As the 2016-17 season for Oklahoma State football kicks off later today, anticipation and expectations are high. The Cowboys have one of the most experienced teams in the nation with a combined 310 starts between them according to ESPN.
Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and a high-powered offense, which could see as many as five different running backs getting touches, could look to score a record-setting number of points. The offense could depend largely on how much the run game has improved since last year, which was ranked 113th nationally with 126.8 yards per game. With the return of Rennie Childs, Raymond Taylor, and Chris Carson and the addition of Senior Barry Sanders, Jr. and true freshman Justice Hill, expect to see a completely revamped rush attack.
On defense, the Cowboys lost some talent and leadership, most notably DE Emmanuel Ogbah, but with 7 returning starters, including 5 seniors , experience will go a long way. Oklahoma State should once again be one of the nation’s top-ranked teams when it comes to turnover differential, thanks in part to an efficient offense. Senior FS Jordan Sterns has 26 games of experience under his belt, and he and senior SLB Jordan Burton were Big 12 All-Conference selections a year ago.
Special teams has been an area that Oklahoma State has excelled at in years past. This year should be no different with senior kicker Ben Grogan and redshirt sophomore punter Zach Sinor returning. Grogan had his most efficient year in 2015, making 16 of 20 field goals and 61 of 64 extra point attempts, while Sinor averaged 40.1 yards per punt. Barry Sanders, Jr. and Justice Hill will be returning kicks, while Jalen McCleskey will return punts.
As far as schedule goes, the Cowboys open up the season today against FCS opponent Southeastern Louisiana. They finish off non-conference play against Central Michigan on September 10th and Pittsburgh on September 17th, both in Stillwater. Big 12 play begins on September 24th against Baylor in Waco, and the Cowboys play their two toughest conference games on the road in Fort Worth against TCU on November 19th and in Norman against the Sooners on December 3rd.
Oklahoma State has a potentially tough conference schedule with road games against Baylor, TCU, and Oklahoma, but with one of the most experienced teams in the nation and the most experienced team in the Big 12 (by far), don’t be surprised if Bedlam features two undefeated teams.
Offensive MVP: Mason Rudolph
Defensive MVP: Jordan Sterns
Newcomers to watch: Freshman WR Dillon Stoner, Freshman RB Justice Hill
Record (including bowl game): 11-2