I always get a little confused about what to call these things, "Ask An Expert", "Q&A", "Know Your Enemy", or "What those other SOBs think", but it's all the same, ain't it - talking to your opponents in a civilized, rational manner (on the internet, no less) and learning what they think about the upcoming game.
SB Nation started the Oklahoma State site "Cowboys Ride For Free" this season, just in time for us to leave the Big 12 conference. Samuel Bryant was kind enough to join us for a Q&A session that I think you'll enjoy. We also did a Q&A for them, available here.
1) How surprised are you with the potency of the Cowboys offense? How much of it is real, and how much is the result of the competition you've played.
I will admit to being surprised at how quickly the Cowboy offense has become this good. We all expected great things from Dana Holgorsen, but not right out of the gate like this. As far as the competition we have played, I really don't think it is as bad as most think. Sure we haven't faced any world-beating defenses, but outside of Tulsa, our opponents defenses have actually been pretty decent when you factor in pace of play. Here is an article I wrote about this the other day. So yes i do think this offense is for real (shocking).
2) Tell us about the Cowboys defense, and how do they plan to defend the Huskers offense (other than counting on the Huskers to fumble and drop the ball :-)?
Fumbles would be nice, and turnovers are a big focus of the Oklahoma State defense. They do force 1.33 fumbles per game, and are 4th in the nation in total turnovers forced per game.. .so we will be hoping for that trend to continue. As for gameplan, they will probably have to stick to the 4-3 principles, as Oklahoma State probably doesn't have the personnel to really stack everyone at the line. I think they will mostly try to rely on the speed of the DE's and the LBs (this defense's best attribute) to contain the outside rushing attack, while clogging up the middle as much as possible. Thus far, Oklahoma State has been able to stop the run pretty effectively, but the fact that we have played all pass first teams is part of the reason for that. I think what is most concerning for us is that the interior of the Cowboy D-line is pretty thin. The starters have been dinged up all season, and the backups are all fairly young. We have made some adjustments and started rotating different guys in there, but being that Nebraska is the first punishing running team we will see this season there is definitely some concern about whether the middle of the line can hold up for 4 quarters.
3) Other than T. Boone Pickens, we didn't hear much about/from Oklahoma State during conference realignment. Where do you think Oklahoma State is going to be in 2015?
I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the Big XII. I love the Big XII. I love playing teams from this part of the country. Realistically though, we will continue playing the "follow Texas" game. Unless things get really weird, I'm pretty confident we will end up wherever the Longhorns go.
4) Dana Holgorsen surprised Texas Tech coming out in a three-back set instead of using the normal four wide you'd see from a Air Raid-based offense. Was this because he was looking for a new wrinkle, your wide receivers besides Justin Blackmon have been unreliable, or there's a greater emphasis on running the ball?
Those 2 and 3 back sets have actually been used all season. (Jon: Yeah, I messed up when I sent this question, should have been Washington State instead of Texas Tech.) We were pretty shocked to see it at first as well. The thing is, as much as Dana loves the Air Raid, Oklahoma State has an All-Conference FB in Bryant Ward, an All-American RB in Kendall Hunter, and Joseph Randle is an excellent sub, so he has no choice but to find ways to get them involved. This rushing attack adds an interesting wrinkle to the Air Raid as defenses really have no choice but to key on the run. Hell, this passing attack may not even be that great for all we know, but we know it is good enough to succeed when the defense is playing soft single coverage or a loose zone, and the safeties have to play 15 yards or less from the line of scrimmage.
5) Given #4, how do you expect Holgorsen to attack Nebraska's defense?
Run, Run, Run. I think he is going to try to force Nebraska to bring an extra man up, and if they won't do it, then more running. Now if the unthinkable happens and Nebraska is able to stop the run without committing extra help, then Dana will have to be Dana and mix it up every possession until he finds what works. That is his thing. I almost think that he goes into every game hoping that the initial gameplan gets shut down so that he can start experimenting.
I am obligated by blog affiliation to pick a Cowboy win, but even if I wasn't I would keep picking them until I see a reason not to. Every week we keep hearing new reasons why this week will be the end of this run, but we keep winning. As far as the flow of the game, I think both offenses will move the ball. I can see Oklahoma State jumping out to an early lead, then Nebraska catching up later as the Cowboy defense tires. For my arbitrary score prediction... I'll go with a 31-24 win for the Cowboys.