OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS
Head Coach: Mike Gundy (121-59, 14 years)
Last Year: 7-6 (3-6 in conference)
Oklahoma State has a very good running back and maybe the best wide receiver in college football going in this season. That is the positive of Mike Gundy’s stable in the Stillwater corral. But without a great cowhand managing the live stock, Gundy might not get the best from his top line mounts and another disappointing season could await. The Pokes posse could be fast and exciting but it could also fail to get their man if fifth year senior transfer Dru Brown (Hawaii) or redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders lead this group into turnovers, three-and-outs, and a general discombobulation of an offensive that is usually productive. New offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson (Princeton) has not coached at this level and that also is a concern, even if the sets and system is not changing. Too much to ponder to think the Aggies are championship material for 2019.
Offense: As the saying goes, if you cannot find your staring quarterback and are going to play two, you do not have a quarterback. As the opening game gets closer, Gundy has not committed to either Sanders or Brown. Sanders, more talented, is believed to be prone to turnovers. Brown, two-years a starter at Hawaii, has the experience at this caliber of football. With one year learning the system as of sitting in 2018, Brown does not have the overall talent that Sanders possesses, but might be the better choice in the early games. With that, and if Gundy goes with experience in game one, Sanders will play. This youngster (Texas 2017-18 Gatorade State Player of the Year and also named Mr. Texas Football by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine) from Denton, TX (Ryan HS) is the future at the position for OSU.
The Cowboys will be excellent in most other others of the offense. New offensive line coach Charlie Dickey (Kan. State Univ. past eleven years) is an upgrade over the previous O-line coach and the Pokes should be better on the run as this assistant is one of the best run game teachers in the country. The O-line will also get better in pass protection and rely less on quick one step passes (as of last year) giving the receivers time to get open downfield and in pressure situations. The running game with Chuba Hubbard and LD Brown are quality. Hubbard could be all-conference and Brown’s talent needs to be cultivated as he is too good to be sitting. Tylan Wallace is the stud wideout and Dillion Stoner is good enough to get a strong look at the next level. The backups are young but very talented. The offense could be great, good, or a big disappointment, depending upon the gunman pulling the trigger. Brown or Sanders will be deadly as Bill Tilghman or just another Pop Gun (Machine Gun Kelly) faker. Offense grade: B
Defense: The defensive coordinator Jim Knowles believes his two returning cornerbacks are as good as any in the country. A.J. Green and Rodarius Williams are excellent no matter what Knowles has to say, and with 52 starts between them, experienced. They will not be fooled in their duties and will lead a much improved secondary. The safeties are also returning, with Malcolm Rodriguez and Jerrick Bernard giving OSU a chance to stymie the conference’s better passing offenses. It must be noted that this group was 118th in pass defense and had only five interceptions last year. Expect much improvement. The defensive line will be challenged by good rushing teams but Calvin Bundage is a top flight linebacker that does disrupt as of his eight tackles for loss last year. Bundage is an all-conference type player. Defense Grade: C
Special Teams: OSU could win a game or two with all thing equal with some opponents as of an excellent kicker in Matt Ammendola (40-52 FG lifetime with two 53 yard makes and 6th nationally in points with 251); a new punter, Tom Hutton, from Australia (28 years comes highly regarded. The return game suffered from mistakes last year but there is talent on this team for some big time returns. Special Teams: B
Forecast: 2019 could be a very good year in Stillwater. It also could be a repeat of 2018 and speculation on which way the season goes depends upon the quarterback play on offense and the defensive line on defense. Those two areas of concern cannot be overlooked. Gundy usually follows up a not-so-great campaign with a much better one and the Cowboy program is strong as of the consistency of it’s head coach and the general overall feel of the situation. The money has been put into this Big Twelve member school with facilities, excellent pay for all the coaches, and a strong fan base that does care. I can see OSU having a good season but a great one I think not. A year off of a conference contender but if any team takes OSU for granted they could find themselves on the bad end of a lopsided blowout. The talent is there and if the position coaches get it done, the Cowboys will not be an easy out.
Game OSU will win: Oregon State (A); McNeese State (H); Kansas (H)
Games OSU will be favorites to win (but you never know): Tulsa (H); Kansas State (H);
Toss up games: Texas Tech (A); Baylor (H); TCU (H); West Virginia (A)
Games OSU will be dogs but have a fighting chance: Iowa State (A)
Games OSU will lose: Texas (A); Oklahoma (H)
Final prediction for 2019: 7-5 and 4-5 in conference
Feature photo: Chuba Hubbard runs against Oklahoma in Norman, OK in a 48-47 loss in 2019. Photo credit: found at saturdayblitz.com.
Secondary photo: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images