Oklahoma State has some lofty goals heading into 2017. They have been tabbed a favorite to win the Big 12, and some pundits have them making the College Football Playoff. However, Mike Gundy has always been a proponent of one game at a time and that starts with in-state foe, the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes on Thursday night.
Make no mistake, while this is a game the Pokes should win, Tulsa is no slouch. The Golden Hurricanes won 10 games last season, including a monster 55-10 Miami Beach Bowl win over Central Michigan. The same Central Michigan that Oklahoma State lost to (no matter what coach Gundy says) in a highly controversial ending last season.
Tulsa has featured an offense that knows how to get into the end zone under coach Philip Montgomery. He is part of the Art Briles coaching tree, and while that probably isn’t something you want to put on your resume today, Montgomery has brought Briles’ potent offense to Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes will have to replace quarterback Dane Evans, who threw for over 3,300 yards last season and 32 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. However, the Golden Hurricanes will feature one of the better offensive lines in the AAC in 2017, which will make replacing playmakers a little bit easier in Montgomery’s plug and play offense.
The Hurricanes also return a good portion of their defense from a year ago with six returning starters Although, they have some question marks in the middle of the defense with tackles Jerry Uwaezouke and Hayden Carman, middle linebacker Trent Martin and safety Jeremy Brady are no longer there.
Similar to the Big 12 though, Tulsa is not going to rely on the defense to win any games. That’s not their style. They simply need their defense to provide a speed bump to opposing offenses, because they will be comfortable in a shootout.
DATE & TIME: THU, AUG 31 at 6:30 PM CT
WHERE: Boone Pickens Stadium (Stillwater, OK)
FORECAST: Sunny, Low 80s, Light Wind
TV: FOX Sports 1
STREAM: Fox Sports Go
BETTING LINE: OSU -18
Similar to Tulsa, Oklahoma State’s strength is going to be on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterback Mason Rudolph is considered an early Heisman contender, receiver James Washington may be the favorite to win the Biletnikoff Award, and running back Justice Hill was named to the All-Big 12 Preseason Team. Not to mention, the Pokes feature a receiving corps 5-deep that could start just about anywhere else in the country.
Washington wasn’t even Oklahoma State’s only receiver named to the Biletnikoff watch list. Receiver Jalen McCleskey was named as well. Their receiver unit also feature talented wideout Marcel Ateman returning from injury, highly touted LSU transfer Tyron Johnson, and senior wideout Chris Lacy. They also have young talent in the wings that have made a splash during spring and fall camps. The Pokes will be able to sub out the entire receiver unit on the field and not miss a beat. That’s going to put a lot of stress on opposing secondaries. Not only does OSU have the talent to match up one on one, they have the depth to stay fresh deep into the second half, which makes a 1-2 combo not many teams will be able to slow down.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys should be solid up front, while the linebacker unit should be the strength of the defense. The secondary is by far the Pokes’ biggest question mark as there is not much experience returning. However, Gundy must feel at least pretty good about his young corners, because the Pokes move their only experienced corner, Ramon Richards, to safety.
Keys To The Game For OSU
Come Out Strong – Thursday night games have a habit of being weird. If the Pokes come out sluggish and have a hard time finding a rhythm, Tulsa will look to put Oklahoma State in a hole early. That’s not a position you want to be in against the Hurricanes. If Tulsa starts to feel like they can win this game, look out. Nothing would make their year like taking out an in-state “rival”.
Secondary Needs To Answer The Call – The inexperience in the secondary will be tested early against Tulsa. If the Pokes want to achieve their goals, they cannot afford to be exposed in week 1. The secondary needs to show that they have the talent to hang with Big 12 offenses.
Control Field Position – One of the more underrated weapons for Oklahoma State is punter Zach Sinor. Sinor pinned opponents inside their own 20 more often than any other punter in college football last season. If the Cowboys can keep Tulsa pinned deep, they will make it that much harder on the Golden Hurricanes to build any momentum.
Oklahoma State simply has more weapons and more depth than Tulsa, and look for them to test the middle of the Tulsa defense. The Hurricanes may keep it close for a couple of quarters, but as the Cowboys keep the pressure on, look for OSU to jump out to a commanding lead by the third quarter. The Hurricanes may score late to get the back door cover against the 18 point spread, but there will be little doubt in this one. Pokes win easily.