Oklahoma State football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Cowboys, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About Oklahoma State’s Offense
The offense that finished seventh in the nation in passing, 22nd overall, and averaged 39.5 points per game returns absolutely loaded. Consider it a shocker if this isn’t one of the nation’s most devastating attacks.
It all starts with Mason Rudolph, a top-shelf quarterback who’s gone all but unnoticed in the first part of his career, but is about to blow up as a junior if he can be a little more consistent and a lot better in the biggest games. He’ll get the workload to himself now with J.W. Walsh gone – it should allow him to get into more of a rhythm.
Rudolph has a devastating receiving corps to work with, starting with gamebreaking James Washington on the outside along with senior Marcell Ateman leading the way. As always, the Cowboys have speed, athleticism, and top options to spread the ball around – and then it’ll all come back to Washington.
After a year of transition, the line will be a major positive with everyone back and a few good options to play around with the alignment from time to time. The projected starting five is all upperclassmen, but they have to do more for a mediocre ground attack that has a few nice backs, but will be hoping for the next Barry Sanders – literally – to show up and shine. The legend’s son transferred from Stanford and will get every shot at taking over the starting gig.
Biggest Key To The Oklahoma State Offense
The line has to be better. The passing game will be a dominant force as long as the front five can keep Rudolph upright. With all the veterans returning on the line and all the talent to work with, the Cowboys need to be better in pass protection and have to balance out the attack a bit. They allowed 32 sacks and only generated 1,649 rushing yards averaging a mere 3.58 yards per carry, but now there’s no excuse with depth to go along with the experienced starters. The starting five to open the season should be outstanding – at least that’s the hope.
What You Need To Know About Oklahoma State’s Defense
It was a problem last year down the stretch. There weren’t any problems against the weaker offenses on the first half of the slate, but the second half kicked in and things got ugly allowing 45 points or more in four of the last five games.
The linebacking corps should be the biggest strength with three good senior starters in Chad Whitener, DeVante Averette and Jordan Burton, but they have to make more impact plays. The run defense gave up 187 yards per game last season – this group has to make up for the losses up front.
The line loses Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean, but Vincent Taylor is a good tackle who’ll be the rock, while a good rotation on the ends should help make up for the lost sack production. There’s quickness and athleticism, but Ogbah was the force who everyone had to worry about.
The safety tandem of Jordan Sterns and Tre Flowers should be outstanding, but the corners need to stand out and stay healthy. It’s a stretch to call the corners the weak spot on the defense, but that’s the one key concern once the Big 12 slate heats up.
Biggest Key To The Oklahoma State Defense
Keep the pass rushing production going. Ogbah was special, and Bean was a good veteran, but the Cowboys need to be able to keep cranking out big things behind the line on a regular basis – the defense had enough problems without the big-time production. OSU led the Big 12 with 40 sacks and was second in tackles for loss just behind Baylor, and now it all has to keep on rolling. Just five of the sacks came in the last three games – all losses – coming up with more than two in seven of the 10 wins. It’ll take a village to keep being so active.
Oklahoma State Football Will Be Far Better If …
The D is able to stop a good offense, especially a running game. The Cowboys were able to keep Texas to 171 yards and allowed West Virginia to be the only offense to come up with more than 200 yards in the first eight games. And then came the offense with TCU, Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Ole Miss all cranking out over 200 yards with the Bears and Sooners combining for 648 yards in back-to-back weeks. For two years in a row, OSU allowed BU and OU to come up with more than 300 yards on the ground. This year, Baylor comes up on September 24th.
Oklahoma State’s Best Offensive Player
WR James Washington – It was next to impossible for most receivers to get any love and respect in a league with Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson and Sterling Shepard. The spotlight shouldn’t be a problem this year for Washington, the conference’s leading returning receiver and one of the most dangerous weapons in college football, catching 53 passes for 1,087 yards and ten scores, averaging 20.5 yards per catch. He won’t have to do it alone with Marcell Ateman an even better NFL prospect – maybe, at least in terms of measurable – but he’ll be the signature star.
Oklahoma State’s Best Defensive Player
S Jordan Sterns – The team’s leading tackler last year will combine with Tre Flowers to anchor a secondary that has to withstand the firestorm that’s coming from all the big conference passing games. Sterns looks the part with 205-pound size and excellent open-field tackling ability. Excellent for the last few seasons, he followed up a 103-stop sophomore campaign with 108 last year, and now he should be a lock for another huge statistical season. Flowers came up with 83 tackles and took a backseat to Sterns, but he’ll have his big moments, too.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DE Jarrell Owens – Jordan Brailford and Trey Carter will be a part of this, too, trying to come up with the pass rush needed to make up for the 13 sacks left by Emmanuel Ogbah. At 6-3 and 270 pounds he’s a big body up front who can move a little bit. A high school running back, he’s a good athlete who saw time as a redshirt freshman coming up with three sacks in a part-time role, but now it’s his turn to give it a shot.
Oklahoma State’s Season Will Be A Success If …
There’s a Big 12 championship t-shirt at the end of it. The offense is strong enough to compete with anyone in the league, and it should be even better than it was throughout last season, but here’s the problem – the road games. Last year the Cowboys caught a wonderful break getting all the big boys at home, and they couldn’t take advantage of it. This year, they have to go to Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma, and they’ll have to win at least three of those four to have a shot at the Big 12 title, but yeah, they’re going to be that good.
Sept. 24 at Baylor – The rise of the Bears has been a major problem for the Cowboys, who’ve lost three of the last four games in the series including the first defeat of last season. This time around, it’s the Big 12 opener and a must-win out of the gate. The non-conference schedule has a few interesting fights against Central Michigan – really, CMU – and Pitt, but both of those are at home and OSU should be 3-0 to start the season. With Iowa State, at Kansas, West Virginia, at Kansas State and Texas Tech to follow, a win over the Bears could mean another 10-0 start – at least the Cowboys will be favored in almost all the games after the trip to Waco.
Fun Stats From 2015
– Fourth Down Conversions: Oklahoma State 8-of-10 (80%) – Opponents 14-of-23 (61%)
– Penalties: Opponents 100 for 880 yards – Oklahoma State 75 for 657 yards
– Fumbles: Opponents 20 (lost 11) – Oklahoma State 18 (lost 5)