Kickoff: Jan. 1, noon ET (ESPNU) at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas (grass)
Forecast: Cloudy, high of 45, 20-percent chance of rain
Spread: Oklahoma State by 17
Watchability: If you're looking for a low-scoring affair with stingy defenses, look elsewhere. Oklahoma State has scored under 30 points once this season, and the Boilermakers finished the regular season with three straight victories and 34.3 ppg over that span. Wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins will call the plays for Purdue, which fired Danny Hope following the regular season. Cowboys coach Mike Gundy will collaborate with his offensive assistants to call plays after the departure of former offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who filled the head coaching vacancy at Southern Miss this month.
Shining stars: Oklahoma State -- It hasn't mattered who's been under center for the Cowboys as all three QBs -- J.W. Walsh, Wes Lunt and Clint Chelf -- proved more than capable of operating the fourth-highest scoring offense in the country (44.7 ppg). Gundy declared Chelf the starter after the junior started the final four games and threw for 10 touchdowns to just four interceptions, including a near-upset of Oklahoma in Norman. He and sophomore WR Josh Stewart destroyed opposing secondaries, connecting for at least 147 yards in three of the final four games. Purdue -- RB Akeem Shavers had his most productive games of the season over the Boilermakers' three-game win streak. The senior averaged 96.3 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns (three rushing, two receiving) since Purdue last lost.
Who could steal the show: Oklahoma State -- RB Joseph Randle, a first-team All-Big 12 selection, has been arguably the Cowboys' most consistent player. He led the Big 12 with 1,351 rushing yards, scored 14 touchdowns and had eight games of at least 100 yards rushing. His season highlight came in the Nov. 24 loss to Oklahoma when he rushed for 113 yards and tied a career-high with four rushing touchdowns. Purdue -- Sixth-year QB Robert Marve was finally given the reins toward the end of the season and seized his chance as the starter. He threw seven touchdowns and one interception over Purdue's final three games, all while playing on an ACL he tore in mid-September. He also set a single-season Purdue record by completing 66.7 percent of his passes. Marve has a deep pool of receivers (Antavian Edison, O.J. Ross and Gary Bush) to help complement a proven rushing attack.
Magic number for Oklahoma State: 63.6: The Cowboys are 14-8 all-time in bowl games, which is the second-highest percentage in the country among schools with at least 20 bowl appearances. Only USC (66 percent) is higher.
Magic number for Purdue: 4. As pleased as the Boilermakers were to become bowl eligible with their three-game winning streak to end the season, it should be noted that the three teams that they beat -- Iowa, Illinois, Indiana -- had a combined four conference wins. But Purdue did "play up" to the competition when it lost by an average of five points to the only two undefeated teams in the country, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
3 keys to an Oklahoma State win:
- Run Randle: Randle has been the mainstay in the Cowboys' offensive attack as they've worked in the three quarterbacks. He's averaged 112 yards per game, and the Boilermakers' defense has allowed 179 rushing yards per game, the 80th worst in the country.
- Win the battle at the line: The unsung heroes of the Cowboys' offense reside along the line. Together, they've given up just 10 sacks and been the basis for the seventh-most prolific passing attack in the country (333 ypg). Boilermaker DT Kawann Short, a potential first-round pick, is one of the best in the country at stifling runs in the backfield.
- Defend the pass: The Big 12 isn't known for their pass defense, but the Cowboys have allowed more than 1,200 yards in the past two games (both losses), 808 of which came through the air. The Cowboys' pass defense ranks 112th in the country, and they are tied for second-to-last in the Big 12 with just nine interceptions. Purdue's Marve has thrown three interceptions compared to 13 touchdowns this year.
3 keys to a Purdue win:
- Run: If history is any indication, Shavers could be in for a big day. In the Little Caesar's Bowl last season against Western Michigan, Shavers rushed for 149 yards on 22 carries. Purdue is 4-0 the last two years when Shavers carries the ball at least 20 times. And, if Shavers can find holes between the tackles, it keeps the Cowboys' high-powered offense on the sidelines.
- Win field position: Purdue P Cody Webster earned honorable mention all-Big Ten from the coaches and the media this year after averaging 42.5 yards per punt, the third-best in the conference. He also put 29 of his 66 punts inside the 20-yard line. Oklahoma State P Quinn Sharp led the Big 12 with a 45.8 ypp average, but given how often the Cowboys scored, their opponents ended up punting 30 more times throughout the season.
- Defensive stars need to shine: Coming into the year, the two supposed strengths of the Boilermakers was their defensive line and their secondary. Both will be tested against the Cowboys. Short (14.5 tackles for loss) and DE Ryan Russell can create havoc for Randle, and DBs Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson will be tasked with neutralizing their passing attack. Allen hasn't had the season he'd hoped (one interception, three pass breakups), but he's returned four interceptions for touchdowns over the past three years. Johnson had 19 passes defensed this year, the most in the Big Ten.