The Cowboys were a late season sleeper for the CFP before a loss to rival Oklahoma. In 2017, they look to finish the job.
August marks the start of college football, and it’s been a long time coming. Here at SQ we’re previewing all the top teams in the country based on our own top-25. Yesterday we took an in-depth look at No. 12 LSU , today I preview the 11th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Team Name: Oklahoma State Cowboys
2016 Record and Rank: 10-3 (11)
Coach: Mike Gundy (104-50, 13th year)
Key Arrivals: WR Tylan Wallace, RB Chuba Hubbard, WR Shamond Greenwood, WR Lamarcus Morton, QB Tracin Wallace, WR Tyron Johnson (transfer)
Key Departures: OL Victor Salako, OL Michael Wilson, RB Chris Carson, S Jordan Sterns, LB Devante Averette, DT Vincent Taylor
Previewing Oklahoma State’s Offense
Like most teams in the Big 12, Oklahoma State relies largely on its defense. The Cowboys finished 14th in total yards with 6,432 and that was still only fourth best in the Big 12. Their strength was in their passing attack, which finished with 4,211 yards and led to an average of 38.6 points per game. Many of the leaders from 2016 return to propel the Cowboys to new heights.
OSUPOKESNO1) July 28, 2017
Senior quarterback Mason Rudolph is the unquestioned leader for Oklahoma State. In 2016, Rudolph played his way into the best quarterback conversation. After throwing for 4,091 yards along with 28 touchdowns and only four interceptions, Fox Sports’ analyst Joel Klatt ranked Rudolph as 2017’s third best quarterback. Oklahoma State only goes as far as their Heisman-hopeful quarterback takes them.
Behind Rudolph is a talented backfield that is a perfect complement to the pass-happy Cowboy offense. As a freshman, Justice Hill lead the team with 206 carries, 1,142 yards, and six touchdowns while also being named Big 12 Freshman of the Year. The Cowboys do lose their rushing touchdown leader Chris Carson, but with Hill and backup Jeff Carr, Carson’s production shouldn’t be missed.
It’s sometimes a question if a great quarterback makes his receivers great or vice versa. Oklahoma State could find themselves in that debate, but fans will stick to being happy with possibly the best receiving cores in college football. Senior James Washington ranked 10th in the nation with 1,380 yards while hauling in 10 touchdowns. Junior Jalen McCleskey lines up next to Washington and actually led the Cowboys in receptions, with 73 to go along with his seven touchdowns. Rudolph is lucky guy to have these weapons around him.
Previewing Oklahoma State’s Defense
The Big 12 isn’t know for defense, and the Cowboy defense was the worst of the bunch. Not only did they finish dead last in the conference, giving up 5,484 total yards, but they also finished 123rd in the same category. Oklahoma State also finished tied for 65th in points given up per game at 28.1. Defense will need a lot of work, especially after losing key pieces in last year’s squad.
One of the biggest losses that will be felt is in defensive end Vincent Taylor, who led the team in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (13). To replace Taylor’s output coaches are going to rely on multiple defensive ends. Traland Webber returns after picking up six sacks. Jarrell Owens and Cole Walterscheid are the returning starters, but Jordan Brailford looks to work his way into the rotation as well. With five legitimate starters, the Cowboys defensive line could be their strength.
The linebacker group for Gundy’s team is generally solid, but not great. Chad Whitener roams the middle again after finishing the season third in tackles (71) and tackles for loss (7.5). Next to him will be Justin Phillips, who finished off 2016 doing a little bit of everything. None of the linebackers will gain national attention, but they should be able to hold steady and produce solid numbers.
Safety Jordan Stearns departs after a terrific career at Oklahoma State and a 2016 in which he picked up 101 total tackles and led the team in interceptions, with three. Senior Ramon Richards will be tasked with replacing Stearns’ production, and if last season is any indication, he shouldn’t have much trouble. Richards tied the team lead with three interceptions while picking up 64 tackles. Tre Flowers will directly replace Stearns at strong safety, and rounding out the secondary are two sophomore corners that have tons of upside
Three Key Games
1. Sept. 16 at Pittsburgh- On paper this looks like a game Oklahoma State should easily win, but don’t forget how close these two teams were when they met last season. Pittsburgh may have lost 45-38, but the teams were tied going into the fourth quarter, and the game was in Stillwater. The Panthers are never an easy out at home and will have improved since 2016. Rudolph, along with the rest offense, will be tough to stop, and the Cowboys should be able to get an interesting road test early in 2017.
2. Oct. 28 at West Virginia- Oklahoma State ruined the Mountaineers’ perfect 6-0 start last season and this matchup could play a crucial part in the Big-12 race. Morgantown is always a tough place to play and will be the first true test the Cowboys face. If West Virginia’s offense can hang with Oklahoma State, then maybe they can pull off an upset, but expect the Cowboys to pull away late in this one.
3. Nov. 4 vs Oklahoma- The fate of the Big 12 hangs in the balance with this intrastate rivalry. The Sooners have gotten the better of the Cowboys the past two seasons, while also leading the all-time series 86-18-7. The storyline will be between Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield and Rudolph, two of the country’s best throwers, but the game will come down to who can get a stop. It’s impossible to predict this game now, since it could come down to the final possession.
This Oklahoma State team has all the makings of a team ready to break into the CFP and take the country by storm. They already have the offense in place to compete with anyone, especially in the Big 12. The only question mark regarding this team is the defense. If they perform like they did last year, then they will drop a game or two that they should have won.
Overall, Oklahoma is the team to beat and the Cowboys finish 11-1. If they can win a rematch in the Big-12 title game than a playoff berth isn’t out of the question. Cowboys will be an interesting team to watch, but shouldn’t surprise anyone if they go far.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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