With conference play beginning on Saturday, we talked about how we’re feeling about the the season so far, and our expectations for the rest of the season. Expectations were sky-high before the season, and they’ve only gotten higher as the season has progressed.
1. What are your thoughts on Glenn Spencer's crew as we head into Big 12 play? What have they've done well and what do they need to have fixed?
Michael Stephenson: I think the guys in the trenches have obviously shown the ability to be play makers. They're dialing up pressure in the key points. Dequinton Osbourne's sack in the first quarter of the Pitt game was more than just athleticism but good schematic play calling. My main concern with the D would be the defensive backs. They give up just enough space on the long ball plays to make me hold my breath. There were several plays in the Pitt and USA games were the quarterback just missed his man.
Tyler Wiederhoeft: I think they are better than we thought, but I’m not 100 percent sold on them. Ask me again after the weekend. As for what they are doing right and wrong, here’s a couple for you. They are forcing turnovers and scoring defensive TDs. Through three games, the Cowboys have three defensive TDs, which is tied for second in the nation. The ‘Boys are allowing over 300 yards per game, but think, the starters haven’t even played an entire game yet. Those numbers will get better once teams don’t get the garbage time yards and scores against the second team. They need to get better on third-down defense, as they are letting opponents convert on third downs roughly 43 percent of the time. As conference play starts, that needs to improve, so the defense can get off the field and the offense can go to work.
Cory Landes: I have a neutral opinion of the defense overall, they’ve met expectations to this point. When you jump out to first half leads of 35-0, 44-0 and 28-7 there’s no question that changes your mindset and probably even the gameplan a little. The defense has taken advantage of turnovers, returning one for a touchdown in each of the first three games. As for what they need to fix, although we’ve only seen it once I’m going to say containing mobile quarterbacks.
Cullen Clark: The defense has outperformed my expectations so far. I was concerned how we would handle the run this season. To this point I'd have to say that this is a strength of this defense. I still need to see how this defense fared against a good quarterback with good receivers.
Brodie Smith: I'm pleased but not satisfied. This defense has performed pretty well all around. The defensive line is deep and Osborn has been a force. The inexperience in the secondary is a concern, but my biggest question is how the linebackers will fare with injuries. Spencer needs his linebackers to play well and be disruptive against the run and in the air. They can't be average in both.
Gallegher Martin: I'm very optimistic about our defense heading into Big 12 play. They held Tulsa to 14 points (special teams and a turnover accounted for the other 10 points), shut South Alabama out until the fourth quarter, and we scored 35 points last week before Pitt finally got on the board. You can't really ask for much more from an Oklahoma State defense. Our pass rush has looked great, we know we have studs at linebacker, but our secondary hasn't really been tested. I can't wait to see how the secondary performs this week against TCU.
Micah Allen: I’m happy with where are defense is right now. They’ve done better than I expected them too. They’re carrying out what Glenn Spencer preaches with turnovers and getting the ball back to their offense. One thing that I say they could improve on is third down. They’ve let a lot of third down conversions slip through the cracks and that’s not gonna work in the Big 12.
2. Ramon Richards has now been at safety for three games, do you agree with the move after seeing him play this position for a bit?
Michael Stephenson:I like Ramon Richards in the backfield. He's tied for second most solo tackles on the team (nine), and he has shown the ability to follow the ball well. He's gotten burned on a few bubble routes, which is obviously...suboptimal and a sizable part of TCU's offense. Other than that, I'm excited to see how he does against a top 15 offense.
Tyler Wiederhoeft:I haven’t seen anything that pushes me either way. He hasn’t gotten burned yet from what I can see, but, to be honest, we haven’t faced any “elite” WR corps yet. What I have seen that is encouraging is he is great at running to the ball and making tackles, whether he is stopping the run near the line or making the tackle on the pass. He seems to be doing well since he is no longer chained to an individual offensive player and can roam and be the ballhawk he loves to be.
Cory Landes: I’m okay with it at this point but as with the rest of the secondary he hasn’t really been tested or forced to make plays in crucial situations. Ramon’s inconsistency has frustrated many fans but his willingness to take risks has also paid off at times. I think he’ll have success the majority of the time he’s at safety as long as he’s in coverage rather than trying to make tackles.
Cullen Clark: I do agree with the move. He has to get better at making tackles in the open field. He has absolutely whiffed on some tackles that could end up being huge plays as our opponents improve.
Brodie Smith:It looks like a smart move for him and for the team. I was skeptical at first but believe his instincts could serve him well at safety as long as he stays in position.
Gallegher Martin:I like Ramon at safety, but we did lose a cornerback this week and that position group is looking particularly thin. I think Ramon is adjusting well at safety, but we need some guys to fill the hole he and Madre Harper left at corner.
Micah Allen: Ramon is killing it back there at safety. He’s making some nasty tackles and he looks to be having fun. As long as he’s not missing tackles or anything I say leave him back there.
3.Mason Rudolph has been moving up in the Heisman odds. What would you set the odds at for Rudolph to win it?
Michael Stephenson:There's been so much action on these odds that I don't even want to make this bet yet. Even from last week to now, Bovada had Rudolph jump from +1000 to +400. The Las Vegas SuperBook had him open at 15-1 and he currently sits at 3-1. The main concern here is that the Heisman voters and Vegas folks will give Rudolph zero leeway. Obviously no Heisman contender can afford much of a slip up, but I would say that Rudolph is on thinner ice than any of the other top 5 contenders (Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, and Saquon Barkley) at this point. The national media still doesn't know what to make of Rudolph yet. If you replaced Rudolph with any of the aforementioned quarterbacks then I would be willing to bet that GameDay would be in Stillwater this weekend not NYC.
Tyler Wiederhoeft: Man I suck at making odds. I’m not good enough at math. Next.
Cory Landes: 10/1. If Oklahoma State completes the regular season undefeated I think that helps his chances no matter what happens in the Big 12 Championship game. While he may get an invitation, a loss during the regular season probably ends his chance at winning, just ask Brandon Weeden.
Cullen Clark: like where he's at right now. He should absolutely be one of the favorites but he should also be behind Mayfield at this point.
Brodie Smith:I wrote about how it's too early. I'm not a fan of Heisman talk three weeks into the season. Sure, everyone is doing it and Rudolph is making some noise, but I wanna see a few conference games from each team before we start making odds.
Gallegher Martin: It's way too early, but the Heisman race looks like it's coming down to Mason Rudolph or Baker Mayfield. Saquon Barkley will probably get an invite to NYC, and I don't think it's fair to count Lamar Jackson out just yet, but Sam Darlond has not lived up to his hype. Rudolph and Mayfield definitely look like the two best quarterbacks in college football.
Micah Allen: I like 10/1. Let’s just say I think the state of Oklahoma will be well represented in New York City at the Heisman Ceremony.
4. What's your biggest question mark for this team as we get ready to head into Big 12 play?
Michael Stephenson:I'm not sure yet. I'll be able to answer that more after this weekend. Looking back at OSU's best season in recent memory, 2011 had so many question marks from week to week. Games that were against any sort of competitive teams were textbook shootouts. Defense was sloppy and gave up too many big plays. It always felt like we were going to get caught and we were going to be found out to be something we weren't. I haven't felt that way at all with this team. We learned a lot in the Pitt game, but nothing I learned made me less confident in this team's potential.
Tyler Wiederhoeft: Will the defense hold up? I’m not worried about the offense. The defense has looked good, giving up a combined 31 points in the first half of all three games with all the starters in. Now that they face the offensive-minded Big 12, I’m anxious to see how they respond.
Cory Landes: The defense, as a whole, is my biggest question mark. How will the secondary contain pass-happy offenses and avoid track meets on the football field? If they struggle, can the defensive line generate enough pressure to hurry throws? Can Spencer time blitzes to immobilize mobile quarterbacks?
Cullen Clark: The biggest question has to still be the defense. Can they continue doing what they've done in the non-conference as our opponents get better? If they can then watch out.
Brodie Smith: How do you keep the receivers happy with all those options? Four broke the century mark in receiving yards against Pitt, which is awesome, but how can you maintain that balance going forward and keep every player engaged. Outside of that, it's run blocking. The backs have to be able to move the ball and break some big gains to help with offensive efficiency. The key will be the line making that possible.
Gallegher Martin: as I said, I'm not sure how the secondary will play against Big 12 offenses, but I am optimistic. On offense, the only position group you can have any worries about is the offensive line. Rudolph has taken some hits so far; I'd like to see less of those.
Micah Allen: Can they keep it going? The teams are gonna get tougher and tougher and I’m curious if the Cowboys have it in them to keep up the momentum they have right now.
5. With a win against Pitt, the Cowboys made it through the toughest part of an admittedly soft non-conference schedule. Have they met your expectations? What do you think they've done well and what do you needs improvement?
Michael Stephenson: Absolutely. They've got to focus on being Mayweather and not McGregor for lack of a more relevant analogy. Once they get into the meat and potatoes of their schedule, they have to be able to keep their momentum high against teams, let Rudolph run the RPO, read the defense, and keep feeding Justice Hill.
Tyler Wiederhoeft: See No.1
Cory Landes: Somewhat repeating myself here but for the most part the team has met my expectations. I will add that the efficiency of the offense, particularly on deep passes, has exceeded my expectations. The offensive line has been inconsistent at best, I’d like to see them block the run better. On the defensive side of the ball, I’ve been impressed with their ability to convert turnovers into points and keep opponents out of the endzone. As we saw against Tulsa, mobile quarterbacks may give the defense some trouble, especially on third down.
Cullen Clark: They've exceeded my expectations. I thought we'd be 3-0 but not in the manner we got there. They have handled their opponents how a Top 10 team should handle teams with lesser talent. At no point were any of these games in doubt. I just want to see the secondary tested so we can know what we have there.
Brodie Smith: Expectations were an undefeated non-conference slate with an offense that is getting in gear. So, expectations have been met. Can they keep it up and get even better or is this vaunted attack just the newest version of Mike Leach's Red Raiders or the Art Briles' Bears? Those teams were dangerous but couldn't keep it going the entire season and faltered amid heavy praise. The Cowboys must stay focused and take each game as it comes without getting wrapped up in headlines and individual accolades. There is work to be done, and it must be accomplished together.
Gallegher Martin: I know they schedule non-conference games years in advance, but I wish we would have played someone noteworthy. I'm cool with Tulsa and Pitt, but we should have found someone better to play than South Alabama. We did exactly what we were supposed to do against Tulsa and South Alabama, and then went above and beyond against Pittsburgh. It's hard to get a good read on where we are, simply because of the inferior competition. Pass protection and our secondary could always improve.
Micah Allen: They’ve met all of my expectations so far. I really want to see them take a few more risks. I’d also like to see Mason play a whole game. I’m overall happy with where we are though.
6. Which Big 12 opponent scares you the most after the first few weeks and why?
Michael Stephenson: West Virginia. I think the game in Morgantown is the quintessential "looking ahead to next week" game. Because the week after is *gulp* Bedlam. Dana Holgerson's squad will probably go 3-1 with Kansas, TCU, Texas Tech at home, and Baylor. We'll be showing up to face a team with lots of momentum. Winning that game would be the highlight of their season, while we will inevitably have what could amount to be the most consequential Bedlam ever in the back of our minds. being all that separates them from OSU. Also, I will be at that game, and I already can't wait.
Tyler Wiederhoeft: Out of the first third of the Big 12 schedule, it has to be TCU. Tech has a good offense (shocker, I know), but no defense and Baylor is a dumpster fire in the middle of the desert. TCU seems to be the most put-together team in the next three games, so I have to go with the Horned Frogs. Lubbock in a night game is a close second, but it is in second place nonetheless.
Cory Landes: West Virginia. It’s a game most will expect OSU to go on the road and win but doing so in Morgantown won’t be easy, particularly the week before Bedlam. A Dana Holgerson offense with a mobile, gritty, quarterback, a balanced rushing/passing attack and a physical defense are more than enough to worry me about this road trip.
Cullen Clark: Texas worries me. It's a road game in Austin. Oklahoma State is the first opponent to win four straight games in Austin. At some point this streak will end. I just hope it's not this season.
Brodie Smith:Really, OSU scares me the most. An "off" night is bound to happen with any offense, and I wonder if the defense can hold its own when needed to carry the team to a victory. Outside of that, I say West Virginia. The Mountaineers can beat you with a dynamic offense. Plus, the Pokes go on the road to Morgantown.
Gallegher Martin:Oklahoma is the best team, but West Virginia is the trickiest team. Oklahoma State has not played well in its two previous trips to West Virginia since they joined the Big 12. It's a tough place to play, and Dana Holgerson always wants to win this game.
Micah Allen: Texas.Freaking.Tech. or as I like to call them destroyer of dreams. Weird things happen in Lubbock at night and this game scares me. I grew up a Texas fan and watched Michael Crabtree catch a pass to ruin Texas’ undefeated season and they’ve given me bad juju ever sense.