Last Season: 9-5, 5-3, Lost to Oregon in the Holiday Bowl
Coaches Poll: 11
Mike Gundy wants to be remembered for something other than his age. The head coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys biggest claim to fame does not have anything to do with results on the football field. It has nothing to do with X’s and O’s .
It has everything to do with reading and reacting. Or maybe, more aptly put, reading and over-reacting. We all remember Gundy’s “I’m 40” rant after getting angry at a opinion column in a local newspaper. The comical afternoon put the head coach on the highlight reel, but not for good reason. In fact, mainly for kicks.
But winning is the ultimate fix for a bad reputation and winning is something that the Cowboys hope to do a little bit more of in 2009. However, when you play in the Big 12 South, winning can sometime be extremely difficult.
No one can question the offensive fire power that Oklahoma State has. Quarterback Zac Robinson is the third piece to the trio of deadly Big 12 South signal callers (the others being Colt Mccoy and Sam Bradford, of course). Robinson threw for over 3000 yards last season and 25 touchdowns. Robinson also takes care of the football well, throwing only ten interceptions.
No doubt Robinson is glad to have Dez Bryant back as his top target. Bryant caught 87 passes for over 1400 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. The one concern with Bryant is his health. The receiver had to have knee surgery in the off season after hurting himself in the Holiday Bowl. The passing game was practically unrecognizable after the injury. Zac Robinson completed only 54% of his passes and threw two picks in the loss to Oregon.
If Bryant is not completely healthy, the Cowboys will struggle. Demarcus Connor is listed as Ok. States second receiver. Connor caught only three passes last season. I would worry about the passing game if Bryant shows any effects from the surgery. But assuming that the number one receiver is at full strength, the Cowboys should have no trouble throwing. It’s an air attack that makes opposing secondary coach’s shudder.
Kendrall Hunter is the third major offensive weapon for the Cowboys. Hunter ran for over 1,600 yards and 16 touchdowns last year. The benefit of Hunter is obvious. He keeps the defense honest. With a player like him, you have to be thinking run. With a receiver like Bryant, you have to guard against the pass. It’s extremely difficult to defend. Zac Robinson can also be considered a running threat. Robinson ran for over 1,500 yards during his career year.
Last year Oklahoma State’s offense scored 40.8 points a game, ranking ninth in the nation. With the losses and philosophy changes that some of the teams above them have experienced, I would expect this ranking to increase this year.
Assuming that the offense won’t miss a beat, Oklahoma State’s fortunes hinge on the defense.
New defensive coordinator Bill Young is charged with improving a defense that hasn’t ranked higher than 74th in the nation since 2001. But hopes are high because some immense talent exists on the defense. Linebacker Andre Sexton and cornerback Perrish Cox are both studs. Also keep an eye out for linebacker Donald Booker. Booker was named most improved at spring practice.
But the key to the defense is getting pressure on the quarterback. Last season, the Cowboys had only 15 total sacks. The ranked last in the nation. If Bill Young can figure out a way to improve the defense like he did at Kansas, The Cowboys will be very dangerous.
My biggest concern with Oklahoma State is the schedule. On top of playing both Oklahoma and Texas, they also play five others that were ranked in the top 16 in passing yards. If this defense doesn’t get right quickly, Oklahoma State could be looking towards 2010 by mid-october. No matter how good your offense is, if your defense struggles so will you. With very few exceptions. And as good as Zac Robinson and Dez Bryant are, they aren’t the 2008 Texas Tech Red Raider.
That defense needs to play well early for the Cowboys to have any shot.
3 Games to Watch
September 5th- Georgia- It’s an immediate test for the Cowboy offense. While Georgia may have taken a step back offensively with the loss of Matthew Staffortd, that defense is still tough. Despite being at home, this is a tough way to start an absolutely brutal schedule.
October 31st- Texas- Hey Cowboys, try and stop this Texas offense! The Cowboys better hope that Texas goes as the Northwestern Wildcats for Halloween or they could be in a lot of trouble.
November 28th- @ Oklahoma- I’d be shocked if the Cowboys are still in the race at this point for anything more than what Christmas week bowl they will play in, but if they are this one will be absolutely huge. If they still are playing for anything big, this defense will have already shown you that it can flat out play.