Mason Rudolph, James Washington, Marcel Ateman and many others will suit up as Oklahoma State Cowboys for the final time Thursday against Virginia Tech in the Camping World Bowl. Oklahoma State had much higher goals than a trip to Orlando in late December, which inevitably leads to questions about how motivated the team will be to play in a “consolation” bowl game. The Cowboys are one of the most high-powered offenses in the country, and should be able to put a lot of points on the board. As an OSU fan, you have to hope that the stars on this team aren’t playing with one eye on the NFL, hoping to just get through this game without an injury.
Virginia Tech didn’t have the expectations Oklahoma State had. The Hokies never had expectations or goals of competing for a national championship. There was an outside chance they could play for a conference championship, but that didn’t materialize. This is a team with a freshman quarterback and a second-year head coach that is looking to build momentum to carry in to next season.
Oklahoma State will have to focus on slowing down Josh Jackson, who has been solid in his freshman season. He threw for 2,743 yards and 19 touchdowns, and added 274 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground. Cam Phillips, Va. Tech’s leading receiver, will miss the game after undergoing sports hernia surgery. They will also be without their leading rusher and their starting left tackle.
Offensively, the Cowboys will be facing the nation’s 12th-ranked defense. The Hokies give up just 305.3 yards per game, and pitched three shutouts this season. Were the shutouts against bad teams? Yes. Did Oklahoma State play bad teams and not shut them out? Also, yes. Virginia Tech will be one of the better defenses Oklahoma State has seen this season.
This game is a reward for Virginia Tech’s success this season, and a consolation for Oklahoma State’s failures. We’ll know soon whether the Cowboys are motivated to take the field one last time in front of a small crowd for a relatively meaningless game in Orlando.