s sake. OSU should be able to take care of that.

2: Accurate passes. Indiana’s pass D allows nearly a 61% completion rate, but they also have an 18/18 ratio. They’ll take chances to make a big play on D if they can; CB Tracy Porter has 6 INTs on the season and CB Christopher Phillips has returned one for a TD, so Robinson will need to be on target with his throws.

3: Run it like it’s going out of style. Indiana’s rush defense isn’t great at all – not only do they allow 3.73 ypc anyway, that balloons to 4.42 ypc against winning teams. Also of note: Illinois, who runs a similar offense, ran for 288 yards against the Hoosiers. I’m not saying they need to do exactly what Illinois did, I’m …wait, I am saying they need to do just that. Savage and Robinson should be able to have big days on the ground.