With the apparent demise of Baylor, those betting college football are moving anywhere from two to four teams in the Big 12 Conference over the Bears for preseason prognostications.
One of those clubs expected to be reaching higher is Oklahoma State. The preseason magazines had the Cowboys listed anywhere from third to fifth, but with Baylor presumed to be sinking in more ways than one, Okie State’s fortunes should be lifting.
Several Las Vegas sportsbooks have season win totals listed as do offshore books like Heritage and there college football odds are at Over/Under 8.5 for upcoming season. After starting out 10-0, before losing last three games, coach Mike Gundy expects his team to build on last year’s surprising success and contend for Big 12 title.
The Cowboys finished 22nd nationally in total offense and was 14th in scoring at 39.5 points game. Quarterback Mason Rudolph will spearhead another potentially high scoring crew. Being a junior, Rudolph is expected to improve and he has a bevy of pass catchers who can make his life better on the football field.
All five offensive linemen return plus junior college All-American Larry Williams. The question about this group coming back is will they be tough enough in the trenches? Late in the season, the lack of running game was exposed, which was one part the line not opening holes against more skilled defenders and lack of running backs to miss tackles and create on their own.
This will be a key area to watch for Oklahoma State with nine offensive starters back and solid depth.
Oklahoma State Defense
The nature of the Big 12 makes it difficult to put together dominating defenses. Last year Gundy’s Cowboys were not particularly strong, but All-American DE Emmanuel Ogbah and a couple others covered up Oklahoma State’s warts until late in the season, when fatigue and injuries extracted there toll and they surrendered 151 points in dropping last three contests.
Despite the losses, most figure Okie State could be better defensively with seven starters back and more overall balance. The secondary will be among the best in the Big 12 and improved linebacker play with more physical approach will also help.
The most important element to the defense is who will the playmakers be in the defensive line. Tackles Vincent Taylor and Motekiai Maile should do well, but defensive ends have to bring pressure off the edges and hold up against the run to make this special campaign.