Preview 2016

Preview 2016: Oklahoma State's Big 12 Window Is Open


The Oklahoma State football outlook for 2016 season. The Big 12 could be there for the taking, and Mike Gundy and the Cowboys might be good enough to do it.


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It’s an overstatement to call this a make-or-break season, but there’s an open window that Oklahoma State must barge through.

It’s not going to be easy even if the Cowboys are phenomenal – just about all the tough conference games are on the road – but after missing their break last year following a 10-0 start and getting Baylor and Oklahoma at home, they’re better this season while the rest of the league might be vulnerable.

Texas isn’t going to be mediocre forever, but it’s not ready for primetime quite yet. Art Briles is no longer at Baylor, TCU is trying to reload the offense without Trevone Boykin, and Oklahoma is Oklahoma, meaning it’s overdue to lose a game or two it probably shouldn’t.

The Big 12 will be solid, but when it comes to teams whose arrow is pointed up, Oklahoma State’s is likely the highest of the big boys, and this is the time to take advantage of it.

Mike Gundy hasn’t maxed out his time in Stillwater, but this is his 13th season in an excellent run. There’s not much more he can do without everyone else in the Big 12 starting to take a wee step back – and, again, that’s where a successful year might reposition the Cowboys. He’s doing a great job of cranking up the production with good enough recruits, but is this it? Is this about as good as it gets?

There’s still the College Football Playoff spot out there as a prize.

Gundy hasn’t shown any interest in leaving his alma mater, and even bristles at the idea of taking off whenever there’s any other job opening. But he’s only going to be 49 this August, he’s proven to be an offensive genius, and as tough as it might be for the Cowboy fans to think about, this is still a stepping-stone coaching position – Les Miles showed that – considering there have only been two top 15 finishes in the Gundy era. However, with a Big 12 title this year, and maybe even a push towards the CFP, it’s possible Gundy can Michigan State this and make Oklahoma State the shining star in the state.

The program got past the Sports Illustrated controversy of a few years ago, was a field goal away from playing for the national title in 2011, and has won nine games or more in six of the last eight seasons. It has its niche, and it’s succeeding, but if it can get to 10 wins again and make it three double-digit victory campaigns in the last four years, then this becomes a truly great era even without the championships that the guys in Norman boast.

The pieces are there to come up with a possible run to a conference champions, with an offense that should be among the five best in the country if quarterback Mason Rudolph can stay healthy and if there’s a little more of a ground game. The line is loaded with veterans, the receiving corps is deep and terrific, and the stats should be astronomical, making up for a defense that’s not quite up to the same snuff.

This should be a better D than last year’s, even if there isn’t a signature star to get excited about. The back seven is going to be good enough if the corners are okay, and the line should have a good rotation and will find a few answers on the end, but as long as the defense isn’t getting totally gouged, all should be okay.

The schedule is too tough, but Oklahoma had to deal with a few of the same scheduling issues of last year and got into the final four. Is Oklahoma State going to be that good to overcome the dangerous road trips?

If it is, it’ll be time to look at it differently.