It’s been a long eight months, but the offseason has finally come to an end, and the 2017 season is set to kickoff for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Hopes are high, and as the greatest of all time Michael Jordan says, “The ceiling is the roof.” Oklahoma State is expected to make an appearance in the Big XII Championship Game at the end of the season, but if things go as well as they could, the Cowboys may very well end up in the NCAA College Football Playoff. In order for that to happen, a few things need to happen.
No Slow Starts
Over the last few years, Oklahoma State has been nicknamed the “Cardiac Cowboys” because of their struggles at times to build an early lead, even against poor teams. The Pokes have done a solid job at putting together multiple impressive comebacks, but the fact of the matter is that good teams can mount a comeback, but great teams don’t put themselves in that spot to begin with.
Oklahoma State is predicted to have one of the most exciting offenses in the country led by Heisman candidate quarterback Mason Rudolph. The Cowboy wide receiving corp is as deep as there is in the country, led by preseason All-American senior wide receiver James Washington, and sophomore Justice Hill is primed to follow up an impressive freshman season in the backfield. If Oklahoma State can put up points early and avoid getting behind, they have a chance to string together some wins and put on an offensive show.
Create Turnovers on Defense
The last time Oklahoma State made some real noise nationally was in 2011 when Brandon Weeden was at the helm throwing to Justin Blackmon along with Joseph Randle in the backfield. However, a big part of the Cowboys’ success that year was the defense and their ability to force turnovers. Oklahoma State led the nation in turnover margin, and the next closest Big XII team really wasn’t that close.
Oklahoma State’s defense this year has a few question marks surrounding it, but the Cowboys have the talent to make some big plays. The secondary appears to be extremely deep, the linebackers have a lot of experience, and the defensive line is near the top of the Big XII when it comes to both talent and experience. The Cowboys need to focus on creating turnovers and then turning those opportunities into points. If they are able to force opponents into making mistakes, they will make things that much easier for the extremely talented offense.
Score in the Special Teams
If the Cowboys really want to get an edge on teams, then they need to find some “special” scoring in the special teams. Sophomore Matt Ammendola looks to be in charge of placekicking responsibilities, but Oklahoma State really needs to seek success in the return responsibilities.
Junior Jalen McCleskey will be returning punts, and with his ability to make things happen in the open field, there is no telling what he will be capable of making happen. Senior Chris Lacy will be returning kickoffs once again alongside newcomer and LSU transfer sophomore Tyron Johnson, who has quite the buzz building around him.
Special teams is an area that can give a team the slightest advantage towards victory, and as the Cowboys hope for a special season, they need to set high standards for their special teams.