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Previewing the 2017 Schedule: Pittsburgh

The Oklahoma State Cowboys face their first real test of the season

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Northwestern vs Pittsburgh William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

With the start of the college football season growing ever nearer, excitement about what could be an historic season for Oklahoma State is growing. With that in mind, it’s time to look at Oklahoma State’s 2017 schedule.

So far we’ve looked at the first two games of the season; Tulsa and South Alabama. In week three, the Cowboys travel to Pennsylvania to face the Panthers of Pittsburgh.


Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Panthers
When: Saturday, September 16, 12 pm ET
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
Watch: ABC/ESPN2

2016: 8-5, 5-3 (Atlantic Coast Conference)
Key Returners: Quadree Henderson, Jordan Whitehead, Chawntez Moss, Oluwaseun Idowu, Avonte Maddox
Key Losses: Nathan Peterman, James Conner, Matt Galambos, Ryan Lewis

The Pittsburgh Panthers had quite the up and down season last year. They had a heartbreaking loss against North Carolina the week after losing to Oklahoma State. A couple weeks later they went to Death Valley against Clemson and pulled a massive upset. In a high scoring affair in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse, the Panthers won 76-61 (no hardwood included). Their year ended on a sour note, losing the Pinstripe Bowl to Northwestern 31-24.

The 2016 season was led by Nathan Peterman at quarterback and cancer survivor James Conner at running back. Incredibly, Conner beat leukemia in the beginning of 2016 and came back to rush for 1092 yards and 16 touchdowns. Peterman was a game manager at QB, throwing for 2855 yards and 27 touchdowns.

The defense did fail Pittsburgh quite a bit last year though, especially in the secondary. The Panther defense allowed 333 yards passing on average last season. If they want to make any improvements this year, the secondary will have to be better.


Last Time

In week three last season, with the Cowboys reeling from the heartbreaking loss (not a loss) to Central Michigan, they had a back and forth affair with the Panthers. Mason Rudolph threw for 540 yards and three touchdowns, and James Washington had 296 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Rennie Childs rushed for over 100 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Cowboys to a 45-38 victory.


This Time

The Cowboys are not missing a lot from the juggernaut offense that torched the Panther secondary last season. But this game is on the road and Mason Rudolph has had his struggles on the road during his career. With the early game of the day, it'll be imperative that the Cowboys play their best football.


Players to Watch For

Offense

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Quadree Henderson is on the Maxwell Award list as an all purpose player. He'll be lined up in the backfield, out wide as a receiver, or back returning kicks and punts. He's a versatile weapon that the Panthers will use quite a bit. He's the leading returning rusher AND receiver for Pittsburgh.

Defense

NCAA Football: Villanova at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker Oluwaseun Idowu (can someone pronounce that for me please?) is the leading tackler returning with 75 tackles last year. Jordan Whitehead is on the preseason watch list for the Bednarik Award. He had 65 tackles last season, and looking to improve on that this year.


Projection

I think the Cowboy offense will prove to be too much in this game. There are more weapons at receiver on this year's team than last year. Pittsburgh has a new starting quarterback and running back. The defense will be looking to force turnovers, and with starters still getting their legs underneath him, a few should occur. I don't think it'll be a blowout, but this should be a convincing win for the Pokes.

OSU 45 - Pitt 21