Thursday night, the Oklahoma State Cowboys will kickoff the 2018 campaign by welcoming Missouri State to Boone Pickens Stadium. We’ll finally enjoy some answers to the questions we’ve been wrestling with since the Camping World Bowl clock ran out.
So, let’s gaze one last time into the crystal ball to ascertain five things we will have discovered once Thursday night’s contest is complete.
The 2018 OSU Offense Will See More Balance. Even with the likes of Marcell Ateman, James Washington and Chris Lacy graduating from the roster, the Cowboys receiving corps is stacked with weapons that can open up the field and stretch the defense. The major unknown is if former walk-on Taylor Cornelius can deliver the ball sufficiently now that Mason Rudolph is in the NFL. To help offset that unknown, Mike Gundy has accumulated backfield depth and versatility that will allow Cornelius time to get his bearings. It doesn’t hurt to have an All-American caliber lead back (Justice Hill) with three highly regarded talents behind him fighting for carries. Expect to see a heavy dose of the run game, especially as the gap widens and more backups get playing time. I look to see several long runs and at least a pair of 100-yard rushing totals.
Defense Still TBD. I expect us to see a solid defensive performance against an overmatched opponent. However, it won’t be the shutdown effort we all hope to see. New coaches bringing new schemes take time to settle in and establish a rhythm. Thursday will be no different. In years past, even lowly teams could rack up points and yardage late in contests, making Defensive stats look worse than we might want. That being the case, don’t expect to glean much from the first defensive showing of the season. They’ll make some stops and produce some highlights, but it’s still a work in progress we’ll have to allow time to develop.
Key Returners Carry On, But Newcomers Steal The Show. Hill, Tyron Johnson, Dillon Stoner, Jalen McCleskey, Justin Phillips, Calvin Bundage, Darrion Daniels and others are going to make their presence felt Thursday evening. Once they’ve stepped off the field for the night, I don’t expect the fireworks to cease. Additional weapons run throughout the offensive depth chart and other key newcomers on defense will step in and perform well. Chuba Hubbard will finally get the chance to show he’s more than just a cool name. Kemah Siverand takes his place as the next impactful graduate transfer. But, we’ll all be watching for Spencer Sanders and Dru Brown continuing their duel to serve as Cornelius’ primary backup. I don’t expect any of them to disappoint against Missouri State and anticipate we’ll all be talking more about non-starters once the game is over.
Overreaction. Whether it’s the defense giving up a big play or two or fans questioning a number of Yuricich play calls, fans are going to go a little to far in evaluating Thursday’s game against an FCS opponent. No, you don’t want to lose or slog through a close one, but this game should matter less in the standings than it does in the locker room with regard team chemistry and motivation. OSU has added a number of shiny new parts that have to get in sync with the system. It may take a little longer than fans might like, but don’t read too much into possible (even probable) missteps early on. Let the first game jitters and offseason rust work themselves out and enjoy the fact that Cowboy football is back.
Studio Shenanigans. If there’s anything the media needs to get out of its system early in the season, it’s the cheese factor. When Gundy’s mullet captivated the country, broadcast teams went out of their way to take advantage of it with their own take on our coach’s coiff. Now that OSU will roll out a new QB1 affectionately nicknamed “Corn Dog”, I expect the Fox Sports 1 crew to create at least one segment featuring a bread-wrapped, stick-stuffed frankfurter. They won’t be able to resist.
Once the game is over, we’ll celebrate and feel good about how it all went down yet feel saddened we have to wait 10 more days until the next opponent rolls into town.