The Oklahoma State Cowboys opened up the 2015 season with a perfect record of 10-0. They were were ranked as high as No. 4 in the country with just two games left on the schedule.
That’s when things took a turn for the worse. The Cowboys lost 35-45 to Baylor at home with the Bears missing their starting QB. They then got destroyed at home by in-state rival Oklahoma 23-58. Oklahoma State limped into their bowl game and got crushed by Ole Miss 48-20.
The Cowboys 7-2 record inside the Big 12 was good enough to finish in a tie for second with TCU. Their 10-win season was the second in the last three years and fourth in the last six.
All of those have come under current head coach Mike Gundy, who will be in his 12th year on the job. The former Oklahoma State quarterback has compiled a 94-47 record in his tenure.
Looking ahead to 2016, the Cowboys will be one of the top threats to Oklahoma for the Big 12 title. They are also considered to have an outside shot at making the 4-team playoff.
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|11/5||@ Kansas State|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
One of the reasons that Oklahoma State got off to a strong start is they had a very favorable schedule early. They also didn’t face the Big 12 powers until late in the season.
Their non-conference portion of the schedule was a bit of a joke. They played Central Michigan, Central Arkansas and UTSA. In 2016 they at least will be tested outside of the Big 12, as they have to host Pittsburgh on Sept. 17.
They then have to jump right into conference play by going on the road to face Baylor. Next up is challenging home game against Texas, who is coming off a bye. The Longhorns may be catching the Cowboys at just the right time.
After what should be easy wins over Iowa State and Kansas, the Cowboys have a critical 3-game stretch. They host West Virginia, travel to Kansas State and host Texas Tech. If Oklahoma State wants to live up to their potential, these are 3-games they have to win.
That leaves two difficult road games against TCU and Oklahoma to close out the regular season. The good news is they get a bye between those games. The bad news is Oklahoma is 55-6 at home over the last 10 years and TCU is 51-10 (won 13 straight).
The Cowboys returned to form on the offensive side of the ball in 2015. After averaging just 27.6 ppg and 379 ypg in 2014, they put up 39.5 ppg and 480 ypg.
They figure to be even more explosive on this side of the ball in 2016, as they get back 10 starters. That includes junior quarterback Mason Rudolph, who had a breakout sophomore campaign. Rudolph completed 62% of his passes for 3,770 yards with 21 TD’s to just 9 INT’s.
One thing to keep in mind is they did use J.W. Walsh quite a bit last year at quarterback. He was more of a running threat (359 yards, 13 touchdowns), but he also threw for 13 TD’s.
Rudolph does lose a couple of his top targets from last year, but gets back his main guy in James Washington. Washington had a team-high 1,087 yards on just 53 receptions and scored 10 touchdowns.
One area where the offense struggled was in the running game. Oklahoma State only averaged 127.0 ypg on the ground with a mere 3.6 yards/carry. Their weakest rushing attack since 2001. Big improvements are expected with the addition of Stanford transfer Barry Sanders Jr.
They also have five starters back on the offensive line. All 5 are at least in their junior season. It will be one of the most experienced and talented front 5 they have had under Gundy.
While the offense lit up the scoreboard, the defense struggled to stop the opposing team. Despite returning 8 starters, the Cowboys allowed 30.5 ppg and 439 ypg. The only Big 12 foe they held under 26 points was Kansas.
Oklahoma State will have 7 starters back for 2016 and desperately need this unit to play better. That won’t be easy with the loss of DE Emmanuel Ogbah and CB Kevin Peterson. Ogbah will be the toughest to replace. He had a team-high 13 sacks with 19 quarterback hits.
The Cowboys do get back both starting defensive tackles. That includes one of the best the Big 12 has to offer in junior Vincent Taylor. They also get back two more starters at linebacker, including Jordan Burton. That’s good news for the run defense, which wasn’t good last year, but where will the pass rush come from?
The secondary will be led by their talented safety duo of Jordan Sterns and Tre Flowers. Sterns led the team with 108 tackles and Flowers was 4th with 83. They also get back starting corner Ashton Lampkin.
Regular Season Win Total
Big 12 Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
It’s easy to look at Oklahoma State’s 10-3 record from last year and expect them to be just as good with 17 starters returning. The problem is last year’s success was aided by a favorable schedule. They only had 4 conference road games and they were against Texas, West Virginia, ISU and Texas Tech. This year they have 5 road games against Baylor, Kansas, Kansas St, Oklahoma and TCU.
Chances are they will lose to the Bears, Sooners and Horned Frogs. That means they have to win each of their other 9 games to beat their win total of 8.5. I think that’s asking a lot. I could easily see them losing at Kansas State or possibly at home to Texas or West Virginia.
I wouldn’t put it past Gundy to prove me wrong, but keep in mind I predicted them to go 9-3 last year. The offense will be potent, but the defense is a major concern. Add in the tougher schedule in 2016 and I have the Cowboys going 4-5 in the Big 12 and 7-5 overall.
Big 12 Record
Win Total Prediction