2018 Preseason Preview: Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys have won nine in a row. Nine.

1. Quick Facts

TEAM: Oklahoma State
MASCOT: Cowboys
2017 RECORD: 10-3 (6-3)
HEAD COACH: Mike Gundy
STARTERS LOST: Offense 7; Defense 9
STARTERS RETURNING: Offense 8; Defense 7
LOCATION: Boone Pickens Stadium; Stillwater, Oklahoma
GAME ON TEXAS TECH’S SCHEDULE: Fourth game on September 22nd

2. Difference Makers

RB Justice Hill (5-10/190): Hill ran for 1,467 yards on 268 carries for an average of 5.5 yards per carry plus 15 touchdowns. I think if you would have asked me if Oklahoma State had a guy rush for 1,500 yards last year, I would have told you probably not but Hill was terrific for them last year. And it wasn’t just running the ball, Hill caught 31 passes for 193 yards for 6.2 yards per catch plus a touchdown. Not sure if he’ll be more involved as a junior, but that would make Hill significantly better.

WR Jalen McCleskey (5-10/170): With James Washington and Marcell Ateman graduating, McCleskey is the leading returning receiver and much like Dillon Stoner, McCleskey is an inside guy who caught 50 passes for 647 yards, about 13 yards per catch and 6 touchdowns. Oklahoma State will have to replace an All-Big 12 quarterback in Mason Rudolph and Washington and Ateman. It won’t be McCleskey or Stoner, but they might be the most productive.

LB Justin Phillips (6-0/230): Phillips had 53 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, 16 run stuffs, 2 picks, and 3 forced fumbles last year. Oklahoma State’s biggest defensive performers were seniors, but Phillips was pretty good last year.

DE Jordan Brailford (6-3/250): Bailford is Oklahoma State’s leading pass rusher and very productive, 45.5 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 5 sacks, 13 run stuffs, a pick and a forced fumble.

3. Coaches Corner

The relationship between Mike Gundy and his athletic director, Mike Holder, is the most strained in college football? I don’t know if that’s an understatement, or an overstatement, or simply true. It’s at the very least weird. Holder said during the offseason that Gundy should be recruiting better, and gosh, this is where you’d love to be where Oklahoma State is, winning 10 games a year and you have the AD criticizing that accomplishment to an extent.

And the crazy thing was that Gundy really wasn’t satisfied with last year’s result to an extent because he fired long-time defensive coordinator Glen Spencer and hired Jim Knowles, the former Duke defensive coordinator. Knowles’ Duke defense last year was 40th overall, 17th in efficiency, 95th in explosiveness, 17th in field position and 50th in finishing drives. That’s pretty good and maybe the biggest difference is the havoc rate, 42nd for Oklahoma State last year, 20th for Duke. In fact, the defensive backs is probably the biggest difference, 66th for Oklahoma State last year, 6th for the defensive backs for Duke.

Yurich as the offensive coordinator has been very good and for that trivia question that you may never need, he was previously at Shippensburg University, which is in Pennsylvania. OSU has been very good on offense, but they’ve also had a lot of very good players and now, a lot like Texas Tech, replacing that very special quarterback will most likely be a letdown because Rudolph, Washington and Ateman were so good. There a handful of options to replace Rudolph including Taylor Cornelius, Hawai’i graduate transfer Dru Brown, John Kolar, Keondre Wudtee and Spencer Sanders.

Brown: Passed for 2,785 yards, completed 62%, 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions last year for the Rainbow Warriors.
Cornelius: Originally from Bushland and a walk-on (originally, he was a walk-on) and backed up Rudolph last year, but only threw 10 passes.
Kolar: A former 4-star quarterback that’s been in Stillwater since 2015.
Wudtee: A redshirt sophomore that threw 3 passes last year.
Sanders: A true freshman from Denton Ryan that had terrific numbers as a senior, but he’s a true freshman.

4. Advanced Stats

Very good offensively and just mediocre on the defensive side of the ball. You’d have to imagine that the offense won’t be as potent as it was last year and that’s okay. The former LSU receiver, Tyron Johnson and Tylan Wallace will try to replace Washington and Ateman and they just don’t have a lot of experience.

Offense Defense
S&P+ 3rd 70th
Efficiency 37th 47th
Explosiveness 3rd 92nd
Field Position 68th 12th
Finishing Drives 20th 67th

5. Game Thoughts

Oklahoma State has had Texas Tech’s number for way too many years. Oklahoma State has a current, yes, current 9 game winning streak against Texas Tech and with that 9 game streak, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech are 21-21-3 all-time. I don’t know if that streak ends this year, but if there was a year that Oklahoma State “might” be down, this would seemingly be it. I’d also add that playing Oklahoma State early might help as well, as the Oklahoma State offense might not be on track and the defense is learning a new system (they play their first four games at home, Missouri State, South Alabama, Boise State, and Texas Tech, so maybe they’ll be just fine). Texas Tech will have been on the road against Ole Miss in Houston and then this first Big 12 road game against the Cowboys. History tells you that Oklahoma State will win this game, but that 9 game winning streak has to be broken at some point, but with Texas Tech’s questions at quarterback, I don’t know how this will play out. I’d expect Texas Tech’s defense to be improved and maybe able to have some decent success against Oklahoma State’s inexperienced quarterbacks. Is this a situation where the best defense wins?


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