The goal of this post is to roundup everything we have been discussing leading up to this weeks game, as well as some short summaries of what to look for on Saturday.
Who are the Cowboys that I need to be watching?
If you didn't happen to catch our detailed breakdowns of the entire team by position, check out the links here.
Wide Receivers | Linebackers | Backfield | D-Line | Quarterback | O-Line | Secondary | Special Teams
As for more of an overview of specific players to watch...We need to pay attention to how comfortable Million Dollar Man Brandon Weeden looks making his reads. We know he has the physical tools, we just need some reassurance that he understands the offense and can make it move. If Weeden looks comfortable and is having no problems making checks at the line, finding the 2nd-4th receiving options if the primary is covered, and managing an efficient and effective offense, then the groundwork is laid for us to spend the next week projecting a 60 point a week average from the offense.
On defense, we need to watch Orie Lemon and Markelle Martin, as well as how all the new guys perform. Lemon makes his return after missing all of 2009 with an acl tear, and Martin needs to step up in his role as leader in the secondary. If Orie is moving well and seeing the field as well as he was in 2008, everything is fine. If Martin is quarterbacking that new secondary, while still scaring the hell out of any WR that dare come near him, all while not allowing any deep passes or unchecked receivers, then the pass defense can take some positives out of the game.
As for all the new guys, O-State technically has 9 new starters on the defense, however they all played in some capacity over the last two seasons, and all should enter 2010 with very little adjustment needed. While the role of starter is different than being a rotation guy, none of these starters are going to be nervous as they have all seen plenty of action already. However, we should keep an eye on the interior of the defensive line. Shane Jarka and Chris Donaldson will be the starting guards, but the Cowboys are very thin in the middle, so they will have to have some stamina, and stay healthy. If the middle of the line is still getting some push in the 4th quarter, than we can feel a little better about that spot on the defense.
How will the new Offensive scheme work?
This is the question that everyone is the most excited to get an answer to. If you have been reading this site, reading any other OSU site, or talked to anyone that has heard of Oklahoma State football, you know that we have a new Offensive Coordinator and are running a version of the Air Raid this season. This means we can expect a lot more receivers on the field than we are used to seeing, a lot of short quick passes to inside WRs and Kendall Hunter out of the backfield, and to play at an even quicker tempo than we saw last season.
The key to this scheme working will be everyone being on the same page, the new offensive linemen to be able to hold their blocks, and ensuring that Kendall Hunter is very involved. If we see that Weeden has a lot of time to throw, Kendall has wide open running lanes, and the receivers are where Weeden expects them to be when he throws, then this offense can be officially labeled as "clicking", and we can start working on Kendall and Brandon's co-Heisman speech.
What do the Cougars do on Offense?
The Coug offense runs a sorta hybrid spread. I say hybrid because they run out of two TE sets as often as four WR sets, yet much of the same methodology of the spread is intact. Lots of underneath routes, lots of shotgun, checks at the line, etc. The Cougs will also attempt to run the no-huddle that we have been used to seeing at Oklahoma State the past few seasons, where the offense lines up immediately, then playcalls are sent in from the sidelines using hand signals and signs while the offense stays in formation. CougCenter has a nice post about how the Washington State spread works.
Also, reader AUKingOstate put some work into comparing the WSU and OSU offensive statistics from last season.
What do the Cougars do on Defense?
Like most teams, they run a base 4-3 defense. While I know that in Pullman they feel the D-line is much improved, with 12 sacks last season I think we can expect plenty of blitzes and LBs cheating up to help with the run. This will most likely leave the secondary in zone for much of the game and hopefully allow the inside guys to find plenty of room in the middle to get open. Again, a lot of speculation here, but based on last season I can't see Wash St just rushing 4 and allowing Weeden to sit back there all day. However, if they can somehow get pressure by just sending 4, then we should be worried... not only about this game, but about the o-line for the rest of the season.
Once again AUKingOState put together a 2009 stat comparison of the two teams, this time for the defenses. Thank God someone around here is putting some useful information together.
For even more info about Washington State, check out the Q&A we did with CougCenter, the Washington State Preview from the summer, a post about Washington State pulling the upset, and if you have 20 minutes check out the podcast we did about the Week 1 matchup.
We are only a couple of days away now everyone. Shit is getting really real. Everyone meet back here tomorrow for some pre-gameday warmups, then on Saturday the live thread will be up.