Is there something in the water in the state of Oklahoma? Mike Gundy will be entering his 13th season as Oklahoma State’s head football coach. It begs the question, does longevity breed success or does success breed longevity? Either way, Gundy has worked tirelessly to bring the Cowboys into the upper echelon of college football.
Gundy has done a great job in both raising the ceiling and the floor for the OSU program, as the Pokes have averaged 9.7 wins a season over the last 7 years. And, in 2011 he famously missed taking the Cowboys to the BCS Championship Game by just .0083 points. Could this be the year they get over the hump and make the College Football Playoffs? Gundy has already compared this team to the 2011, so let’s look at the schedule.
2017 OKLAHOMA STATE FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
SEP 2 – Tulsa
SEP 9 – at South Alabama
SEP 16 – at Pittsburgh
SEP 23 – TCU
SEP 30 – at Texas Tech
OCT 14 – Baylor
OCT 21 – at Texas
OCT 28 – at West Virginia
NOV 4 – Oklahoma
NOV 11 – at Iowa State
NOV 18 – Kansas State
NOV 25 – Kansas
Oklahoma State enters the season as a favorite to win the Big 12 Conference. Last year Rudolph remained healthy, James Washington was on fire, and OSU found a running back in Justice Hill. Heading into the 2017 season, the Cowboys are predicted to have the best offense in the league, and it’s easy to see why. All three of those guys return, along with a plethora of other talented receivers.
But, like every Big 12 favorite, they have their warts too. Vincent Taylor was an absolute beast anchoring the center of the Pokes’ defensive line. He is now gone to the NFL. On top of losing one of the best defensive tackles in the conference, the Cowboys have lost five starters in the back seven; including the middle linebacker and safety spots. Losing the middle of a defense is never a good thing. However, despite the losses, the Pokes are returning enough talent on that side of the ball for Poke fans to rest relatively easy.
Potentially more troubling is the offensive line.
This is something that is getting overshadowed with the return of Rudolph, Washington, and Hill. However, OSU lost their starting left tackle Victor Salako to graduation. Salako earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2016 and was a two-year starter anchoring the line. The Cowboys are returning three starters on the offensive line, but depth is somewhat of a question. offensive line coach Greg Adkins missed on several recruits, and now he is gone. Gundy fired Adkins shortly after the recruiting misses, while citing not enough improvement along the line.
How improved will the offensive line be under Josh Henson with just the offseason? And will the new left tackle hold up in a conference geared to rush the passer? Those questions should not be glossed over. More than one team has had a potential championship run ruined by poor line play.
Looking at the schedule itself, if you are a football fan you have to love it. The out of conference schedule is bar-none the best with two great match-ups. The Cowboys and Golden Hurricanes will be meeting for the 73rd time! This little-known semi-rivalry game is a ton of fun to watch, especially in recent years — even though historically. Oklahoma State has dominated the series 40-27-5. However, Tulsa won 10 games last year and capped off the season with a blowout win against Central Michigan (sorry Poke fans, had to mention it) in the Miami Beach Bowl. While Tulsa lost some key talent this game is shaping up to be an offensive shootout.
OSU also travels to Pittsburgh. This game was a back-and-forth affair in Stillwater last year. Expect the same this year. Both of these games are going to test Oklahoma State’s rebuilding defense early. Tulsa runs the Briles Spread with lots of vertical attacks and spread formations so teams cannot load up against the run. This is going to test the new secondary. The Panther’s offense is the complete opposite, a power run scheme. This is going to test the interior of the defense and the linebackers. Pittsburgh also has the lone distinction of beating two conference champions last year in Penn State (Big 10) and Clemson (ACC).
Fully expect both games to be tough outs so early in the season.
We will skip over South Alabama, Kansas, and Iowa State, because the Cowboys should win easily.
As an Oklahoma State fan, you have to love getting Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU and Kansas State at home. Expect the paddles to be rocking in those games. While the Cowboys have to travel to Lubbock and Austin, those games should be manageable. The Pokes have gotten over the Texas hump and do not seem as troubled by them as in the past. The Texas Tech game should again stress this secondary, but OSU has the offensive firepower to come out on top.
On the road at West Virginia could be a trip up. WVU is always tough at Milan Puskar Stadium and Gundy and Holgerson know each other fairly well. The bye week before the Baylor game should help OSU to heal up and run (or pass) right over the Bears.
If Oklahoma State gets through the non-conference schedule undefeated expect them to make it to November with all W’s. But, the eleventh month of the year brings two huge games to Stillwater in Oklahoma and Kansas State. By this point in the season all questions should be answered for all three of these teams. Depending on the records of these two teams, (and if there’s no blatant bias against the Big 12) College GameDay could be scarfing down some chili-cheese fries at Eskimo Joe’s in November. If all goes right, OSU could be facing one of these two teams again in the Big 12 Title match.
In 2016, the Cowboys squeaked out a six-point win at Manhattan. If this Snyder’s last hurrah, then expect Kansas State to be clawing any which way for a win. That alone makes them very dangerous, not to mention they return a lot of talent themselves. However, as pointed out above, this year the game is in Stillwater. Not the easiest place to get a win.
Finally, for Oklahoma State and Mike Gundy to get over the hump, they have to beat OU. This game is has created quite a few classics, but OSU has struggled to come out on top. 2006, Gundy’s second year, was a nail biter. And, who can forget the offenses of 2008 going at it? Or the squeaker in 2010? The overtime loss in 2012? Or the overtime win in 2014? All that being said, Gundy has only coached the Cowboys to victory twice against Oklahoma: 2011 and 2014. Gundy needs to slay the bully this year to take Oklahoma State to the next level.
Can this be the year that Oklahoma State busts out on the national stage for good with a Playoff showing? They have all the pieces to do it. If the questions for Cowboys get a positive answer then this team could go all the way to securing OSU’s second (or is it first?) National Title.