Throughout the off-season whenever Oklahoma State is mentioned, all anyone can talk about is their lack of experience. As soon as the three little letters "O-S-U" are spoken around the water cooler, across the dinner table, or by your favorite sports analyst, you know the phrase "fewest returning starters" will undoubtedly follow.
We get it. The Cowboys are young, and the off-season hasn't been all that kind to the Pokes. There's no getting around it, you'll probably have to pay a little more attention to the roster this year. Just don't confuse inexperience for lack of depth though.
Gundy continually touts each team as being more athletic than the last, and so far he's right. Not only has the overall talent level steadily improved in Stillwater during Gundy's tenure, but whenever players like Brandon Pettigrew, Russell Okung, Kendall Hunter, or Dez Bryant move on to the next level, there are players like Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, Joeseph Randle, and Justin Gilbert waiting in the wings. Very few coaching staffs have a track record of evaluating and developing talent like the one wearing America's brightest orange. This isn't a time for Cowboy Nation to yearn for season's past. It's an opportunity to witness the next generation of greatness.
Fresh faces will take their first steps to becoming the next legends of Cowboy football when the Pokes travel to Arlington to play Florida State.
One word comes to mind when you start talking about the Seminoles - juggernaut. FSU returns more future NFL talent than anyone in the country, and they're the odds-on-favorite to win the National Championship. A title they currently defend. There's little arguing, the Pokes are the decided underdog in the Cowboys Classic.
That's why this isn't going to be an article about finding out where on paper Oklahoma State has an advantage. Frankly, if I start breaking down advanced stats, and analyzing position match-ups I'm not going to want to even watch the game. Thankfully games aren't decided on paper or in the film room. They're decided on the field.
If everything played out the way it was predicted, Sooner Nation's ego wouldn't be nearly as out of control as it is now, Bryce Petty wouldn't still be picking turf out of his teeth, and Oklahoma State would have a Crystal Ball in it's trophy case. What should happen and what does happen are rarely the same thing, and that's a problem for the Garnet and Gold.
This Ain't The ACC
Florida State couldn't be stopped a year ago. Fantastic team speed, and a wide open offense lead the 'Noles to tear through the ACC.
Even though Florida State doesn't huddle, they don't exactly hurry up either. To a team that's been facing opponents that snap the ball faster than you can chop your hand through the air chanting ow-ow-ow-ow-ow, it's going to feel like they have all the time in the world.
Glenn Spencer, Defensive Coordinator for OSU, has also proven he knows how to build an aggressive defense without giving up many big plays to the spread. There's plenty of inexperience in the secondary, but there's also Kevin Peterson. Give a receiver a moped, and number one will still shut him down.
This is the Big 12, the Cowboys face big time offenses on a weekly basis. Lighting the scoreboard up against teams like Pittsburgh, Maryland, NC State, and Duke isn't going to impress, let alone intimidate, the Pokes.
Exploit Their Weakness
If the Seminoles have a weakness, it's their kick coverage. The folks in Tallahassee know it too. 'Noles fans took to Twitter in force to beg a punter (that's not even eligible) into transferring. A Punter!
Just how bad is it? Florida State ranked 116th in punt efficiency a season ago. That's not good, and it plays into a strength for Oklahoma State.
Enter Tyreek "The Freek" Hill. His blistering speed, and ability to make guys miss promises to be a major headache for any team drop kicking the ball down the field. Coach Gundy said over the summer that if just one man doesn't keep his spacing in kick coverage, then it's all over against Hill.
It's not much a weakness, but a quick strike early could be all the Cowboys need. When a dam breaks, it starts with a trickle.
A Sophomore Slump
Jameis Winston was phenomenal in his freshman campaign that earned him the Heisman Trophy. If OK State was playing FSU last season I would be worried, but instead I'm relieved.
Jameis has been kicked back in the dugout munching on sunflower seeds and crab legs all summer. He's not hungry anymore. There's nothing else to achieve. Everybody gets off the bus ready to play on Saturdays, but if you aren't hungry when it's time to work, it will show up on the field.
Living up to last year's performance will be nearly impossible for Winston, but with the glare of the national spotlight there will be the burden to do just that. If the Cowboy defense can frustrate Jameis early, look for him to try and force things as the game wears on. When a player tries to do too much, they typically do, it's just for the other team.
Nothing To Lose
Florida State is a seventeen point favorite in Arlington, and that should scare the hell out of Seminole Nation. The last time the Cowboys got to play the role of the underdog, they whipped Baylor, and sent the Bears back under the tarp.
Oklahoma State has a coaching staff, and a system that knows how to win. The Pokes have averaged ten wins a season for the last five years. That's a whole lot of winning for a team that gets to play with nothing to lose. A team that's been preparing for this game for months.