We continue our countdown with 10 days to go until the start of the 2018 season.
For the last three years in a row, Oklahoma State has enjoyed an unprecedented period of success; three straight seasons of double digit wins. It’s something that’s never happened before in program history. The question now is, can the Cowboys extend that streak for another year?
I always go back to 2010, when no one thought for one minute that OSU would have the season they did. Why couldn’t it happen again?
It won’t be easy, but there are arguments to be made both for and against the idea.
Why Oklahoma State Will Win 10 Games
When you return arguably the best running back in your conference, you’ve got a good chance to go out and win every single Saturday.
He’s the Big 12’s leading returning rusher, and with what is expected to be the best offensive line OSU has put on the field in years, he could be even better in 2018.
Throw in the talent behind him with J.D. King, L.D. Brown, and Chuba Hubbard, and teams are going to have a hard time stopping Oklahoma State’s run game.
Everyone has major flaws
Oklahoma lost one of the greatest players in college football in quarterback Baker Mayfield and don’t play great defense.
West Virginia has a suspect defense and not a lot of depth.
TCU lost four starting offensive lineman, one of their best defensive players is out for the season, and have a new starting quarterback.
Texas still hasn’t shown it has “the guy” at quarterback and has offensive line issues.
Texas Tech doesn’t have a quarterback.
Baylor is still down.
Kansas is Kansas.
This is why outside of Kansas, there is such a variety of predictions for the Big 12 title game and standings. I’ve seen Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia, and Texas all facing off in Arlington, Texas from different people. Kansas State always overachieves. ISU is good enough to, maybe not make it, but help decide who does.
Yes, OSU has question marks too, but with everyone’s obvious flaws, there’s no reason to count them out.
To reiterate a point I’ve made more times than I care to count, I don’t love this year’s non-conference schedule. That being said, it’s perfect for this team. You start with a bad FCS opponent, then face a South Alabama team that isn’t any good, before facing your first real test in Boise State. Then you start conference play with four teams picked to finish in the bottom half of the league. You finish the season with a gauntlet, but by this time, should have all the issues and bugs figured out.
If the Cowboys can start 7-0 or 6-1 — which is very possible and they are currently favored to do — there’s no reason they can’t finish with 10 wins. Especially, if you throw in a bowl game.
Why Oklahoma State Won’t Win 10 Games
You don’t just replace a 4,000-yard passer and two 1,000-yard receivers and expect to pick up right where you left off last year (unless you’re Alabama of course).
And that doesn’t include the three starting lineman and Chris Lacy, or any of the losses on the defensive side of the ball.
While Gundy may say this is the best offensive line group we’ve had in years, I don’t see a Russell Okung in it. For as much as the staff may have confidence in Taylor Cornelius, we’ve seen this story before (2012).
There’s no reason to believe there isn’t a good amount of talent on this team, but there’s talent across the conference, and in many cases, a lot more experience.
So allow myself to counter myself, with one point about the schedule; the back half is terrifying. You face what should be the four best teams in the league in a five week period (yes that includes Texas. Let’s stop overstating the losses on defense). You travel to Norman and Fort Worth, and have to go on the road to face a Baylor team OSU should beat by 20, in a game that screams “upset.”
Plus, this is the point of the year when — knock on wood — injuries can become a major factor. Look back at 2014. The season wasn’t terrible in the first half, the Cowboys started 5-1. But it all started falling apart in the back of the season.
To reach 10 wins, the Cowboys would probably need to win at least four out of five in a final-five game stretch that includes a road trip to Norman and a game against potentially the Big 12’s best offense in West Virginia. That doesn’t seem likely this year.
Too many question marks
Just how good is Taylor Cornelius? While there is depth at wide receiver, is there “the guy?” How long will new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ defense take to fully take hold? Have the Cowboys solved last year’s issues on special teams? Are there enough guys with talent and experience to survive injuries in the secondary?
There are a lot of questions for the Oklahoma State team. And those are just the things we know about now. How often do new problems and concerns arrive once games are actually being played?
Unfortunately, there won’t be any answers for them until the season starts. And even then, probably not definitive answers until about week 3 of the season.
There is a lot of potential for this team, and if that 2015 squad could rack up 10 wins, then there’s no reason this 2018 team can’t as well.
If we’re counting the bowl game — which is hard to do since we have no idea who they would be playing — I think there’s a legitimate shot at a fourth straight 10 win season. But it’s certainly not a bet I’m willing to put any money on at this point.
Don’t miss the previous posts in this series:
No. 14 - The Changing of the Guard at OSU with No. 14 Taylor Cornelius
No. 13 - Ranking Gundy’s 13 Season Openers
No. 12 - The 12 toughtest players OSU will face from the 12 teams they’ll play this season
No. 11 - Let’s talk #11 Zac Robinson