Big 12 football preview: Oklahoma State Cowboys
JUL 16, 2013 1:09p ET
The Cowboys will also have a new offensive coordinator and a new defensive coordinator.
While Oklahoma State hasn't officially named a starting quarterback, expect the job to go to Clint Chelf. He threw for 1,588 yards last season – not bad for a guy who started the year as the No. 3 quarterback.
Here's your 3-minute guide on what to expect, what to question how Oklahoma State will get through the 2013 season.
Questions to answer: Gone is Wes Lunt and his three years of eligibility. Lunt transferred to Illinois this spring after learning the job would essentially go to one-time, third-string quarterback Clint Chelf.
This team is Chelf's now and the pressure is squarely on him now. It's not like Chelf doesn't have the talent. He was phenomenal last season, coming in when Lunt got injured and then when second-teamer J.W. Walsh got hurt.
The big question is how Chelf will handle the team knowing he has to lead the team. There's no reason to think Chelf can't be spectacular, but it's another thing knowing he's the one in charge from the beginning.
Expect J.W. Walsh to play, whether Chelf is good or struggles. OSU proved last season having more than one capable quarterback is a bonus, but undoubtedly the Cowboys have already essentially chosen to live or die with Chelf.
The question is can the former third-teamer deal with it appropriately.
Fans will be watching the quarterback situation but the coaching situation is also worth paying attention to. Oklahoma State will have a new offensive coordinator and a new defensive coordinator.
Aug 31, vs. Mississippi State in Houston: Pretty big game to start 2013 when OSU plays a Mississippi team that went 8-4 a season ago in the SEC. A win and OSU will prove its worth as the team to beat in the Big 12. It will be an opportunity for new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to show what he can do, so expect the Cowboys to be aggressive, creative and mostly effective. Huge opportunity for Chelf to prove he was the right choice at quarterback, too. A loss and OSU, which is favored by double digits, will immediately have a bunch of questions – everything from whether it chose the right quarterback to whether the Cowboys should really be the preseason conference favorite.
The Bulldogs will also be a good indicator on how the Cowboy defense has improved. New coordinator Glenn Spencer takes over a team that gave up more than 420 yards per game on average a season ago.
Sept. 28 at West Virginia: Tough spot for a Big 12 opener, especially considering West Virginia will be coming off a game at Oklahoma. Figure the Mountaineers will be pretty fired up to face OSU as will WVU coach Dana Holgorsen who gets another shot at the team he used to be the offensive coordinator for. The Cowboys haven't been to West Virginia since 1928. Expect a rowdy crowd. A win here and OSU will be ranked in the top 10.
Oct. 5 vs. Kansas State: Will the Cowboys come in to this first week of October unbeaten or reeling? Either way this matchup with Kansas State will go a long way in deciding how the season will play out for OSU. A win here and the Cowboys will certainly be in line to make a run at the Big 12 title. A loss here, and they will be in a tough spot, with games still left against TCU, Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma.
Dec. 7 vs. Oklahoma: It's the season finale. It's Oklahoma. Simply put, the biggest game of the year. Every year.
The best spot on the schedule is: It's always good to get a week off before playing Oklahoma, and this year getting the Sooners at home is a bonus, too, but the Big 12 opener at West Virginia sets up quite nicely and should get the Cowboys off to a good start.
While you never want to have to go on the road in a Big 12 opener, OSU will have already played a big game away from Stillwater – its opener vs. Mississippi State – and then will have a full week off before traveling to Morgantown.
Meanwhile, West Virginia could very well be reeling. The Mountaineers will have already been at Oklahoma and will be playing at Maryland the week before OSU comes to town. West Virginia will also be playing its fifth game in a row without any break. It all adds up to a great place to be to start the conference season.
The worst spot on the schedule is: Iowa State was just 6-7 a season ago, but that doesn't mean it won't be a really tough game in Ames, Iowa, this season when OSU travels there on Oct. 26.
Remember, two seasons ago, Iowa State beat OSU in Ames and kept the Cowboys out of the national title game. This year, Iowa State will catch the Cowboys on the fourth game of a tough, four-game stretch. OSU will play the Cyclones after facing a road game against West Virginia and back-to-back home games against Kansas State and TCU. All three of those teams could be ranked.
The Iowa State game will seem like a rest. The Cowboys could be set for a big-time letdown here.
Best-case scenario for the season: The Cowboys end up in the national title game. Yeah, it could be that good.
Quarterback Clint Chelf emerges as a run/pass threat, Jeremy Smith runs for 1,500 yards and Tracy Moore becomes an All-American candidate at wide receiver while first-year offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich shows his uniqueness.
OSU starts the season with a win over Mississippi State and follows that up with a sweep through the Big 12 season. With home games against Kansas State, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma, the Cowboys will have to navigate road games at West Virginia and Texas and avoid a letdown at Iowa State. All of that is possible.
If everything goes right, the Cowboys could be undefeated and playing Alabama, LSU or maybe a Pac 10 power in the title game.
It's a nightmare if: Quarterback Clint Chelf struggles and the Cowboys feel the pressure early. Mississippi State won't be a pushover and if Chelf turns it over and the OSU defense doesn't get a few stops, the Cowboys could be headed home with a loss to start the season.
But the real nightmare will be if Chelf doesn't thrive under Yurcich's system. That will only start the talk about coach Mike Gundy making the wrong decision at quarterback and start the second-guessing about how the team would have been better if only Wes Lunt had stayed.
Losses at West Virginia and Austin are certainly not out of the question and if the offense is still in project-mode throughout the season, there could be other stumbling points along the way, like in Lubbock or home against the Sooners.
A season ago, OSU thrived with three quarterbacks. This season, the offense will all be on Chelf, so if things don't work out early, it could be disappointing late.
And on defense, OSU could get exposed by the high-scoring offenses from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Baylor. Spencer and the defense need to get off to a good start early so it has some confidence late.
What will happen: Oklahoma State beats the Bulldogs in Houston, wins in Morgantown but stumbles in Austin before finishing the year with a victory over the Sooners in Stillwater. The Cowboys will still win the Big 12 championship and play in a BCS bowl.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter @andrewgilmanOK
+ SHOW COMMENTS +