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Countdown to Kick-Off: Previewing Oklahoma State’s 12 regular-season games

How will the Cowboys fare this season?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 16 Big 12 Media Days Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Oklahoma State will kick off its 15th season under head coach Mike Gundy this fall. Cowboys Ride For Free will have a 15-day countdown with one article each day until the Cowboys’ season opener Aug. 30 at Oregon State.

We are only 12 days from the return of Oklahoma State football, and with that we’ll preview all 12 games on the schedule this season.

Oregon State: Corvallis, Oregon | Aug. 31

This should be a win for the Cowboys. Kickoff is at 7:30 Pacific time, which means the game won’t kick off until 9:30 p.m. Stillwater time. Players will have to adjust late in the game when they’re used to it being close to midnight. That might be tougher than playing Oregon State.

The Beavers are just 3-21 during their last two seasons, and they received the least amount of votes in the Pac-12 preseason poll. Only three Beavers made a preseason all Pac-12 team: running back Jemar Jefferson, wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins and offensive lineman Gus Lavaka made the second team.

Ideally this game will be wrapped up early. The most important item on the agenda, aside from getting a win, is having a first look at quarterbacks Dru Brown and Spencer Sanders in game action. Both should have plenty of reps the three non-conference games, but a true starter needs to be named before Big 12 play begins.

Prediction: OSU. See what I did there.

McNeese State: Stillwater, Oklahoma | Sept. 7

Oklahoma State gets its easiest opponent of the year in Week 2 with FCS McNeese State. This is a guaranteed win *has flashback to Central Michigan* likely a win for OSU. Once again this game will largely be used to help finalize some position battles.

Brown and Sanders should still be splitting reps, but the home opener should be a blowout. Either way, coaches will be looking for players who finish every play.

Prediction: OSU. (2-0)

Tulsa: Tulsa, Oklahoma | Sept. 14

The last time OSU played Tulsa it won big in the 2017 home opener. This time OSU will have to make the short trek to Tulsa to play the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa had a successful 2016 campaign, but injuries have plagued them each of the last two seasons and now Phillip Montgomery might be coaching for his job.

One thing Montgomery has going for him is plenty of QB depth. Seth Boomer and Luke Skipper are both back after each played heavy reps last season. There’s also Baylor transfer Zach Smith in the fold.

Montgomery can coach, but can his team stay healthy? And if they can, will it be enough? Tulsa has the talent, but not to beat OSU. It would be nice to see Tulsa apply some pressure to see how each one of OSU’s QBs respond to the adversity.

Prediction: OSU wins. (3-0)

Texas: Austin, Texas | Sept. 21

Texas will be the semesters first test. The QB that starts should expect to start the rest of the season. Of course, things change, but coaches will want him to be consistent enough to lead the offense.

Texas have added pressure this year after proclaiming they’re “back” following a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia to complete their first 10-win season since 2009, when they went 13-1. The Longhorns may not be back, but they are facing a pressure the program hasn’t felt in a decade. There are real expectations for this team to perform.

Texas returns several key players to a team that had some really nice wins and some pretty head-scratching losses last season. Sam Ehlinger has been hyped up and hated on all offseason, and has the most pressure to perform. Collin Johnson is back to lead a talented wide receiver corps. One of the most dynamic playmakers on the roster is true freshman running back Jordan Whittington.

Beating Texas in Austin won’t be easy for any team, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The key will be getting pressure on Ehlinger and staying in the game late. Both teams have question marks, and this game will help answer a lot of them early in the season.

Prediction: OSU drops a close one. (3-1, 0-1)

Kansas State: Stillwater, Oklahoma | Sept. 28

The Bill Synder era has finally come to an end in Manhattan, Kansas. Chris Klieman takes over reigns after a successful stint at North Dakota State. KSU has beat OSU the last two seasons, and almost pulled off an upset over the Cowboys in 2016.

The Wildcats have question marks all over the place, but have QB Skylar Thompson returning. That isn’t exactly inspiring though, as KSU ranked last in the Big 12 in both scoring offense (22.5 points per game) and total offense (344.7 yards per game) last season. KSU lost its top four running backs and best offensive lineman. The good news is that the rest of the offensive line returns and so does a solid receiving corps.

Klieman brought his offensive coordinator at NDSU with him to Manhattan. Just like Wildcat fans are used to seeing, Courtney Messingham calls running plays. A lot of them.

Klieman will be more involved on defense, and he likes his defense to play aggressive. That might be an issue for KSU considering most of the secondary is gone. With so many freshman, it might be a long year for the Wildcats.

Prediction: OSU wins. (4-1, 1-1)

Texas Tech: Lubbock, Texas | Oct. 5

The Cowboys will get a team with a new head coach for the second straight week when Mike Gundy gets his first look at the Matt Wells era in Lubbock. Bringing in a new coach always leaves a team with question marks heading into the season, but Wells does have one security blanket — QB Alan Bowman.

The sophomore returns after tossing more than 2,500 yards and 17 touchdowns last year despite missing time with injuries. Along with Bowman, Tech returns a good wide receiving corps and plenty of talent up front on both sides of the ball.

Beating Tech won’t be easy, but OSU should pull this one off by a slim margin. The Cowboys don’t have a particularly tough opponent the week before and Gundy’s record is great against new head coaches. This game could likely determine how the rest of the season goes.

Prediction: OSU wins. (5-1, 2-1)

Baylor: Stillwater, Oklahoma | Oct. 19

OSU catches its bye week before taking on Baylor for homecoming. The Cowboys have had great success on homecoming the past three seasons. In 2016, OSU saved its season from two early losses with a win over a top-10 ranked West Virginia squad. In 2017, the Cowboys demolished Baylor, and of course, had the big win over Texas last season.

OSU won’t have quite the cake walk it did against Baylor two years ago. Last year, the Cowboys lost to Baylor in Waco and second-year coach Matt Rhule is hoping his team takes another step in rebuilding the program.

Baylor returns starting QB Charlie Brewer, but it did lose wide out Jalen Hurd, who had a successful season last year. The Bears still has plenty of playmaking receivers, headlined by Denzel Mims. But can Brewer get the ball to them?

Baylor’s biggest offensive struggle last season was protecting the pocket as they led the Big 12 in sacks allowed with 39. The Bears o-line will have to clean up their protections and keep Brewer upright.

Prediction: OSU wins. (6-1, 3-1)

Iowa State: Ames, Iowa | Oct. 26

Ames, Iowa is one of the least pleasant destinations on the Big 12 schedule. OSU fans will forever have a sour taste about it for reasons we won’t mention, but most every other Big 12 school has its own Ames horror stories.

And to pile on, Iowa State is actually good. Of course Brock Purdy hosted his coming out party in Stillwater last year, but he carried ISU through an impressive season. Much like Texas, ISU actually has some expectations now.

For Cyclone fans, beating Iowa ranks high on the expectation list, but a trip to the Big 12 Championship game is right there too. ISU fans would no doubt finish off all the beer in the DFW area. To do that, the Cyclones will have to beat one of OU or Texas and beat every other Big 12 team on the schedule.

ISU has more than enough motivation and plenty of momentum. The only question is, will the Cyclones crumble under the pressure? OSU did in 2017 and West Virginia last year. Both of those teams still had good seasons, and ISU is likely headed for a similar fate.

Replacing David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler won’t be easy, but the Cyclones do return their entire o-line. If ISU can find some playmakers to step up and fill big shoes, the Cyclones should be just fine.

Prediction: OSU losses. (6-2, 3-2)

TCU: Stillwater, Oklahoma | Nov. 2

I have flipped my prediction on this game quite a bit. OSU should go 9-3 with losses to Texas, ISU and Oklahoma. However, along with those three losses, it would be very on brand for OSU to lose a game it should win. Right now, that’s would be against TCU.

The other obvious answer would be Tech, but I would like to see how the Red Raiders respond to Wells first. On the other, TCU is an established program with a great coaching staff and an x-factor playmaker in wide receiver Jalen Reagor. The biggest question for TCU is if they can find a QB to get the ball to Reagor.

TCU has a handful of QBs competing for the starting job and none of them seem too inspiring. What TCU won’t have to worry about are running backs and the o-line, with plenty of talent and experience returning at those positions.

The other thing TCU has going for them is Gary Patterson’s record of getting his team to bounce back. The last four times Patterson coached a 7-6 TCU squad, he followed with a 10-win or better season three of those years.

Prediction: OSU drops a close one. (6-3, 3-3)

Kansas: Stillwater, Oklahoma | Nov. 16

The only time OSU will get back-to-back home games will be at the start of November. Les Miles will make his return to Boone Pickens Stadium as head coach of the Jayhawks. While his hiring has brought excitement to a program that hasn’t had it in a long time, it probably won’t translate to success in the first year.

It’s well known that Kansas is a basketball school, and they don’t have the talent on the football roster to keep up with the rest of the Big 12. Miles could change that in the coming years, but there isn’t much he can do about it this season.

Prediction: OSU wins. (7-3, 4-3)

West Virginia: Morgantown, West Virginia | Nov. 23

Playing in November in Morgantown may present challenges of its own. Cold weather and rowdy fans frustrated from a long season are chief among the reasons why. It’ll probably be another weekend in which Mountaineer fans burn their couches out of frustration instead of celebration.

WVU reloaded at quarterback after losing Will Grier to the NFL draft. Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall figures to be the starter for West Virginia, who also lost offensive playmakers and head coach Dana Holgorsen... to Houston? Still strange. WVU’s new coach Neal Brown will have his work cut out for him as running back depth doesn’t mean as much when there’s not a solid o-line to run behind.

Just because WVU might be down this year doesn’t mean they won’t bounce back, or even not make a bowl game. Either way, similar to Tech and KSU, this is likely a building block year for the Mountaineers.

Plain and simple, the last two games before Bedlam are a tune up for it.

Prediction: OSU wins. (8-3, 5-3)

Bedlam: Stillwater, Oklahoma | Nov. 30

Bedlam is the Saturday after Thanksgiving again, and Boone Pickens Stadium needs to be completely packed with orange. OU once again reloaded at QB with a transfer from Texas, the Sooners third in as many years.

Baker Mayfield: Texas Tech and Lake Travis High School (Austin)

Kyler Murray: Texas A&M and Allen High School (Allen)

Jalen Hurts: Alabama and Channelview High School (Houston)

Can Hurts make it three straight Heisman winners at OU? His odds are as good as any other player. Everyone knows his reputation as a great starter who was benched for a generational talent at halftime of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. That road led him to Norman, where he may get a chance to beat Tua Tagovialoa, Nick Saban and Alabama in the CFP.

To get there, the Sooners will have to go through OSU. The Cowboys fell one point shy of upsetting OU and keeping them out of the CFP.

OU has new faces, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be a favorite to return to the CFP. OU might lose a Big 12 game, but not more than one, and the Sooners will be favored in every game. CeeDee Lamb returns to lead a talented receiving corps and running backs Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks are back as well.

OSU will put up a good fight as always, and it might even give OU a good scare like the last two years. The Cowboys’ chances are slim though. It’s always the elephant in the room OSU fans don’t want to talk about. It is what it is.

Prediction: OSU losses. (8-4, 5-4)