Some people look at bowl games as the sun setting on one season. Others look at it as the sun rising on a new season. For the Oklahoma State fans in the latter category you might want to brace yourselves. Mike Gundy is still very much in the 2018 season.
Don’t Expect To See A Different Quarterback
The Cowboys will enter Monday’s Liberty Bowl match up against #23 Missouri with a 6-6 record. That puts a twelve-year streak of winning seasons on the line for Gundy and his crew. To think he’s going to do anything different with player personnel is a bit insane.
“We won’t have any changes as far as guys that are starting in games or playing like that,” Gundy said at his Liberty Bowl press conference on Monday. “This bowl game, being as late as it is, allowed us to really practice and have another spring ball, as I’ve said several times. That’s what I’ve really enjoyed about it. For the most part, we have the guys who are going to play in the game. That kind of goes back to the fact that we’re going to put the players out there that we feel give us the best chance to perform and win the football game. In most cases, it won’t be a player that hasn’t played in the season.”
Nothing New Here
Standing in Gundy’s way of a thirteenth consecutive winning season is a Missouri team that features a potential Top 10 draft pick as their quarterback. Drew Lock has completed 63% of his passes this season for 3,125 yards and 8 interceptions. However, if there’s one think Gundy knows its playing against highly talented quarterbacks.
“They’re all different,” Gundy said about the quarterbacks he’s faced this season. “Obviously, with Kyler [Murray’s] ability to play the game the way he plays. Will Greer would be more like this one in that they have the ability to run a little bit, move around and make a play, not going to do it a lot. They want to do it inside the 12-yard line. You have to plan for each one differently, but he’s a really good player and probably going to play this game for another 10-12 years.”
This Is Chuba’s Team Now
The departures of Justice Hill (NFL Draft prep) and JD King (Transfer) leave Oklahoma State thin at the running back position but don’t confuse thin with untalented.
Chuba Hubbard averaged 5.6 yards per carry this season and is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.
“Chuba [Hubbard] has done a good job,” Gundy said. “Obviously, when we lost Justice [Hill] – he’s a fantastic player. He’s a guy who is good enough to play int he NFL. If he’s not with you, you’re certainly not going to be as good at running the football if he were here. Chuba and LD [Brown] have stepped up. They’re the guys who are in our program now and we’re coaching them. We have confidence in their ability to rush the football.”
With Hill missing the final three games of the season, due to an injury, Hubbard saw his heaviest workload of the year. He rushed for 280 yards (4.59 YPC) during that span, including a 104 yard/3 touchdown performance in the Bedlam game.
Missouri Has A National Ranking And That Should Scare Them
Oklahoma State is 3-1 against ranked opponents this season so you’ll have to forgive them if they aren’t bothered by Missouri’s national ranking. Boise State, Texas, and West Virginia all went into showdowns with the Pokes ranked in the Top 25 and they all came off the field with a loss.
“I wish we were a 20-point favorite,” Gundy said about playing the underdog role once again. “Our preparation is the same. Missouri is a really good team – could be the best team we’ve played overall as balanced football team. They’re good all over the board. When you have a quarterback who might be the first player taken in the draft at the position, you’re a really good team. They’re solid, they’re mature. I understand why it’s the way it is, but like I said, our team has worked really hard and I think our coaches have really good plans. I expect our players to play very well. I’m looking forward to the game. I don’t think everybody really talks about the underdog much. I don’t, but maybe the players feel that because I’m sure they’re on social media, they’re out there and they know what’s going on. It probably takes care of itself.”