The Oklahoma State Cowboys aren't likely to win the Big 12 in 2015, but it certainly isn't impossible. With some luck, skill and more mixed along with a favorable schedule, the Cowboys could become the newest Big 12 champion, a title they haven't had since 2011. So here are the keys to what could be a very successful season for OSU.
1. Secondary Play
The Oklahoma State secondary was ranked eighth in the conference in 2014, allowing more than 60 percent of passes against it for nearly 3,500 yards and 23 touchdowns. Injuries were a big part of the reason as to why the defense lacked in the secondary, forcing young players to get plenty of experience. In 2015, it should be much different. The team is returning starters Jordan Sterns and Kevin Peterson and even if the secondary doesn't play up to expectations at times, hopefully the strong defensive line led by Emmanuel Ogbah could force bad passes from opposing defenses.
2. Keep the pressure off of Mason Rudolph
There was already going to be a lot of pressure riding on Mason Rudolph coming into his sophomore year. After the last three games when he was forced to start, the pressure is already mounting. The team has a ton of talent in a lot of places, making sure that talent plays well in all situations will be critical in making sure Rudolph keeps out of the infamous 'Sophomore Slump.'
3. Literally keeping the pressure off of Rudolph
The Oklahoma State offensive line allowed 40 sacks last season, worst in the Big 12. There are plenty of ways to win games in college football, none of which include having your quarterback being put on the ground 40 times in a season.
4. Running backs
This is one of the first times in recent memory when the Cowboys don't know who will be carrying a majority of the carries going into the fall. Right now there are seven running backs listed on the online roster, eight when Chris Carson is finally in Stillwater. Right now, it's expected that Rennie Childs will take most of the carries, but Carson could definitely threaten for some of those once he arrives. It doesn't matter who is running the ball though, as long as it's good enough to keep Rudolph and the Cowboys from throwing 50 times a game and the team improves in the rushing game, where it was seventh in the league last year.
5. Take advantage of a weak schedule
The schedule for this season is terrible and if the team can come out and preform at the level it is capable, there is very little reason that OSU couldn't be 8-0 at one point. After the team (should) start at 3-0, it'll take on a Longhorn team that is struggling to find its offensive ability, a Kansas State team that lost a lot of players (not unlike OSU in 2014), West Virginia, Texas Tech and Kansas. Yes, there is a very real possibility the Pokes find ways to step over their own feet in one or two of those games, but it's also a very real possibility those teams are still trying to find their ways in the early part of the season. If the Pokes can reach the last four weeks undefeated, the conference would be on high alert.