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What if OSU didn’t start Mason Rudolph at Baylor in 2014?

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Baylor Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

We’re going to take a trip down memory lane today. Let’s go back to Nov. 23, 2014. This was the night of Mason Rudolph’s first collegiate start as quarterback for the Pokes. Daxx Garman had been ruled out for a “concussion,” but this was after multiple games of quarterback futility.

This left HCMG & Co. with just two options: Do you start a freshman walk-on, and most likely lose to Baylor and OU? Or do you start your blue-chip freshman and give yourself a shred of a chance? We know what the choice was.

But what would it be like if the other choice was made? What if Taylor Cornelius had gotten the reigns for the last two games of the season?

I posed this question on Twitter a few days ago: “Would you rather give up the 2014 Bedlam win for another year of eligibility for Mason Rudolph?” The results were overwhelming.

For the sake of this poll, we will assume that Mason Rudolph does not go pro after his redshirt-sophomore season. By this math, around 255 of 315 voters said they would not give up that magical bedlam win in Norman in 2014. That’s pretty incredible to me.

I’m not sure that I would vote “no” here. This question came to me when I was ankle deep in Java-Brown mulch in the 95-degree heat this last week.

The success that Oklahoma State has obtained since Rudolph’s baptism as QB1 can not be overstated. In 2014 alone, they were forty yards from making it a one possession game late on the road against a top-five Baylor team. They shocked their arch-rival on their own field in front of 80,000+ people, coming back from down 14 with less than five minutes left. They dismantled a far more talented Washington team that had three NFL draft picks in their front-seven. Rudolph completely transformed that team, and it happened nearly overnight. He then led the Cowboys to a 10-win season in 2015. The program would not be in the position it is now if they hadn’t started Rudolph at Baylor in 2014. Those wins gave the program and its' fans a shot in the arm. There was new hope.

That all sounds well and good, but here is the inverse of that argument. We didn’t know Mason Rudolph was going to be that good. In 2015, Rudolph threw for 3,770 yards and 21 TD’s as a true sophomore (and handing nearly every red zone opportunity over to J.W. Walsh). The kid is a star, but we couldn’t have known that in 2014.

By starting Rudolph for three games at the end of the season, he essentially lost a year of eligibility. If Rudolph chooses to go pro after this season (he is projected as the 2nd best draft-eligible QB, in some cases), then that decision in 2014 could suddenly be called into question. If he goes pro, then you get 29 games with Rudolph as your starting quarterback. If the redshirt stays intact in 2014, you get 39 games. A lot can happen in ten games. Championships can be won (or lost), records can be broken, and giants can be toppled.

What if they hadn’t started Mason Rudolph on Nov. 23, 2014?