Oklahoma State Cowboys
Head Coach: Mike Gundy
2016 Record: 10-3 overall, 7-2 Big 12
2016 Bowl Result: Beat Colorado 38-8 in the Alamo Bowl
2017 Returning Starters: 7 offense, 5 defense
Odds to Win 2018 College Football Championship Game: 85/2
Odds to Win 2017 Big 12 Championship: 9/2
Odds to reach 2017 Big 12 Championship Game: +205
Regular Season Wins: over 9 -115 / under 9 -105
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Last year, the Oklahoma State Cowboys began the season with a lackluster 2-2 record, including a shocking upset loss at home to Central Michigan on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game. The Cowboys then won seven straight games before a 38-20 Bedlam loss to rival Oklahoma in what was the de facto Big 12 Championship game. The Cowboys rebounded by destroying Colorado 38-8 in the Alamo Bowl.
The Cowboys enter 2017 as contenders for the Big 12 title and perhaps even a dark horse candidate to make the playoff under coach Mike Gundy. It will likely come down to the Oklahoma game again, and they might have to play them twice as the conference introduces a championship game despite having only 10 teams and no divisions. Here is a look at OSU on offense, defense and special teams, plus the schedule and outlook.
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Oklahoma State averaged 495 yards per game on offense including 324 passing yards. The Cowboys averaged 39 points per game. OSU was #17 or better nationally in all three categories. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich gets seven starters back.
Quarterback Mason Rudolph returns for his senior season, after flirting with leaving early for the NFL. He could be a dark horse Heisman candidate. Rudolph completed 63.4% of his passes for 4,091 yards with 28 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, and had 6 rushing touchdowns. Junior Taylor Cornelius and redshirt freshman Keondre Wudtree are competing for the back-up spot behind Rudolph.
Running back Justice Hill had a great freshman year last season. He rushed for 1,142 yards with 6 touchdowns on 206 carries. He missed spring practice with a shoulder injury but is expected to be healthy by the time the season starts. Chris Carson is now with the Seattle Seahawks after rushing for 559 yards and 9 touchdowns, and also made 13 catches. Rennie Childs who had 7 rushing touchdowns and Barry Sanders, Jr. are also gone. Look for junior Jeff Carr and freshman Chuba Hubbard to split the back-up carries behind Hill.
Receiver James Washington is also back after making 71 catches for 1,380 yards and 10 touchdowns. He averaged an incredible 19.4 yards per catch last year and will be in the NFL as well. Jalen McCleskey is also back after making 73 catches for 812 yards and 7 touchdowns last year. Marcell Ateman missed all of last year with a foot injury. He has been a reliable target in the past. Jhajuan Seales is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after making 37 catches for 615 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tyron Johnson is a former five star recruit and transfer from Florida State who has serious playmaking ability. Chris Lacy had 31 catches for 489 yards and 3 touchdowns last year and is also back.
Three starters are back on the offensive line, but the left side of the line must be replaced. Zachary Crabtree returns at right tackle, Larry Williams at right guard and Brad Lundblade at center. Aaron Cochrane is a graduate transfer from California at left tackle. Sophomore Marcus Keyes will start at left guard.
Like most teams in the Big 12, OSU had a fantastic offense but a terrible defense. The Cowboys allowed 446 yards per game on defense including 253 passing yards. Oklahoma State only allowed 27 points per game, mainly due to a +11 turnover margin. Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer gets five starters back.
Jarrell Owens and Jordan Brailford will start at the ends. Tre Carter and Darrion Daniels will start at the tackles. None of the four have much experience but all are talented.
Chad Whitener had 71 tackles last year including 7.5 for loss. He will man the middle linebacker position for the third straight season. Justin Phillips had 42 tackles last year and will start on the strong side. Kirk Tucker will start on the weak side.
Safety Tre Flowers anchors the secondary. He had 61 tackles last year. Ramon Richards moves from corner to the other safety after making 64 tackles and 3 interceptions last year. The corners are a major question mark though. Sophomores A.J. Green and Madre Harper are slated to start, but Clemson graduate transfer Adrian Baker adds depth.
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Kicker Matt Ammendola looks to replace Ben Grogan. Ammendola beat out true freshman Jake McClure for the job. Punter Zach Sinor is one of the nation’s top punters averaging 43 yards per punt last year. McCleskey will return punts, and Tyron jphnson will return kicks for the Cowboys.
Schedule and Outlook
The Cowboys open the season with in-state rival Tulsa in Stillwater, before road trips to South Alabama and Pittsburgh. The Cowboys open Big 12 play at home against TCU, before a road game at Texas Tech. OSU hosts Baylor and travels to Texas and West Virginia. Then comes the Bedlam showdown against Oklahoma at home. The Cowboys host Iowa State before closing at home against Kansas State and Kansas.
The schedule is somewhat favorable but games at Pitt, Texas and West Virginia will not be easy. As always, it will come down to whether the defense can make some stops. If they can, this team has a shot of winning every game and qualifying for the playoff. I see them playing Oklahoma twice this season.
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