TicketCity Cactus Bowl: Washington Huskies vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys




Season highlights: Washington went 4-2 on the road. Those four wins came against unranked opponents, but to have a winning record on the road, including three Pac-12 victories, is pretty impressive for Chris Petersen’s first season. The Huskies' first road win was a tight one at Hawaii, but things got less stressful from there. They took down Cal 31-7 before recording a 15-point win at Colorado and an 18-point win at Washington State in which Washington held the Cougars scoreless through the first three quarters. That Wazzu win was another big highlight for Huskies fans, as Petersen starts his Washington tenure 1-0 in the Apple Cup.

Season lowlights: The Huskies went 0-5 against ranked opponents, which were their five losses on the season. They kept it close with Arizona (one-point loss) and Stanford (seven-point loss) but lost by an average of 18 points against Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA. The offense sputtered in those five losses, scoring just eight touchdowns.

Player to watch: LB Shaq Thompson. … Or LB Hau'oli Kikaha. … Or DL Danny Shelton. That trio was a three-headed monster for the Washington defense. All three were All-Pac-12 first-team selections (Thompson named to both the defensive and special teams). Thompson has four defensive touchdowns -- three returned fumbles and one after an interception. Kikaha has recorded 24 tackles for a loss, including 18 sacks. Shelton has 16.5 tackles for a loss and nine sacks (which look ridiculous when directly following Kikaha’s numbers).

Motivation factor: Eight wins is nothing to scoff at, but in some ways, it feels as though the Huskies underachieved this season. Even with their offensive limitations, you would have expected them to win a game against a ranked opponent with the talent they possessed on defense. Washington has one more opportunity to make a statement.

-- Chantel Jennings



Season highlights: A Bedlam win stands out as the clear highlight of a season in which Mike Gundy’s young squad surprised early in the year and disappointed during the final stretch before leaving Norman with a much-needed win. The Cowboys had their struggles but competed, even when the odds were against them, and saw their willingness to fight pay off in Bedlam. Now Oklahoma State gets the chance to kick-start its offseason with a bowl victory.

Season lowlights: Things got ugly when the Cowboys' offense scored three touchdowns in a four-game stretch that took the Pokes from the top half of the conference standings to the bottom half. Oklahoma State, while talented, has revealed its youth time and time again along with a general lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball. A return to Big 12 title contention is currently a dream scenario.

Player to watch: The breakout season from Emmanuel Ogbah has been the highlight for the Cowboys. The sophomore defensive end ranks among the Big 12 leaders in sacks and tackles for loss. Ogbah was held without a tackle for loss in just two games this season, with his length and athleticism becoming a nightmare for opposing offensive tackles. Offensively, all-purpose threat Tyreek Hill can take your breath away with his track speed and explosive nature.

Motivation factor: Oklahoma State wants to show that Bedlam wasn’t just a mirage. A bowl win would go a long way to proving that Gundy’s young Cowboys learned from the program’s worst season since 2007. It would set up a potential rebound season in 2015 with the bulk of the roster set to return.

-- Brandon Chatmon