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2012 Fiesta Bowl: Stanford Power Meets Oklahoma State Speed

The Stanford Cardinal have proven that their power offense can rock up every team in the conference this year. Their run game and offensive line has been able to blow opposing defenses off the ball, then allowed Andrew Luck to surgically pick apart secondaries.

Stanford had trouble with one football team though: The Oregon Ducks. There are many things Stanford possesses, but outside of Luck they are not an overwhelmingly athletic team. And Oregon used their overall footspeed and pace to overwhelm Stanford on both sides of the football, as the Cardinal looked slow in both their previous two contests.

In comes the Oklahoma St. Cowboys, who give you the Oregon attack from the air.

Instead of using an elite running game to try and overwhelm their opponents, it's the passing game that makes Oklahoma State impossible to stop. By spreading the field and forcing defenses to stretch their interiors, the Cardinal will have to tap deep into their secondary to prove they can match the Cowboys and guard their offense at every spot on the field. In the running game, it makes the Cardinal more vulnerable to counter plays. In general, it's likely Oklahoma State will make Stanford try to defend them in space to exploit the mismatches against a stout Cardinal front seven.

It's the same strategy Oregon used against Stanford. It's the same strategy Oregon won with, particularly against Stanford.

Stanford has faced a spread attack like this before (both Arizona and Arizona State run pass-heavy spread hybrids), but no team has such a proficient offense as Oklahoma State, not even Oregon. No team has really stopped them on offense this season, and it's unlikely the Cardinal will be the one to shut them out of the scoreboard. The Cardinal will have to be ready to put up the points.

If the Cardinal hope to win, they must possess the football, and then make sure their team is put in situations where they can take time off the clock before using the pass to setup the running attack. It'll be a matter of Luck pacing his team to keep them on the field, but also the Cardinal defense proving they can keep the Cowboys offense off of it.

It is very likely Stanford will be facing foes like this in the near future that rely on speed to conduct their affairs. The Fiesta Bowl will be a huge test for the Cardinal in proving they have the talent and athleticism to keep up at every position with the Cowboys, and could be a harbinger of how the Cardinal handle their conference (upgrading in talent and speed every year) when Luck departs.