The Stanford Cardinal were once 9-0 both straight up and against the spread this season but a loss to Oregon ended their national title hopes, although they still finished 11-1 straight up and a great 10-2 ATS. Oklahoma State also finished at 11-1, but the fact that they lost to a 6-6 Iowa State team in the second to last game of the season knocked them out of the BCS National Championship Game.
1. Why Stanford will cover the spread: Stanford has the much better defense between these two teams, and the Cardinal will not only cover the spread but also pull off the outright upset if their pass defense can contain Brandon Weeden and the potent Oklahoma State passing game. Stanford may have the best run defense in the Pac-12 allowing only 90.0 rushing yards per game on 3.1 yards per carry. Oregon was the only team able to outrush the Cardinal all year, so that should enable them to focus on stopping Weeden, as they are good enough to stop the run without needing to add support.
On the offensive side, Stanford will win this game outright if they can run the ball effectively, which certainly seems doable vs. a Cowboys’ defense that is allowing an ugly 180.1 rushing yards per game. Once Stanford establishes that it can run, it will make Heisman Trophy candidate Andrew Luck almost unstoppable through the air.
2. Why Oklahoma State will cover the spread: Not to state the obvious, but Oklahoma State will cover this spread if they can outscore Stanford, meaning that since the Cowboys’ defense expects to have a tough time stopping the Cardinal, the Cowboys may need to match their season averages of 49.3 points and 597.0 yards per game just to win this game; never mind cover as a favorite of more than a field goal.
The Cowboys will also cover the spread if they treat this game as their National Championship, playing with a chip on their shoulders and wanting to show the voters in the polls that the computers had it right ranking OSU ahead of Alabama.
3. Total Talk: Say what you will about whether or not it should be Oklahoma State facing LSU for the national title, but this game is not at all an easy matchup for the Cowboys. Stanford’s offense can actually keep pace with Oklahoma State and the Stanford defense is allowing more than 100 yards per game less than the Cowboys’ defensive unit.
Not only do we feel that the superior Stanford defense will result in an upset, but we also see that Cardinal unit keying an ‘under’, as we see it making enough stops against Weeden & Co. to build a lead, which would then allow Stanford to run the ball more to eat up some clock.
As you can see from our score, we hardly foresee a defensive struggle, but we still see a rather safe ‘under’ at this posted number.
4. Betting Trends for the game: Pac-12 underdogs are 22-10-1 ATS in bowl games since 2000 while the Big 12 is just 32-48-5 ATS in all bowl games over that same span.
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