SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Stanford will face Oklahoma State for the first time Monday in the Fiesta Bowl. At least, that's what the record books say.
For all intents and purposes, the Cardinal has already faced OSU this season.
The Cowboys offense combines the best elements of teams Stanford faced during the regular season -- all wrapped into a high-powered, fast-paced attack that averages 49.3 points per game and has topped the 60-point mark three times.
"We don't talk about stopping teams like this,'' Stanford coach David Shaw said. "We talk about containing them.''
In the tempo with which they line up and snap the ball Monday, the Cowboys resemble Oregon.
In the way they attack with the running and passing game, the Cowboys are similar to USC.
Brandon Weeden, their veteran, strong-arm quarterback, slings the ball all over the field like Arizona's Nick Foles.
Receiver Justin Blackmon is a playmaking presence similar to Cal's Keenan Allen.
Actually, the wondrous Blackmon is more like a combination of Allen and USC's Robert Woods.
The two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's top receiver, Blackmon has 113 catches and 15 touchdowns this season.
"He's as good a college receiver as you will ever find,'' Shaw said. "He's got the size, he's got the quickness, he's got the speed. He has got unbelievable ball skills and body control ...
"It's uncanny to pair him with an outstanding
The 28-year-old Weeden -- he was a minor league pitcher for the Yankees, Dodgers and Royals -- operates OSU's spread passing game with a mastery that approaches Andrew Luck's command of the Stanford offense.
Weeden has attempted 149 more passes than Luck but thrown only three more interceptions.
"He is older, he's smart, he understands their offense,'' Stanford co-defensive coordinator Derek Mason said. "He runs it the way that (coaching) staff wants him to run it, and he's a leader."
But the Cowboys are more than Weeden and Blackmon.
Receivers Josh Cooper, Tracy Moore and Isaiah Anderson have thrived in Blackmon's shadow, combining for 135 catches and 11 touchdowns.
Speedy tailbacks Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith churn out 158 yards per game, taking advantage of creases formed by defenses overextended to stop OSU's aerial attack.
The offensive line is loaded with upperclassmen, including left tackle Levy Adcock, a first-team All-American.
"They know who they are, which is a powerful thing in college football,'' Stanford co-defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said.
"If you line up and let them run, they'll run. If you line up and put one-on-one (coverage) on them, they will throw it. If you give them the same look all the time, they will figure it out.''
Stanford will counter by mixing its defenses, hoping to confuse the Cowboys. The sack total won't be as significant as the number of times Stanford disrupts Weeden's rhythm.
At the same time, the Cardinal must avoid getting too fancy. Like Oregon, the Cowboys can turn the smallest mistake into a touchdown from anywhere on the field.
"It's all about communication,'' safety Delano Howell said. "You have to make sure everyone's on the same page and execute the defense.''
The other challenge for Stanford is to limit the Cowboys' big plays, and they make a lot of them: 42 have gone for 30 yards or more, to be exact.
That means the Cardinal must prevent OSU's receivers from breaking free behind the secondary. Surehanded tackling in the open field is also essential.
"They're underrated in the running game,'' Mason said. "Those guys get to the (secondary), and they break tackles. I've seen 3-yard runs turn into 10-yard runs. And when they get in the red zone, they smell the end zone.''
In that regard, Oklahoma State bears a striking resemblance not to Oregon or USC but to Stanford, which is nearly perfect in the red zone.
"They have a high-powered offense, and we have a potent offense," Stanford safety Michael Thomas said. "As far as our defense, we want to make sure people don't forget about us.''
For more on college sports, see Jon Wilner's College Hotline at blogs.mercurynews.com/collegesports.
Fiesta Bowl Matchup
(Yards per game)
Rushing offense: Oklahoma St. 170.8; Stanford 207.9
Passing offense: Oklahoma St. 386.2; Stanford 273.0
Total offense: Oklahoma St. 557.0: Stanford 480.9
Rushing defense: Oklahoma St. 180.1; Stanford 90.3
Passing defense: Oklahoma St. 265.6; Stanford 241.1
Total defense: Oklahoma St. 445.7; Stanford 331.4
(Points per game)
Scoring offense: Oklahoma St. 49.3; Stanford 43.6
Scoring defense: Oklahoma St. 25.8; Stanford 20.3
MONDAY: Stanford (11-1) vs. Oklahoma State (11-1), Glendale, Ariz., 5:30 p.m. ESPN
Tight ends again will be key to bowl success. PAGE 7