It’s hard to imagine any team had a better offseason than Oklahoma State. Yes, offseason. After the Cowboys dominated Colorado 38-8 in last season’s Alamo Bowl, projections and predictions for 2017 have soared. It’s not like folks thought OSU was some sort of world-beater after going 10-3 overall and 7-2 in the Big 12. Remember, OSU lost at home to Central Michigan and also struggled against Iowa State, Kansas State and Texas Tech. The Cowboys were also dominated in the second half against Oklahoma and didn’t look great in a 35-24 loss to Baylor. However, Oklahoma State is a trendy pick to make the College Football Playoff, picked by Sports Illustrated, and was ranked No. 4 by the publication in the preseason rankings behind Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State – but more importantly, ahead of No. 5 Oklahoma. So, what gives? You can start with the returning trio of QB Mason Rudolph, RB Justice Hill and WR James Washington.
While he’s not mentioned as the nation’s best quarterback, Rudolph might have the most potential to succeed in the NFL. He completed better than 63 percent of his passes last season while throwing for 4,091 yards and 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He averaged 314 yards passing per game. Hill had 1,142 yards rushing last season, averaging over 5 yards per carry, and the Rudolph to Washington connection might be the best in football. Washington caught 71 passes for 1,380 yards and 10 touchdowns a season ago, averaging nearly 20 yards per catch. He’s one of many receivers, including Jalen McClesky (73 catches last season) and Chris Lacey (31 catches in 2016) who make the Oklahoma State receivers as good as any group in the nation. Meanwhile, LSU signee Tyron Johnson also joined the team, and they have an extremely promising true freshman in Tylan Wallace.
That’s more than enough skill to get by in the defensively challenged Big 12, especially when you consider that Oklahoma State returns a total of 95 career starts (second most in the Big 12) on the offensive line, led by Second-Team All-Big 12 Zach Crabtree. Four starters on the line will be seniors, including Brad Lundblade and Larry Williams. The Oklahoma State Defense ranked 53rd in scoring last season at 26.5 points per game and 82nd in rushing defense at 193 yards per game. This unit must improve if the Cowboys want to contend nationally, but it won’t have to be elite with their offensive firepower. Watch Tre Flowers at safety and middle linebacker Chad Whitener.
Oklahoma State has a very easy non-conference schedule (at Pitt is the only decent test), and a favorable conference road schedule. As a result, they get TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State at home. Even a loss to one of those teams might not keep OSU out of the Big 12 title game. And, if OSU is able to win the Big 12 Championship, the Cowboys might be looking at a spot in the dance. Oklahoma State isn’t the betting favorite to win the Big 12, but the Cowboys are certainly good enough to make the College Football Playoff. You have to hand it to head coach Mike Gundy. He’s become one of the most compelling and interesting coaches in college football. Gundy has used his rant (I’m 40, I’m a man) and his mullet (grown out to lengths only country music stars of the early 1990s could appreciate) to propel Oklahoma State to becoming the Oregon of the Big 12: flashy uniform combos, new facilities, exciting offense and now a legitimate chance to play in a National Championship.
Expected Win Totals
CW Projected Total Wins: 8.25
CW Projected Big 12 Wins: 5.8
Posted Total Wins: O 9 -110
Home Field Advantage: 3.6
Opening Power Rating: 60.5
|Aug 31||Tulsa||Oklahoma St.||OKST -11.5|
|Sep 9||Oklahoma St.||South Alabama||USA +26|
|Sep 16||Oklahoma St.||Pittsburgh||PITT +4.5|
|Sep 23||TCU||Oklahoma St.||OKST -7.5|
|Sep 30||Oklahoma St.||Texas Tech||TTU +6.5|
|Oct 14||Baylor||Oklahoma St.||OKST -7.5|
|Oct 21||Oklahoma St.||Texas||TEX -3|
|Oct 28||Oklahoma St.||West Virginia||WVU +10|
|Nov 4||Oklahoma||Oklahoma St.||OKST +3|
|Nov 11||Oklahoma St.||Iowa St.||ISU +9|
|Nov 18||Kansas St.||Oklahoma St.||OKST -5.5|
|Nov 25||Kansas||Oklahoma St.||OKST -25|
|Legend: Coming off bye / Overlook watch / Back to Back road travel / Neutral site|
Tulsa +17 is a live dog in week one. Oklahoma State will be breaking in new linebackers and defensive backs against an up-tempo Philip Montgomery Tulsa offense. It’s a horrendous matchup for this defense out of the gates in what should be a shootout. I may add the over for protection considering the only way I see Oklahoma State covering is if they get to 50-plus.
The Pokes are in the College Football Playoff discussion, and a three-game stretch (Texas, WVU, and OU) will determine whether Oklahoma State makes it to Arlington. I don’t see any value in +375 to win the conference, but I did hit +205 to make the Big 12 Championship Game.
There’s something about Iowa State. Iowa State knocked Oklahoma State out of the national title picture back in 2011 with a mid-week win in Ames. The Cowboys have defeated the Cyclones each of the past two seasons, but both were decided by less than a touchdown. Oklahoma State travels to Ames for their last road game of the season the week after Bedlam and the week before Kansas State. Iowa State, who will warrant a look regardless, should be an absolute hammer if Oklahoma State beats their in-state rival to remain undefeated the week before.
Zach Sinor (Punter) – Oklahoma State led the nation in opponent starting field position in 2016 after 63 percent of Zach Sinor’s punts were downed inside the 20, No. 1 in FBS. A person could make a solid argument that Sinor, a 2016 Ray Guy semifinalist, is the best punter in the country. That person would ultimately lose said argument because the best punter in the country actually plays for Utah (Mitch Wishnowsky). However, if two people ever decided to hypothetically argue about punters, Zach Sinor would have the credentials to at least make this hypothetical argument interesting (if arguments about punters could hypothetically be interesting). Sinor appears to live in this hypothetical world, as he has launched a Heisman campaign website – Sinor4Heisman.com
Tylan Wallace (WR) – James Washington and Jalen McClesky are known commodities at wide receiver. There a number of other promising contributors, too, including true freshman Tylan Wallace. Mike Gundy said Wallace will play this season, which says a ton for a true freshman on a team with one of the deepest receiving groups in the country. Wallace had 3,760 receiving yards in high school, which ranks in the top 15 in Texas high school history. He could realistically be a factor on the outside for the Cowboys in 2017.
- Pokes are 4-9-1 ATS since 2007 as a home dog, which may apply for Bedlam.
It all goes right if…
- They win Bedlam. Beating Oklahoma (at home) in 2017 would not only bring joy to every fan and booster, but it should put Oklahoma State in primary control of a Big 12 Championship appearance. Oklahoma State has lost 10 of 12 in the series
It all goes wrong if…
- The defense can’t stop a nose bleed again. OSU’s defense, along with the rest of the teams in the Big 12, doesn’t have to be great, but it needs to be serviceable. There isn’t much doubt that Mason Rudolph, Justice Hill, James Washington and that electrifying offense will put up massive numbers, but it remains to be seen if the defense can improve from 2016.
Tulsa +17 Week 1
Make Big 12 Championship Game +205