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Three statistical reasons to be optimistic about Oklahoma State football in 2020

From returning starters to an improving defense!

TCU v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Enough doom and gloom. No more focusing on whether college football will be played in the fall or not.

Today, we’re going to throw on our orange-colored lenses and be optimists. We’re going to lean into the excitement surrounding Oklahoma State heading into the 2020 season and look at why fans should be excited.

Specifically, three stats have to give you hope OSU has a real shot to obtain its lofty goal of winning a Big 12 championship.

Returning Production

It’s been a big offseason topic for OSU and why a lot of people have them pegged for a big year. According to Bill Connelly’s numbers, OSU has ninth highest percentage of returning production from 2019 out of all 130 FBS teams.

Now, that number would obviously drop with the retirement of starting left tackle Dylan Galloway, but I’m not sure it would fall too far.

More importantly, the strength of OSU’s returning production is on the opposite side of the ball. The Cowboys’ have the eighth most returning production on defense, with 86 percent back for 2020. Not only is there returning production, but there are returning stars who are expected to take another step forward, like Israel Antwine, Kolby Harvell-Peel and Malcolm Rodriguez.

Connelly has been putting these numbers out since the 2016 season and if you average the top 10 teams from the 2016-2019 lists — 40 teams in all — on average those teams saw an increase in win total by 2.15. For an OSU team that went 8-5 in 2019, that would win a 10-win season and potentially a berth in the Big 12 title game depending on who those losses were to.

I’ll have more on what returning production really means for a team’s success coming up later this week.

Team Drop Rate

According to Pro Football Focus, OSU’s 2019 wide receiving corp had one of the lowest drop rates in the country.

The Cowboys ranked second behind Virginia with a drop rate of just 2.3 percent. Mind you, that’s with Tylan Wallace missing the final five games of the season due to an ACL injury. Not to mention, OSU had backup quarterback Dru Brown (and this is no shot at him) as the starter for the final three games of the season.

So why does this matter for 2020? Because six of OSU’s top seven pass catchers return this year.

Player Catches Yards TDs
Tylan Wallace 53 903 8
Dillon Stoner 52 599 5
Braydon Johnson 21 475 4
Jordan McCray 19 237 2
Chuba Hubbard 23 198 0
Landon Wolf 25 189 0
Jelani Woods 16 112 1

If quarterback Spencer Sanders can take the next step, then the fact he has a receivers group who don’t seem to suffer from drops should not only help his statistics go up but lead to a more effective offense in 2020.

Defense holding teams below average

In April, there was a tweet OSU’s football Twitter account put out that a heard a few people on podcasts chuckle about. They made the point that holding half of your opponents under their scoring average means you had an average defense.

What they missed on that though, was which of those opponents specifically OSU was talking about. Was it the non-conference opponents early in the season? Was it all of your bad opponents?

Nope. It was the final six on the schedule.

Opponent Average Against OSU
Iowa State 32.2 27
TCU 30.3 27
Kansas 23.5 13
West Virginia 20.6 13
Oklahoma 42.1 34
Texas A&M 29.5 24

Sure, outside of Oklahoma, this wasn’t a collection of offensive juggernauts. But if you want to win games, holding teams below what they expect to score is a positive.

More importantly, it’s a sign OSU’s defense was improving in the back half of year two under defensive coordinator Jim Knowles. With so many major contributors returning — many of them still rather young, ie; Antwine and Trace Ford — there’s reason to believe the defense can be even better in 2020.

Note: While the scoring was down through those six games, the defense only held three of those teams under their average yards per game.

Opponent Average Against OSU
Iowa State 444.3 468
TCU 407.7 450
Kansas 377.7 290
West Virginia 321.9 333
Oklahoma 537.6 450
Texas A&M 394.5 343

Obviously, points matter more than yards, but it’s still something to watch. Turnovers are great, but we’ve seen what happens to teams that rely on them too much. When they come like in 2011 it’s awesome but when they don’t like a lot of the seasons after 2011 it’s not so great.

The most important takeaway, again, is a defense in the second year of a new scheme showed improvement from Week 1 to the postseason and did some of its best work at the end of the year when the offense really needed it to.