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Countdown To Kickoff: 7 Predictions For 2018

Mason Rudolph and James Washington are long gone. Here are seven predictions for this brand new iteration of the Pokes for 2018.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our countdown leading into the season opener, with just seven days left before kick-off against Missouri State.

For the first time since the early parts of the 2014 season, we will not be seeing Mason Rudolph or James Washington suit up in the orange and black. We know less about this team than any Cowboy team since that 2014 squad. So with that said, I’ll throw seven predictions at you for this iteration of the Cardiac Cowboys. Here we go!

Prediction #1: Justice Hill Does NOT Make It To New York

Anyone who follows Oklahoma State knows that Justice Hill could have the kind of year that it takes to crack the top three (sometimes five) in the Heisman voting necessary to get an invite for the award show in New York City. As the Pokes figure out what they have at QB1 post-Mason, Hill should be getting plenty of opportunities to put Gundy and the gang in his backpack and carry OSU to some wins. He racked up nearly 1,500 yards on 5.5 yards-per-carry last season while having to share the rock with a record setting duo under center and out wide. With question marks at quarterback, those numbers should skyrocket improve from last year (you can only add so much to 1,500).

However, Justice will have more quality teammates in the backfield to share carries with. J.D. King and Chuba Hubbard both figure to get a good amount of carries in every game, which will help keep Hill fresh and healthy through the course of a season in which he will be “the guy” for the offense. While everyone still expects the fringe-Heisman candidate to put up impressive numbers, he might not get the 2,118 yards and 8.1 YPC that 2017 Heisman candidate Bryce Love put up last season, especially while sharing the ball with three other talented backs. The other reason that I don’t think that Justice Hill makes the cut for NYC is because... ⬇️

Prediction #2: Oklahoma State Wins Less Than Nine Games

Normally Heisman candidates and winners carry their team to fairly impressive seasons. Obviously there are exceptions (Lamar Jackson says what’s up) but I think that even if Justice Hill puts up Heisman worthy numbers, Oklahoma State’s season as a whole will over-shadow it. And that’s not even to mention the fact that only two non-quarterbacks have won the award this century: Reggie Bush (2005, vacated) and Mark Ingram (2009).

But now on to the actual prediction on hand here. The reeeeeally orange tinted outlook probably puts the Pokes at a 10-2 regular season with losses to Oklahoma and one other slip up to West Virginia, TCU, Texas, etc. The floor is probably 6-6 with losses to Boise State, Iowa State, Texas, OU, West Virginia and TCU.

The good news is that most of the league seems to be breaking in new quarterbacks, not just OSU. The successes of TCU and OU will (probably) fall on how good Shawn Robinson and Kyler Murray are, respectively. The bad news is those two are both former five-star recruits. Will Grier is an established play-maker at WVU and Texas has an average QB situation. Oklahoma State will likely trot out a guy whose nickname is Corn Dog on opening night. Yes, that scares me a little bit. My official prediction for OSU in 2018 is 8-4 with losses to OU, TCU, West Virginia, and either Boise State or Texas. With that being said, the Pokes could make it a nine win season with a bowl win but I’m not going to get into bowl projections here. I think OSU winds up either 7-5 or 8-4 in the regular season. I’ll call it an 8-5 season because this just feels like an 8-5 team.

Prediction #3: OSU / Baylor Will Be Decided By One Possession

Yes, they lost to Liberty. Yes, their only win last year was Kansas. But coach Matt Rhule led Temple to unprecedented levels of success (for Temple) in his tenure there. He took over a program coming off a 7-6 season where many players declared for the draft, graduated, or were allowed to transfer with no penalty after the sexual assault scandals that got Art Briles fired. Rhule managed to scrape together a top-40 recruiting class in just one month before signing day and hauled in the 31st rated class in the nation last year according to 247sports.

What Baylor had left in the cupboard as far as experience goes may have never been seen before. The Bears handed out playing time to 25 guys (including 11 freshmen) who “recorded no stats” according to this SB Nation article. All of those guys will be back plus a (nearly) top 30 class. I’m not here to say that Baylor will be this years’ Iowa State, but they won’t be pushovers like last year either. Having this game on the road in the midst of the toughest stretch of the year (sandwiched between Texas and Oklahoma) means that this could absolutely be a trap game for the Pokes. Oklahoma State is clearly the more talented team, but after a tough tilt with Texas, OSU might get caught with its eyes looking to Bedlam before they get out of Waco. Not to mention, this would be very on-brand Cardiac Cowboys.

Prediction #4: Spencer Sanders Takes A Redshirt

This one isn’t too bold of a prediction. The coaching staff has confidence in Taylor Cornelius and even if Corn Dog blows it then Gundy can turn to Dru Brown. Cornelius has spent three years in the system and Brown has plenty of D1 experience at Hawaii. Sanders has neither, even if he will likely be the most talented of the three when its all said-and-done.

Given OSU’s backloaded schedule, the Pokes season likely won’t need saving until the end is already in sight. Maybe if OSU gets off to a turbulent start, Gundy would want to turn to Sanders as (again, likely) the most talented option despite the lack of experience (Brown) and knowledge (Cornelius). However, I would think that OSU gets off to a 7-1 or 6-2 start and by the time the season is in trouble, it wouldn’t be worth it to burn the redshirt. If everyone stays healthy, I expect Sanders to redshirt and take the reigns in 2019.

Prediction #5: Jalen McCleskey and Tyron Johnson Are Both 1,000 Yard Receivers

This is less of a Jalen and Tyron are good prediction as it is that I think Cornelius and Brown are both above average gunslingers. If Mason Rudolph had been able to take a redshirt then this prediction wouldn’t be a prediction, it’d be a given. Obviously the trio of Justice Hill, J.D. King and Chuba Hubbard will command a lot of touches in the backfield but we’re still talking about Mike Gundy here. No matter how good the backs are, its Cowboy nature to air it out. This prediction might be the least likely of the seven to come true, but I’m riding with it.

Prediction #6: Jim Knowles Thrives On Josh Henson Levels

What I mean by this is that Josh Henson was a sensation last year as the new offensive line coach. Henson has m-u-r-d-e-r-d-e-d the recruiting scene since arriving in Stillwater and I think Knowles will help do the same for the defensive side of the ball. His 4-2-5 scheme should help the Pokes improve on a below average year on defense and that improvement will be key in reeling in defensive playmakers. Everything I’ve read about Knowles this fall has been positive and it will be exciting to see exactly how much better the defense could get. Also, there’s this guy in Tulsa that could help swing all this but uhhh...

Prediction #7: OSU Gets Major Production Out Of At Least One Freshman

That isn’t the boldest of predictions, so here’s the interesting part: the freshman who makes the biggest impact comes from the defensive side of the ball. I think Sanders takes a redshirt and Moore, Shepherd and Jeter are all stuck behind talented position groups. I still think Moore gets on the field, but probably gets a role similar to that of Tylan Wallace last year.

I think Sean Michael Flanagan, Tyler Lacy, JayVeon Cardwell and Tanner McCalister all have a shot at making a difference this year. Obviously with the depth chart, not all of those guys are gonna see substantial snaps this year but I do think at least one of them will play a good amount. Mike Gundy hauled in one of his better defensive classes in recent memory and I can’t wait to see which one will emerge from the pack this season. Note: I originally would have said I think that Blake Barron would have the biggest impact among these guys but unfortunately he’ll be taking a medical redshirt.

Bonus: My Final Predictions For The Big 12
  1. Oklahoma
  2. West Virginia
  3. Oklahoma State
  4. TCU
  5. Texas
  6. Kansas State
  7. Iowa State
  8. Baylor
  9. Texas Tech
  10. Kansas

(An 8-4 regular season and a 3rd place finish? Yeah, the Big 12 might beat itself up a little this year with a good amount of parity from 2-7.)

As with anything in life, not all of these predictions will come true. Some might come close, some might end up on freezing cold takes. I find it hard to believe that OSU could have two- thousand yard receivers, put up solid yardage across three viable options at running back, get better on defense and still wind up two games worse than last year. Some of those predictions may contradict each other but thats ok. Let us know what your predictions are for this season in the comments or on Twitter.

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
No. 10 - Why OSU will and won’t reach 10 wins
No. 9 - 9 Interesting stats and numbers
No. 8 - 8 Things we would like to see in 2018