When it comes to expectations in Stillwater, they appear to be all over the map. So far we’ve seen everything from Brad Edwards, back in February, picking Oklahoma State to go to the playoffs, to Vegas putting the over/under for wins at 7.5, to them being picked fourth in the league by the coaches in the preseason rankings. So which one is it? Can OSU run the table and make the playoffs? Is Vegas going to watch Bedlam hoping the Cowboys lose and stay at only seven wins? Let’s examine a bit more.
First of all I’ll tell you I tend to be a very realistic fan. Is “realistic fan” an oxymoron? Maybe, but that’s a discussion for another day. Sure, sometimes I get caught drinking the orange Kool-Aid, like after the FSU game last year. After taking the defending champs and reigning Heisman winner to the wire, I was convinced that the 2014 Cowboys had a shot to win the conference. This of course was before J.W. Walsh broke his foot, the o-line imploded, and we figured out FSU was just a really good team, not a great one. I also whiffed on the 2010 Cowboy team, predicting 8-4, thinking it would take a year to get the Holgorsen offense up and running, and never expecting Weeden and Blackmon to explode in year one of the system overhaul.
What OSU has coming into 2015 is a young and experienced team that underachieved most of last year, until they closed the season winning two of three. They have a potential star in quarterback Mason Rudolph, an unproven running game, a good (maybe great) receiving corps, and an offensive line that is hopefully making big strides. Oh, and let’s not forget they have the most favorable schedule in the Big 12 with all the perceived contenders visiting their house to play.
So what’s this all add up to? What can we expect out of the Cowboys this year?
I say 9-3.
Look, I’d love for it to be more. I’d love for Rudolph to be the next Weeden, but with legs, winging it for 4500 yards and 40 plus touchdowns while avoiding blitzers and scrambling for first downs. I want nothing more than for Chris Carson to be the real deal and get 1400 yards and be the next great OSU back. I yearn for Glenn Spencer to terrorize opposing offenses with extreme prejudice.
I just don’t think it’s all quite there yet.
Rudolph played well in three starts and showed enough to get excited about his future. But, honestly we have no idea how good he can be over the length of an entire season.
The offensive line played better at Baylor, and again in Norman. But if Samanje Perine doesn’t turn his ankle and Bob Stoops doesn’t go loco and punt to ‘The Flash’ twice, it’s a Bedlam loss against an underachieving Sooner team that was playing with their 2nd string QB and without their All-American receiver.
The Cactus Bowl game is what gave me the most hope. The offense played well against a very talented Washington front seven and the Cowboy defense was being suffocating. My biggest concern came in the second half, when something didn’t happen. I don’t know why, but OSU teams never seem to realize when it’s time to step on the throat. They get ahead, they back off, and they let teams back in it. They only won the bowl game by 8 points. After being dominant in the first half, OSU played a very average second half and let the Huskies back in it, something Gundy coached teams have done quite often in his 11 years.
So, back to 2015, even with the favorable schedule the three loses are there. My best guesses for two of them are at West Virginia and versus TCU.
Holorgsen’s team is loaded with experienced upperclassmen for the first time in his Mountaineer tenure, and Morgantown is the hardest place to play in the Big 12.
TCU comes late in the year, so their young defense will have grown up… and we all know Gary Patterson can coach some defense! Boykin is a legit star and I believe it’s the Horned Frogs’ year.
The third loss for me is a bit hazy. I feel like the match up with Baylor fits well defensively. Spencer’s crew has enough good corners to man up and blitz like crazy, and cover all those receivers long enough to let Ogbah and company get to the quarterback. Baylor never plays well in Stillwater and I can really see this game going down the same way as it did in 2013.
But, then OSU has a habit of losing one game a year it has no business losing. At Iowa State in 2011. At West Virginia in 2013. Remember when Houston came to town and beat them, in what turned out to be Dez Bryant’s last college game, the week after the Cowboys beat UGA in the christening of Boone Pickens Stadium? I sure do.
So whether it’s in Lubbock on Halloween, or in Austin against a UT team that will have already been battle tested by the fourth week, that third loss looms. Maybe the Great Wizard Bill Synder surprises everyone again. Of course, I could be very wrong about the Baylor game. At some point OSU will lose one that will leave us all scratching our heads afterwards. That third loss will come, and let’s hope it’s only three.
Yes, I feel like this team can be really good. Heck, even great, if things break just right. But, I still think this crew is one year away from the top of the Big 12.
That being said, I really hope I’m wrong!
**If you want a chance to win FREE Big 12 gear from your favorite team, be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter! **