Oklahoma State Cowboys
Head Coach: Mike Gundy
2011 Record: 11-1 overall, 8-1 Big 12
2011 Bowl Result: Beat Stanford 41-38 (OT) in Fiesta Bowl
Odds to Win Big 12 Championship: 8/1
Odds to Win 2013 BCS Championship: 100/1
Over Under Regular Season Wins: Over 8 1/2 -130 / Under Even
All Odds Courtesy of Bovada
Oklahoma St, coached by Mike Gundy, had the best season in school history last year. The Cowboys finished 12-1. They won their first Big 8/12 title since 1976, and first outright title since they won the 1948 Missouri Valley Conference Championship. The Cowboys were an overtime loss at Iowa St from playing for their first ever national title. As it was Oklahoma St had to settle for a berth in their first BCS bowl against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cardinal 41-38 in overtime. The game was back and forth, and was one of the most entertaining games of the bowl season.
The OSU offense averaged 546 yards per game (387 passing) and were second in scoring nationally with 48.7 points a game. The Cowboys scored at least 30 points in every game, and even scored over 59 five times. The highlight of the season might have been a 44-10 thrashing of Bedlam rival Oklahoma. It was only the 17th time the Cowboys beat their rivals in 106 games between the two schools.
The offense must replace quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon, who were both first round NFL draft picks. Weeden was drafted by the Cleveland Browns and Blackmon was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars. It won’t be easy as Weeden threw for over 9,000 yards in his career with 71 touchdowns. Blackmon was a two time Biletnikoff award winner for the nation’s top receiver. Todd Monken took over for Dana Holgorsen as the offensive coordinator after Holgorsen became the head coach at West Virginia last season.
Coming into spring practice, there was a three way battle to replace Weeden at quarterback. Junior Clint Chelf had been Weeden’s back-up for the past two years. Chelf completed 20 of 30 passes last year for 307 yards with 3 touchdowns. Redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh was also in the mix as was true freshman Wes Lunt. Chelf was considered to be the favorite because he had been in the system for 2 years. However, Lunt was very impressive in spring practice and was handed the starting job. He hasn’t done anything to lose the job in the fall. Lunt has the physical tools to be a fantastic quarterback but he is 18 years old, and will make some mistakes. Luckily, other than Texas, Lunt faces some weak defenses in the first half of the season, and will have some time for on the job training.
The running game was overlooked with the Weeden and Blackmon aerial assault last year. However, the top two running backs do return and might take on a larger role in the offense until Lunt works out the kinks. Joseph Randle had 208 carries, 1,216 yards, and 24 touchdowns. He also had 43 receptions, 266 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Jeremy Smith had 91 carries, 646 yards, and 9 touchdowns, along with 11 catches for 81 yards. Third string running back Herschel Sims was kicked off the team after being arrested for forgery. He had 31 carries for 242 yards, and 2 touchdowns, including one for 81 yards. His carries will likely go to Desmond Roland who had 17 carries for 95 yards last year. Though it isn’t a true fullback, Kye Staley and David Paulsen will platoon as the blocking back. Neither will get many carries if any, but Staley did have 10 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Not only do the Cowboys have to replace Blackmon’s 121 catches, 1,522 yards, and 18 touchdowns, but they also have to replace #2 receiver Josh Cooper. He had 71 catches, 715 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Also, they have to replace Hubert Anyiam, Colton Chelf, and Michael Harrison who combined for 68 catches, 916 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Nine Cowboys caught more than 20 passes last year. Not Counting Randle, only three return at wideout. Tracy Moore had 45 catches, 672 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Isaiah Anderson had 28 catches, 315 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Michael Harrison had 20 catches, 255 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Josh Stewart had 19 catches, 291 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Charlie Moore caught only 3 passes last year but did score three touchdowns in the OSU spring game. David Glidden and Justin Horton will also get some targets. Horton is big enough to be a tight end at 254 pounds. JUCO All-American transfer Blake Jackson will be the tight end.
The line must replace tackle Levy Adcock and center Grant Garner, both we All-Big 12. Both guards return in Lane Taylor and Jonathan Rush. Evan Epstein will take over at center. The tackles will be RT Parker Graham and LT Michael Bowie. The losses of Adcock and Garner hurt, but the line should be at least decent.
Last season, under coordinator Bill Young, the OSU defense was #107 in yards allowed but were 61st in points allowed at 26.8. The Cowboys were the epitome of bend but don’t break (though it broke plenty). Oklahoma St allowed 28 or more points 7 times last year, and over 33 points five times. Honestly, though the defense was on the field a lot because the offense scored so quickly and often, and they played a lot of high powered offenses. The saving grace of the defense was the Cowboys were +21 in turnover margin, which led the country.
The defensive line must replace ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones who combined for 20 tackles for loss, including 12 sacks,5 forced fumbles, 2 picks, and 7 broken up passes. Cooper Bassett and Ryan Robinson look to be the ends this fall. Anthony Rogers and Christian Littlehead will platoon at one tackle. Davidell Collins will start at the other tackle. Nigel Nicholas, Tyler Johnson, and James Castleman will also get time in the rotation. JUCO transfer Calvin Barnett has the talent to take one of the starting tackle spots.
Oklahoma St might have best linebacking corps in the conference, although Oklahoma and Texas might disagree. The top 3 linebackers return in Shaun Lewis, Alex Elkins and Caleb Lavey. The trio combined for 19.5 tackles for loss, four picks, four forced fumbles and two passes broken up last year. Joe Mitchell and Ryan Simmons will also get playing time.
The secondary returns 9 of their top 10 players, but safety Markelle Martin is gone, after he broke up 11 passes and made 5 tackles for loss. Safety Daytawion Lowe was the team’s leading tackler last year. Corners Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert combined for 10 interceptions, 25 passes broken up, 5 tackles for loss, and 3 forced fumbles. Levocheya Cooper will take over for Martin at the other safety. Zach Craig, Devin Hedgepeth, and Andrae May will get time in secondary as well.
Senior Quinn Sharp handles the kicking and punting for Oklahoma St. Usually when someone handles both kicking and punting they are better at one or average at both. That is not the case with Sharp. He averaged 46.3 yards per punt to lead the Big 12. If you wanted to quibble, he did have 8 touchbacks and only 12 inside the 20. He made 22 of 25 field goals and 79 of 80 extra points. He did miss a crucial field goal with a minute to go in the Iowa St game that would have given the Cowboys the lead. The kick went over the upright, and looked good from certain angles. For good measure, Sharp also led the nation in touchbacks on kickoffs with 61. That is 23 more than anyone else in the country.
Justin Gilbert will return both kicks and punts. The punt return unit was awful averaging just 3.4 yards per return. Josh Cooper handled punts last year. Gilbert averaged 27 yards per kick return with two touchdowns though.
Oklahoma St has non-conference games at home against Savannah St and Louisiana-Lafayette, and a road game against Arizona. In conference, they have home games against Texas, Iowa St, TCU, West Virginia and Texas Tech. The game against West Virginia will match Gundy against his former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. The Cowboys travel to Kansas, Kansas St, Oklahoma and Baylor.
Lunt could be a special quarterback but he will go through some growing pains as all freshmen do. He won’t be seriously challenged until the Texas game. The defense should be much better, and if they keep getting turnovers this team could contend for the conference title again. I think 9 or 10 wins is a realistic goal for this team.
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