Here are four things that probably won't (but maybe will) happen in Monday's Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Vote for the least preposterous prediction and feel free to leave your own in the comments section. (These are more preposterous than usual. You've been warned.)
1. Justin Blackmon will have 75 or fewer receiving yards.
Why it's preposterous: Bwahahaha! More like 175! The two-time defending Biletnikoff Award winner is better than Juron Criner, Marqise Lee, Robert Woods, and Michael Floyd, all of whom enjoyed at least moderate success against a Stanford secondary that allowed 241.1 passing yards per game. With Heisman candidate Brandon Weeden throwing him the ball, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Blackmon is poised for one more statement game before he takes his talents to the NFL. Blackmon had 113 catches for 1,336 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. He's scored in all but two games and has 6 games with at least 10 catches. In last year's Alamo Bowl, he burned Arizona for 9 catches, 117 yards, and 2 touchdowns.
Why it could happen: Four Stanford players sported a No. 81 jersey in practice and rotated in on each play to replicate Blackmon's incredible production and seemingly limitless energy. Now, if the Cardinal practiced with two or three fake-Blackmons lined up on one side of the field on a given play, they might be well prepared to stop the real Blackmon on Monday. Stanford plans to alter its defensive schemes in an attempt to confuse OSU's up-tempo attack and limit Blackmon's effectiveness. While the junior receiver set a new career-high in catches this season, his yards were down. After having at least 100 yards receiving in every game last season, Blackmon has been held below the century mark in 6 games this year, and under 75 yards 3 times. There's always a chance that Blackmon gets a mid-day craving for some Mexican food. As anyone who has frequented a place like Los Betos can attest, the food is delicious, but best not followed by any sort of physical activity.
2. Andrew Luck will throw at least 5 touchdown passes.
Why it’s preposterous: One more time with feeling? I preposterously predicted 6 passing touchdowns against Colorado and 5 against Cal, but Andrew Luck has still never thrown more than 4 touchdowns in a game. The Cardinal boasts a balanced offense and has a propensity to run the ball around the goal line. Pep Hamilton has emphasized the importance of remaining patient with the running game and there’s little reason to believe that the Cardinal will stray far from the gameplan that got it here by throwing the ball more than usual against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys' pass defense yields a lot of yards, but OSU has allowed only 13 passing touchdowns all season and only one quarterback to throw for 3 touchdowns in a game.
Why it could happen: It’s Luck’s final game at Stanford, and while I'm pretty sure the only thing he cares about is going out on a winning note, there's a part of me that hopes he watched RGIII and Keith Price trade blows in the Alamo Bowl and thought to himself, "You Heisman haters ain't seen nothing yet. I'll show you what a dominating QB performance looks like." If this game is as much of a shootout as many pundits are predicting, it might take five touchdown passes to beat the Cowboys. The quarterback who threw for 3 touchdowns against Oklahoma State was Iowa State freshman Jared Barnett, who threw a total of 3 touchdown passes in seven other games this year.
3. Stepfan Taylor will rush for at least 160 yards.
Why it’s preposterous: Taylor rushed for a career-high 153 yards against Arizona, but topped 100 yards only four other times this season. Tyler Gaffney, Anthony Wilkerson, and Jeremy Stewart figure to be involved in the running game, meaning Taylor probably won't get enough touches to approach 160 yards without a couple of big-gainers. Oklahoma State allows a lot of yards on the ground, but the Cowboys shut down the best runner they faced this season, holding Baylor's Terrance Ganaway to 88 yards on 23 carries.
Why it could happen: Oklahoma State gave up 365 yards rushing to Tulsa and has allowed 69 runs of 10 yards or more (89th-worst in the country). Stanford could opt to run the ball even more often than usual against OSU's ball-hawking defense. If that happens, the underrated Taylor could announce his candidacy for 2012 Heisman Trophy runner-up with a big performance against the Cowboys.
4. Chase Thomas will have at least 4 sacks.
Why it’s preposterous: Thomas leads the Cardinal with 8.5 sacks, but he hasn’t had more than 2.5 sacks in a game this season and Oklahoma State is pretty good at protecting Weeden. The Cowboys allowed 11 sacks during the regular season, only two more than Stanford. Thomas and the rest of the Cardinal linebackers need to respect the draw play and screen pass to Joseph Randle, which could limit their ability to go full steam after Weeden.
Why it could happen: Thomas, who is reportedly on the fence about returning to school, has helped carry the torch for the Stanford defense since Shayne Skov went down with an injury and now he has a chance to close the season with a Skov-like performance on the big stage. Skov had 12 tackles, three sacks, and five tackles for loss in the Cardinal's 40-12 blowout of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Thomas had 2 sacks in the Cardinal's regular season finale against Notre Dame. Don't underestimate the power of Chick-fil-A's Polynesian sauce.
Which of the following predictions is most likely to happen on Monday?
Justin Blackmon has 75 or fewer yards receiving. (13 votes)
Andrew Luck throws at least 5 touchdowns. (19 votes)
Stepfan Taylor rushes for at least 160 yards. (45 votes)
Chase Thomas has at least 4 sacks. (10 votes)
87 total votes