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December 3, 2012With the Big Ten bowl schedule set in stone, TheWolverine.com offers a daily overview of the conference's postseason matchups, commencing with Purdue's Jan. 1 clash with high-octane Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl ?
Prior to the season, head coach Danny Hope proclaimed that the 2012 Boilermakers were the most talented team he'd coached since taking over in West Lafayette in 2009, and his players responded to the high praise by vastly underachieving throughout the year.
Following a promising 3-1 start, Purdue finished the season just 6-6 (3-5 Big Ten) much in part to a mid-season five-game losing skid. Although it rallied in winning its final three games to secure a postseason bid, the poor stretch doomed Hope, who was promptly fired the day after the conclusion of the regular season.
Assistant coach Patrick Higgins has earned the interim coach tag for the Boilermakers, and will be leading his bunch into what essentially amounts to enemy territory against a Cowboy offense that leads the Big 12 in scoring (44.7 points per game), and ranks second in both total yardage (548.9 yards per game) and rushing (215.5 yards per game).
While most college football fans associate OSU with a potent passing game, it has been junior running back Joseph Randle that's been its biggest home run threat. The shifty speedster, who many predict to be a top-five runningback in the 2013 NFL Draft if he foregoes his senior campaign, paces the conference with 1,351 rushing yards, has scored 14 times on the ground and has topped the century mark in eight contests in 2012.
Sophomore wide receiver Josh Stewart also enjoyed a breakout year, amassing 1,154 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, and the Cowboys became the first team in Big 12 history to have three different quarterbacks throw for over 1,000 yards in a single season in freshman J.W. Walsh (1,478), junior Clint Chelf (1,391) and freshman Wes Lunt (1,096).
PU does possess talented pieces on the defensive side of the ball that could slow down Oklahoma State, especially fifth-year senior defensive tackle Kawann Short, senior cornerback Josh Johnson and junior cornerback Ricardo Allen, but it is a safe bet that the Boilermaker offense must far surpass its season average of 29.9 points per game to remain competitive. Fifth-year senior quarterback Robert Marve and senior running back Akeem Shavers both enjoyed late-season surges, and must close strong to give Purdue a chance.