Back in August, I sat down at my favorite coffee shop in DFW and made seven predictions for Oklahoma State’s 2018 football season as part of our countdown to kickoff series. Now that college football has put a bow on the 2018 season with Clemson routing Alabama 44-16 in the national championship game, I’ll take a look back at those predictions and how they fared.
Prediction #1: Justice Hill Does Not Make It To New York
Remember back in the offseason when Justice Hill was getting a little Heisman hype? Sure it wasn’t a ton, but there was some talk that maybe #5 could make it to New York in an offense where he would presumably have the keys, or a heavy workload at the very least. As it would turn out, Hill would wind up missing the Pokes last three games after suffering an injury early in the Bedlam game. Even if he hadn’t missed those games, he didn’t exactly put up Heisman numbers, especially in a year with two very worthy candidates.
This season was the only one in which Hill failed to reach 1,000 yards, totaling 930 yards on 158 carries in 10 games. That was good for 5.9 yards-per-carry, his 5.5 YPC mark from both his freshman and sophomore campaigns. His 158 carries were well behind the 206 he received as a freshman and 268 that he received as a sophomore.
Some would argue that he should’ve gotten more opportunities early in the season, especially after averaging nearly 10 yards-per-carry on a measly 12 carries in a blowout loss against Texas Tech.
For comparison, the top running back in this years’ Heisman polls was Clemson back Travis Etienne, who finished seventh. Etienne put up over 1600 yards at 8.1 YPC and 24 touchdowns, which includes stats from both of Clemson’s playoff games.
The biggest takeaway here is that it is extremely hard to win the Heisman as a running back in today’s game. It has become an award the almost exclusively goes to quarterbacks. Because of this, I’ll grade this prediction at a solid B. It came true, but it was also pretty predictable.
Prediction #2: Oklahoma State Wins Less Than 9 Games
I remember getting roasted on Twitter by some guy saying that I should “drink the kool-aid” and trying to convince me that this team would win 10 games. Woof.
You misspelled terrible. Drink the kool-aid Matt!!!!— Nick Myers (@SCPokes) August 23, 2018
I’ll be the first to say that 7-6 isn’t my favorite flavor of kool-aid. I put the ceiling on this team at 10-2 and floor at 6-6 for the regular season. Turns out, the Pokes managed to hit the floor in the most unorthodox way possible: by somehow managing to loss six games despite beating four ranked teams.
I won’t speak too much on the 2018 season because I honestly don’t know what to think about it. I think a lot of us will wonder what the season might’ve looked like if OSU had tried different quarterbacks or ran Justice more or made just one more play in games against Baylor and OU and TCU. But to be fair, its easy to say “what if one more play had gone differently” against those teams when games against Texas and West Virginia and Missouri came down to one play late in the game and in fell in the favor of OSU.
I’ll grade this one out as an A minus. I wrote back in August that it would be hard to predict a bowl win or loss, but that this felt like an 8-5 team. Finishing at 7-6 isn’t far off from that, so I’ll put this one down as a W.
Prediction #3: OSU / Baylor Will Be Decided By One Possession
The Pokes played in Waco this year after a 59-16 homecoming bludgeoning of the Bears in 2017. Baylor finished with just one win that year and lost to FCS Liberty at home. Many expected Baylor to improve in head coach Matt Rhule’s second year at the helm, which led to this prediction. Not only was the game decided by one possession, but it came down to the last play.
As we all know, AJ Green gave up a go-ahead touchdown with less than 10 seconds left and Baylor won the ballgame. The Bears went on to finish 7-6 (4-5 Big 12) and beat Vanderbilt in the Texas bowl 45-38. While Baylor wasn’t overly impressive, they made massive strides compared to their one-win campaign in 2017. This was still probably a game that OSU should’ve won, especially with Baylor coming off a 58-14 loss to West Virginia in Morgantown and the Pokes coming off a big homecoming win over then 6th-ranked Texas.
I’ll give this one a B plus. I thought the game would be decided by one possession and it was, but this was not a game that OSU led most of the way or ever felt in control of. This was also a game that I thought OSU would win, so the loss puts this prediction from an A down to a B.
Prediction #4: Spencer Sanders Takes A Redshirt
And that he did. Granted that I did make this prediction after Gundy had already announced that Corn Dog was “the guy”. I made this prediction feeling that Corn Dog would either play the whole season or, if he lost the job, that it would go to Dru Brown and not Sanders.
Had Corn lost his job, it likely would have gone to Brown too. Cornelius came out for one snap in 2018 after his helmet came off in the bowl game. Gundy trotted out Dru Brown who promptly handed the ball off to Chuba Hubbard and made his exit. Brown took one snap for the whole season, Sanders took none.
This prediction gets an A plus. It wasn’t too bold of a prediction, but hit the nail on the head nonetheless. Hopefully we get to see Sanders in 2019.
Prediction #5: Jalen McClesky and Tyron Johnson Are Both 1,000 Yard Receivers
W O O F. This couldn’t have been more off base. McClesky wound up playing four games and then transferring to Tulane and Johnson had a nice year but still fell a little short of 1,000 yards.
Had I picked Tylan Wallace and Tyron Johnson for this prediction, I wouldn’t have been too far off. Wallace finished with well over 1,000 yards and Swaggy T had 845 for the year. It would have been hard to predict the McClesky transfer which is why his numbers would up being so low. McClesky’s sophomore season was his best in the orange and black, catching a team-high 73 balls for 812 yards and seven scores.
This one gets a D plus. I wasn’t far off on Johnson but couldn’t have been more wrong about McClesky, granted that was due to unforeseen circumstances. Best of luck to Jalen as he moves on to Tulane, it was a pleasure watching him for the last three-and-a-half years.
Prediction #6: Jim Knowles Thrives On Josh Henson Levels
When I made this prediction, I was mostly referring to the recruiting scene. Josh Henson reeled in a nice recruiting class in his first year and I thought that Jim Knowles would be able to do the same in his first year, especially trying to bring in guys that would be ideal fits in his 4-2-5 system.
There are some intriguing prospects on the defensive side of the ball in this recruiting class, and this prediction may be better off judged at the end of next season. Several of the defensive line commits will have a chance to prove themselves as the Pokes lose nearly all of their experienced defensive line players. But the initial shock value of this class isn’t amazing and OSU fell outside of the top two for five star safety Dax Hill, which would have helped this tremendously.
How much of this is graded on recruiting and how much is graded on on-field success is hard to figure out. However, I don’t think that Jim Knowles had comprehensively as good of a first year as Josh Henson did. I’ll give it a round C for the final grade.
Prediction #7: OSU Gets Major Production Out Of At Least One Freshman
This was sort of a slam dunk. OSU got major production out of several freshmen. OSU literally owes its winning season to a game saving tackle from a freshman. But which freshmen would produce — or even see the field — was hard to predict.
I originally said that I thought Tyler Lacy, Sean Michael Flanagan, JayVeon Cardwell and Tanner McCalister were the guys that I thought could make an impact. Lacy, Flanagan and Cardwell did not see the field and McCalister got some decent run. But the freshmen that made the biggest impact were Kolby Peel and Jarrick Bernard. True sophomore Thabo Mwaniki wound up transferring after losing his starting job to Bernard, who played in all 13 games and started nine of those.
To round it out, I’ll give this one a solid B. I was right, two freshmen put out major production and McCalister also gave them something. But I was totally wrong about who the contributors would be.
Now that we’ve reached the end of this crazy ride that was the 2018 season, I think most would look back at it with mixed feelings, at least I know I do. It was a frustrating year in a lot of ways. This team gave us some ridiculous lows but also some ridiculous highs. Losing to Kansas State by 19 and beating two top 10 teams (and coming within a point of OU) in the same season seems like it shouldn’t be possible. My predictions averaged out somewhere around a B or a B minus (I’m not a math person and I’m not gonna figure out how to averaged letters together) which is pretty good for the year. Here’s to hoops season and here’s to 2019.