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Roundtable: Season Opener Expectations, Predictions, and Who Scores First

Our staff talks multiple topics ahead of the Oklahoma State season opener

NCAA Football: Kansas at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason is one day from being over. Our staff gave their thoughts on everything from what they think they’ll learn on Thursday to what uniform they think the Pokes roll out in. Let’s dive in to this week’s roundtable.

1). What do you expect to learn from this game?

Matt Harris: It’s Missouri State so you can only learn so much. However, I do think that we’ll get a decent feel for how good or bad Taylor Cornelius could be this season. Obviously if he excels it is to be taken with a grain of salt because, you know, Missouri State. I’m also interested to see Jim Knowles 4-2-5 defense. I think the bar should be to hold the Bears to single digits. OSU held Southeastern Louisiana to seven points in the opener two years ago and I would like to see that this time around as well.

Brodie Smith:I don’t expect much this week and will simply be glad to see the Pokes back on the turf for 2018. Gundy has traditionally been pretty vanilla, but it’ll be hard to hide the new defensive scheme as Jim Knowles finally shows what he’s been working on and how these guys are picking it up. I don’t expect a shutout, but I do expect to see the Bears limited in how many points they can put on the board.

Zach McCoy: Depth. Who takes back up snaps in clean up duty? Which of the freshmen defenders will see meaningful PT and which ones are just taking advantage of the new redshirt rule? How good is this vaunted offensive line depth? We won’t know all of this in the first game but the rotations will be telling.

Joel Penfield: I want to see how many quarterbacks the Cowboys roll out there. I think there is a high likelihood that Cornelius, Brown, and Sanders all see time on Thursday. With the new redshirt rule, they probably will all get some reps. I know the fanbase is extremely excited to see what the true freshman Sanders can do, but the best case scenario is that he doesn’t play too much and stays under that 4 game threshold. If Cornelius can stay healthy and productive all year and Brown and Sanders can redshirt, this will be great for the program moving forward.

Louis Pineda: There are two main things that we can watch closely. First, obviously, is the QB position. Will we even see Sanders? Or will we only see Corn Dog and Dru Brown? Secondly, I’m really interested to see how the secondary performs. I’m concerned with our depth, so it will be nice to check out how they might change the rotation early to see who will fit in the best.

Colin Price: I think we will learn a lot about the kinda of balance this team will have. In 2015, it was a true pass heavy air raid offense due to the inability to run the ball and they still managed to have a top offense. We’ll see the play calling splits and have an idea of what the strengths of the team are after Thursday. We’ll also see any deficiencies on defense that’ll need to be addressed before week 3. Especially with the team learning Knowles’ new, hyper-aggressive schemes.

Joseph Alcido: What we’re working with. My big questions have always been personnel related. Jim Knowles from Glenn Spencer, and getting players to buy into the Knowles defense ASAP is key to a good season.

Ryan Harris: I don’t expect to learn much, although I do expect this game to give the coaching staff a little more clarity to what they want their two deep to look like next week and to see who could end up being a big contributor this season. I’m very excited to see younger guys get a chance to perform.

Phillip Slavin: Looking back at last season, there were some red flags in the games against Tulsa and South Alabama that I felt we ignored after the Pitt game; issues on special teams, giving up big plays, etc... They were some of the things that cost Oklahoma State in their three losses to TCU, OU, and KSU. I’m going to be looking for problems, and then trying to decide if they’re things that can be fixed or not.

2.) Who makes the first score of the season for the Cowboys and what’s the play?

Matt Harris: I’m gonna say it’s Justice Hill on a toss left from 10 yards out. Or Tyron on any play for the #BagYear.

Brodie Smith: Justice Hill takes it to the house from 35 yards out after two quick passes to Stoner and McCleskey on the opening drive.

Zach McCoy:I wish TBJ was on returns so I could say he’d house the first kickoff/punt, but instead I’ll say he puts some jaws on the floor following the first pass thrown his way on the first drive.

Joel Penfield: Justice Hill breaks a 25+ yard run on the first drive. We’ll see it a lot this year, but that will be the start.

Louis Pineda: HOT TAKE ALERT...Justice Hill! Not a hot take at all, but playing the odds of who will touch the ball the most this year.

Colin Price: I’m not a betting man, but if I was, I’d put money on the dirt TD coming from a Justice Hill 3-yard run following a long catch and run from Jalen McCleskey.

Joseph Alcido: Dillon Stoner on a play-action seam route. First play of the game. And, I’ll be that’s the new dig/post to Washington.

Ryan Harris: Tyron Johnson on a post, similar to last year. Everyone knows what Justice Hill can do, so I think the coaching staff gives Corn Dog a chance to make some plays early. His best bet in the red zone will likely be Johnson, although I think he’ll score the first touchdown from about 30 yards out.

Phillip Slavin: Jalen McCleskey. I think the coaching staff is going to want to make sure fans know that Oklahoma State can still sling the ball like they’re used to and give Cornelius the opportunity to toss a couple of long ones. I think it’s Cornelius to McCleskey for a 35+ yard TD.

3.) What do you expect the Cowboys come out wearing for their first look of the season?

Matt Harris: We’ve seen White / Orange / White for at least the last two years on opening night, so I’ll go with that. As far as the helmet, we got white with brand and white with patriot (is that what they’re calling it?) Pete the last two years. So I’ll say a third consecutive white helmet and a third consecutive different OSU logo. I’ll go white with the badge for the opening night helmets.

Brodie Smith: I don’t know what to expect here, but as a traditionalist my hope is white domes, orange tops and white pants. First home game needs orange. Then they can get fancy afterward.

Zach McCoy: O-W-O (and throw in the chrome branded helmet). It was a common look last year and I think they’ll keep it on the shelf a little more for the 2019 iteration, but not on this opening Thursday night feature.

Joel Penfield: I said it on the podcast, but I think it will be W/O/W with the badge helmet. It’s hard to predict the helmet so I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark.

Louis Pineda: It seems like white-orange-white was the favorite for home games last year, so I think they will mix it up for this next campaign. I will go with black-orange-black for the night game.

Colin Price: They’ve followed a fairly consistent pattern for FCS home openers so I’m guessing White-Orange-White with some kind of neat twist on the helmet.

Joseph Alcido: I’ll copy the CRFF Pod (s/o Phillip and Joel) and say white/orange/white.

Ryan Harris: White/Orange/White with the brand on the helmet. Basically just like they wore in the 2016 opener. I’d like to see them come out in a helmet we’ve never seen before. Either way the Cowboys will be looking fresh in BPS on Thursday.

Phillip Slavin: WOW. The last two seasons OSU has opened their season at home with white helmets, orange jerseys, and white pants. I think they stick with that this year too. As far as the helmet? I’ll guess black facemask, a phantom pete logo, and black/orange/black stripe.

4.) What do you think is going to be the Cowboys biggest struggle in this game?

Matt Harris: It’s gotta be uhhhh (checks notes, rubs eyes) the passing game? Looking at the run game and the offensive line, I think we can rule those out. You could make a case for the defense in a new scheme with a new coordinator but the opponent is Missouri State, how much can they realistically struggle? For me, an unproven quarterback means the passing game is the Cowboys biggest struggle, unless last seasons’ special teams makes a reappearance.

Brodie Smith: Timing. Once they get through the scripted plays and the game begins to develop, it will be important for Cornelius and his receivers to settle into a normal rhythm.

Zach McCoy: Figuring out who to play at QB in garbage time.

Joel Penfield: The biggest challenge will be adjusting to the new 4-2-5 defense. The defense now goes from a “bend don’t break” style to “boom or bust.” Don’t be too shocked if Missouri State finds a way to break a big play or two in the game because of this style.

Louis Pineda: Let’s be honest, not much of this game will be a struggle. That being said, the entire defense is learning a new scheme from a new coach, so the biggest hurdle for them will be to get lined up correctly and on time. Once Big 12 play hits, they better have everything settled or else we will get torched by the pace.

Colin Price: I think there might be some growing pains early on in the passing game. Losing your 3 year starting QB and 3 of your top 5 wide receivers will tend to do that. So there’ll be some drops, missed throws, and some clunkiness in the passing game while they start gelling better down the stretch. I think Cornelius still ends up with 300+ yards but 200ish will come in the second half and we’ll have to deal with the fire halftime Twitter takes about how Cornelius is trash and Yurcich doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Joseph Alcido: The biggest struggle is going to be living up to expectations. The beginning of the season is always about managing expectation and molding the team like clay. Players and coaches are going to want to be as close to perfect as possible. Putting aside the ambiguity, I think the biggest issue is going to be conceptual holdover from the Spencer defense. Aggressive defenses are schematically based on 100% commitment to aggressiveness, so any hesitation on the part of the players may lead to broken plays. Give this team a few weeks to adapt to a wildly different defensive mindset.

Ryan Harris: They might struggle to get in a rhythm. Some guys will start the game who don’t have much starting experience (shoutout to corndogs everywhere) so it’ll be interesting to see how they play together in the first half.

Phillip Slavin: Defense. I realize that’s a little broad and vague, but I think there are going to be some big plays given up a couple of times. It’s to be expected, and I’m going to be ok with it, especially early and late (when the 3rd stringers are in).

5. How are you expecting Taylor Cornelius to look on Thursday?

Matt Harris: I think Corndog will look good-not-great. This is partly because I think some of the other quarterbacks on the roster will get a fair amount of snaps in the second half. I have this feeling that we’ll walk away from the game feeling like we got exactly what we expected out of Cornelius. Above-average at every mark.

Brodie Smith: I don’t expect Rudolph 2.0, but I don’t anticipate a huge dropoff either. The cupboard is stocked with weapons that should make it easy for Cornelius to rack up some solid state. It certainly doesn’t hurt to have Hill as a “safety blanket” to alleviate the pressure.

Zach McCoy: I think he actually gets at least 3 quarters of play even with a big lead. See above answer plus the fact they’re trying to get a lot of new pieces to gel. 24/31 for 350 and 4 TD plus 1 on the ground.

Joel Penfield: I‘m not going to pass too much judgment on how good Cornelius will be in this game, ask me in a week or two. Playing an FCS team is not the best litmus test, South Alabama and Boise State will give me a better idea of how he’ll be as the starter.

Louis Pineda: He will look like a great game manager. I don’t think we will try anything exotic, it will be a pedestrian “get the ball to Justice Hill 50 times” kind of game plan. I would like to see 2-3 throws downfield, but I doubt it.

Colin Price: Hi and welcome to the Taylor Cornelius Fan Club. I’ll be your Club President, Colin.

I believe he’s going to be a taller reincarnation of fan favorite Clint Chelf this season. He might not be a world beater, record setter, draft pick, but he’ll be very successful at managing a top 20 offense and have his share of big moments through the air and on the ground. I think he’ll have a quiet ~300 passing yards to the tune of a 63% completion rate, a pair of touchdowns, and 30 yards rushing.

Joseph Alcido: Like a game manager. That being said, it would be more than encouraging to see him displaying leadership on the sideline when he’s pulled. Being QB1 is one thing. Acting like it is another.

Ryan Harris: I hope Cornelius does well and I think he will. Surely going against OSU’s defense in practice is harder than Missouri State’s defense in the game. Theoretically it’ll be easier. There will be more pressure, but I think he can handle it.

Philip Slavin: Good, but not Mason Rudolph. I trust that Cornelius is going to do well. I don’t think Gundy and Yurcich would both be speaking so highly of him if he wasn’t. I don’t think he’s going to blow my socks off, but I think he’s going to look an FBS, Power-5 starting quarterback with his presence and command of the offense.

6,) Score Predictions?

Matt Harris:Oklahoma State: 52 Missouri State:10

Brodie Smith: Cowboys shouldn’t struggle in this one, and I’m guessing the score is fast and furious in the first half to create distance and allow for everyone to see the field in the second half. Final score: Good guys win 45-14.

Zach McCoy; 60-17

Joel Penfield: 52-21 OSU, this shouldn’t be a close game. Despite a fair amount of turnover on both sides of the ball, this team is still solid and there should not be a slip-up against an inferior opponent.

Louis Pineda: OSU - 56

Away Team - 10

Colin Price: I’m going with 48-13 Cowboys.

Joseph Alcido; 56-7 Cowboys

Ryan Harris: 6. My score prediction is Oklahoma State: 42 Missouri State:10. The Cowboys might get off to a slower start but they will pick things up and roll Missouri State in the opener.

Philip Slavin: 41-14. I think the offense looks fine after they shake some rust off and the defense gives up at least one big touchdown pass. Get ready for Boom or Bust defense folks

Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments!