2014 CFN Preview - Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State QB J.W. Walsh
Oklahoma State QB J.W. Walsh
Posted Jul 17, 2014

Preview 2014 - The Cowboys have speed, athleticism and upside - is it enough? (Getty Images)

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Preview 2014 

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-  2014 Oklahoma State Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Mike Gundy
10th year: 45-30
Returning Lettermen
Off. 20, Def. 16, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 32
Ten Best OSU Players
1. RB Desmond Roland, Sr.
2. RB/WR Tyreek Hill, Jr.
3. OT Daniel Koenig, Sr.
4. DE Jimmy Bean, Jr.
5. DT James Castelman, Sr.
6. QB J.W. Walsh, Jr.
7. LB Ryan Simmons, Jr.
8. DE Sam Wren, Sr.
9. CB Kevin Peterson, Jr.
10. QB Mason Rudolph, Fr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 Florida State (in Arl)
Sep. 6 Missouri State
Sep. 13 UTSA
Sep. 25 Texas Tech
Oct. 4 Iowa State
Oct. 11 at Kansas
Oct. 18 at TCU
Oct. 25 West Virginia
Nov. 1 at Kansas State
Nov. 15 Texas
Nov. 22 at Baylor
Dec. 6 at Oklahoma

At some point, Oklahoma State will get the breaks to go just the right way.

Is this a powerhouse program under Mike Gundy? It doesn’t generate the national buzz like it’s among the elite, but had there been a playoff in 2011, it would’ve been in the top four – and probably deserved to play for the national title over Alabama – and despite the problems at the end of last year, it was still the third double-digit win campaign in the last four.

Fine, so Oklahoma State is sort of getting a free pass on all of the Sports Illustrated stuff by an indifferent public – the NCAA looksee probably won’t amount to anything – and the mere fact that Gundy is still in Stillwater instead of Austin, or any one of another college gigs is a massive plus, but it didn’t get the benefit of the doubt three years ago, and last year it failed to make its own really big breaks.

The Cowboys were dismissed a bit after a September loss in the Big 12 opener to West Virginia that looked really, really bad in hindsight, but they rallied back. They somewhat quietly figured out the offensive hiccups, and by midseason, everything started to work. Then, in a two week span cam the blowout over Texas and the 49-17 obliteration of Baylor’s hopes and dreams.

And then came the late collapse against Oklahoma to ruin the chance at a Big 12 title.

If nothing else, though, coming within one defensive stop of a second conference championship in three seasons showed just how good things have become under Gundy. Now, Oklahoma State is expected to compete for titles. It’s expected to be dangerous, and it’s expected to be right there with Oklahoma, Texas, and whatever Baylor/Kansas State-type team is hot at the moment. This really is one of the Big 12’s elite programs, and with one more really, really big season, there’s a chance to get even more respect when it comes to the national title.

There’s one problem with that – experience. After the 2011 national title near miss, it was rebuilding time with an 8-5 season in 2012. That wasn’t bad, but the top-shelf programs find the talent and keep on rolling. With just ten starters returning – four on each side of the ball and both kickers – it’s going to take a little while before everyone gets comfortable. Playing Missouri State and UTSA should help, but those two scrimmages come after the season opener against Florida State.

In a Jerry World is half full sort of way to look at things, Oklahoma State can see the game in Arlington against the defending national champs as a chance to make a huge, massive statement. Win that, and screw you, rebuilding job, it’s College Football Playoff or bust. But even with a very, very forgivable loss, everything is still on the table. Winning the Big 12 championship is still attainable for a coaching staff used to getting through the conference wars, and while it’s not realistic to roll through the final 11 games, yeah, 11-1 probably means a playoff spot.

Gundy has brought in the athleticism and skill, and he has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to competing and winning in the Big 12. Maybe this is the year that the right breaks really do go the Cowboys’ way and they shock the world.

What to watch for on offense: The key will be to find the passing game early on. The Cowboys are going to get into some big shootouts with Texas Tech to open up the Big 12 slate and with Florida State to kick off the season, but the high-powered offenses come later with Baylor and Oklahoma to close out the regular season and with West Virginia – a potentially stronger West Virginia – and Kansas State coming in the second half of the year. To have any shot against the Seminoles, and to keep up with the Red Raiders, veteran quarterback J.W. Walsh needs to be the steadying force who can give the offense something to rely on through the air.

Last season, there weren’t any problems bombing on the UTSAs and Lamars of the world, and the offense rocked and rolled against Baylor and Texas – with Clint Chelf connecting on over 70% of his passes in both games – but the air show was flat in the losses to OU and Missouri, and was a disaster in the West Virginia hiccup. Somehow, OSU has to welcome in a slew of new starters and still be dangerous through the air. That could be a problem.

What to watch for on defense: The Cowboys have something special happening on the defensive front. The back seven is going to need some adjustment, and the front four might have problems with Florida State to start the season, but with a little bit of time, the line might be the team’s big strength if all goes according to plan. James Castleman is a good-sized disruptor inside, and the expected emergence of former JUCO transfer Ofa Hautau should help at tackle. Jimmy Bean should be the team’s best end, and the combination of Sam Wren and Emmanuel Ogbah will be excellent. The front four might not be a rock against the run, but it’ll hit the quarterback – get ready, Jameis.

The team will be far better if … it’s on the right side of the turnover battle. Since the middle of 2008, Oklahoma State is 33-1 – the lone loss coming to Oklahoma in a 51-48 shootout in 2012 – when it’s on the right side of the turnover margin. The Cowboys were in the negative in turnover margin twice last year – the loss to West Virginia and the loss to Oklahoma. It was even in just three games – the loss to Missouri, the didn’t-really-try blowout over Lamar, and the win over TCU, when the defense saved the day with a season-high four takeaways. The Cowboys are 1-6 the last seven times they lost the turnover battle, and the lone win came in a horrible performance against a miserable Kansas team in 2012, winning 20-14 and almost getting tagged. For a young team – the program has won its last nine games when on the plus side, getting every right break will be a really big deal.

The schedule: Yippee – a rebuilding Cowboy team has to open the season with the defending national champions. Starting out against Florida State might be rough, but playing Missouri State and UTSA is an easy way to get into the rest of the season, getting a week off before diving into Big 12 play against Texas Tech on a Thursday night.

Considering the game against the Seminoles is in Arlington, OSU doesn't play a true road game until mid-October, and while three road dates in four weeks might seem rough, the stretch starts off against Kansas and TCU. There's a week off after going to Kansas State, and the Cowboys will need it with Texas, at Baylor and at Oklahoma to close things out, meaning they'll finish the season playing five road games in the final seven.

Best offensive player: Senior RB Desmond Roland. This could change quickly if JUCO transfer Tyreek Hill becomes the star he appeared to be this offseason, but Roland should be the one the offense works around with his excellent size and good power, scoring 13 touchdowns and leading the team in rushing after coming into last season as a key reserve. He might not be a special back, but he’s tough, can catch, and has a knack for getting into the end zone. For a team breaking in seven new offensive starters, he has to control the gameplan, especially against a Florida State defense keyed on stopping him in the opener.

Best defensive player: Junior DE Jimmy Bean. Built like a tall hybrid linebacker/end, the junior is the team’s best pass rusher with a good first step and a world of upside. Okay last year, he came up with 34 tackles on the season, but saved his best for last with a huge performance in the Cotton Bowl loss to Missouri. That has to be the beginning of something big after starting every game last season and not quite doing enough to get to the quarterback. He has help up front, and it’s possible that DT James Castleman turns into the team’s best defensive player early on, but by the end of the season, Bean has to be an all-star. 

Key player to a successful season: Senior OT Daniel Koenig. The veteran is going into his third year as a starter, and he has to be the anchor of a young line that needs a few young players to shine from the opening snap. He’s not a monster at 6-6 and 300 pounds, but he’s a good, sound pass protector who started out at right tackle but finished up on the left side. Hurt early on, he was good, but this year he could be an All-Big 12 performer at left tackle as long as he stays healthy for the entire season. If he’s not great, the line will have to undergo an on-the-fly overhaul.

The season will be a success if … the Cowboys make it four ten-win seasons in the last five. It might take a bowl win to do it, but the schedule doesn’t start to get nasty until November, and by then the young team will either be jelled, or it’s not going to happen. Assuming a loss to Florida State, OSU should still be favored in the next seven games before going to Kansas State. Win that, and at very worst the record is 7-2 with Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma to close things up. At this point, though, the program expects success. 9-3 going into the post-season would excellent in the rebuild.

Key game: Oct. 18 at TCU. There haven’t been any problems with the Horned Frogs since they came up to the Big 12 world two years ago, but this time around, they could be tricky. As long as OSU can hold serve at home, and if there aren’t any problems with Texas Tech, it should be 5-1 going into Fort Worth. With the revenge home game against West Virginia ahead, and with TCU improved, OSU can’t brain-cramp this. Lose here, and there are big issues with road games against Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma to deal with.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Third Quarter Scoring: Oklahoma State 131 – Opponents 30
- Red Zone Touchdowns: Oklahoma State 48-of-64 (75%) – Opponents 20-of-45 (44%)
- Time of Possession: Opponents 33:16 – Oklahoma State 26:44

-  2014 Oklahoma State Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players