Jameis Winston hoisted a Heisman Trophy and the crystal ball last season after leading Florida State to a national title and a 14-0 record as a redshirt freshman. That means fourteen teams tried to stop Winston last year... and failed. Will Oklahoma State be added to the list come August 30?
Oklahoma State will be rebuilding their defense after losing seven starters from last year's squad, including first round draft pick Justin Gilbert. Gilbert will leave a hole in the Cowboys' secondary which will need to be quickly filled, because Winston picked apart every opposing secondary he faced last season. The Heisman trophy winner threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns last year and never finished a game with a completion percentage under 50. Winston's arm is a weapon of mass destruction and the OSU defense is his next target.
Winston's worst game of 2013 may have come against Miami(FL) where he threw two picks and only found the end zone once. However, the gunslinger did manage to throw for 325 yards and come away with the 41-14 victory. So is there really a way to slow down the Seminole offense with Winston leading the way? The only team to average more points than Florida State last year was Baylor. The Cowboys handled the Bears 49-17 last season at BPS. Unfortunately that was a completely different defense than the one Winston will see at AT&T Stadium.
The only way to stop the Florida State offense may be the Cowboys' own offense. If Winston doesn't have the ball he can't score right? Oklahoma State knows they could be shaky on defense and there are still questions with J.W. Walsh at quarterback, but one thing the Cowboys can rely on: the running game. Desmond Roland returns for OSU as a reliable back with help from Rennie Childs, and Tyreek Hill will add some world class speed to the equation. In the regular season, starting with his breakout game against Iowa State, Roland averaged 100 yards a game on 21 carries (4.8 per) while scoring 10 TD's. Rennie Childs was used sparingly because of Sr Jeremy Smith, but in the two games where he had more than 4 carries (TCU & Tech), the true freshman totaled 115 yards on 18 rushing attempts (6.39 per). Hill is a wild card, as he will be used all over the place, but his 4.25 speed definitely brings the possibility of big plays on the edge or in space. Walsh could also boost the running game, as he has accumulated almost 600 yards rushing in his brief career, averaging almost 5.5 per carry. The quarterback racked up 125 rushing yards in last year's season opener against Mississippi State. As a team, following Roland's success from Iowa State through OU, OSU averaged 210 ypg on the ground.
If the Cowboys can get their running game started, maybe giving Walsh a little more room in the passing game, and run the clock while scoring, then maybe OSU can at least keep it close, or maybe pull off the upset. It may be easier said than done since the Seminoles only allowed 3.3 rushing yards an attempt last season and will be returning seven starters. Nevermind that the Cowboys don't specialize in running the clock with their up-tempo play calling.
So, can the Cowboys pull it off? Only if Oklahoma State can get the running game moving, then maybe the Pokes have a chance to shock the nation on that opening Saturday. If not, then Florida State will likely begin and end their season at AT&T Stadium with victories.