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Previewing The 2017 Schedule: South Alabama

The Pokes head to Mobile for a Friday night match-up

North Carolina State v South Alabama Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

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 start looking at Oklahoma State’s 2017 schedule.

Philip Slavin began our season preview with a look at the opener against Tulsa. The following week, the Pokes travel to Alabama to take on the South Alabama Jaguars in Mobile.


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South Alabama Jaguars
When: Friday, September 8, 7:00pm
Where: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL
Watch: ESPN2

2016: 6-7, 2-5 (Sun Belt)
Key Returners: QB Dallas Davis, WR Jordan McCray, LB Darrell Songy, OL Dominic Esposito, DL Zach Befort, RB Xavier Johnson
Key Losses: TE Gerald Everett, DE Randy Allen, LB Roman Buchanan, WR Josh Magee, WR Kevin Kutchera and WR Tyrone Williams

When the 2017 football schedule was released, an early season trip to Alabama sounded like a scary proposition.

However, Mobile is not Tuscaloosa and this is not what fans mean when they clamor: “We want Bama!” But you have to play whoever the schedule and pocketbook set before you, even if it means hitting the road for a less-than-exciting matchup against a still-growing program.

Now, before we move into full-scale yawn mode for this Sun Belt Snoozefest, remember this is the same team that took down an SEC opponent last season, beating Mississippi State 21-20–nearly the lowly equivalent of Texas losing to Kansas in football.

Having lost Dak Prescott to the NFL, those Bulldogs lacked the offensive firepower OSU should be able to unleash this season as it (hopefully) continues to tune the “preseason” engines for a run toward its second Big XII title this decade. Still, the most hyped conference in the land took a hit on the chin from South Alabama, and Gundy and Co. would do well to not overlook the Jaguars, which hasn’t even had a football program as long as Gundy’s been OSU’s head coach.


Last Time

This will be the first time these teams have squared off, which is to be expected with a program that hasn’t even hit double digits in terms of years of existence.


This Time

Players to Watch

Offense

NCAA Football: Arizona Bowl-South Alabama vs Air Force
Junior quarterback Dallas Davis (11) leads the South Alabama Jaguars offense.
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

As is true for most quarterbacks, junior signal caller Dallas Davis is the cog that makes everything function for the Jaguars. As a sophomore last season, Davis performed like you would expect from a still-developing talent. In 11 starts, he threw for more than 2700 yards and 11 touchdowns with just under a 57-percent completion percentage. But, he did what young players do, which is make mistakes. He threw 12 picks in 2016. Davis is not much of a dual threat, but he did rush for three scores last season. Expect him to carry this team all season long.

The biggest question is who Davis will throw to. USA’s top three receivers graduated last year, leaving sophomore Jordan McCray (only seven receptions for just over 100 yards) as the top returning receiving threat.

Defense

The Jaguars returns two thirds of its defensive starters, but none will be quite as key as senior linebacker Darrell Songy, who led USA in his first season in Mobile with 100 total tackles in 2016 after transferring from junior college. Despite undergoing shoulder surgery that forced him to miss most of the spring, Songy is expected to return to form as the leader of the defensive unit. He’ll have the unenviable task of containing Justice Hill and the OSU tight ends if USA hopes to keep it close.

What to Expect

This shouldn’t be close after the first Cowboy drive of the game. OSU outclasses the Jaguars at every position and ought to run roughshod, even on the road. The question ought to be when will Gundy cool the jets and rest players for the next contest?

While I don’t expect a 2012 Savannah State experience, I would anticipate first half offensive fireworks and a strong defensive showing in which Glenn Spencer can get every player some game experience early in the year.

Lest we forget what unheralded opponents are capable of pulling off against the Cowboys, remember Iowa State in 2011 and, more recently, the Central Michigan travesty last year. Lightning can strike, so let’s hope the Cowboys take advantage of the Sun Belt foe on its home turf.

Despite its youth (Jaguar football began in 2009), USA has participated in bowl games in two of the last three seasons.

And while everyone keeps comparing this game to the Friday night game at Troy back in 2007, the two aren’t even close. Troy had been around for a while and that 2007 OSU team wasn’t even close to the talent level this team has.

Bottom Line

South Alabama is a young program with nothing to lose against high-ranked FCS squads. The Jaguars are expected to lose—and lose big—against the Pokes but have managed to pull off the occasional upset as they build in Mobile. While a go-for-broke mindset from USA might be fraught with "trickeration" and gadget plays in the beginning, I expect the Pokes to settle into a dominant rhythm on both sides of the ball.

My best evaluation for this game is that Zach Sinor’s Heisman prospects get off on the wrong foot when he doesn’t even need to step on the field after warmups.

Final Score Projection: OSU 62 - South Alabama 10