The Oklahoma State football season kicks off Saturday evening, and Cowboy fans could be in a for a rough ride. The home opener against the Central Arkansas Bears should come and go without much drama, but a lot of player turnover has taken place in Stillwater, so plenty of questions abound. The Cowboys are not expected to do much this season, picked to finish near the middle of the pack in the Big 12, and for the first time in years, Oklahoma State could potentially struggle to even get to a bowl game.
Still, as the days get shorter and the temperatures begin to drop, it’s hard not to be excited about the start of a new college football season. While Big 12 Championship aspirations wouldn’t be realistic for this season, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be happy surprises that pop up over the next few months. As the season gets rolling, and the Cowboys look to pick up an easy win over the Bears, I have a few predictions as to how the season will play out.
1. The Cowboys WILL Make a Bowl Game
Even with a lower-than-normal expectation for Oklahoma State, the Cowboys should still make a bowl game. Vegas has their win total pegged at 6.5, which is enough to make it to a postseason game. That number might seem a little low, but when you take into consideration the questions at quarterback, the inexperience at basically every position on offense, and some shifting around of the defense, it’s hard not to wonder where wins will come from.
Still, if Mike Gundy has done one thing well in his tenure in Stillwater, it’s that he often exceeds expectations. Cowboy fans have become spoiled in a sense that we are hungry for not only a Big 12 Championship but a College Football Playoff appearance. The fact of the matter is that before Gundy took over, the Cowboys were rarely in contention to even make it a bowl game. Entering his 19th season, Gundy has the Cowboys expected to make their 18th straight bowl game. Sounds like a sure thing to me.
2. Oklahoma State Will Have a Rushing Offense in the Top Half of the Conference
This might not sound like a bold prediction, but when you take a look at last season, it absolutely is. Just a few years ago, the Cowboys were at the top of the conference when it came to their rushing attack. Moving the ball on the ground wasn’t only an option, it was a priority. That focus has shifted over the years, largely due to an inability to block up front. Last season, Oklahoma State finished 9th out of the 10 teams in the conference in rushing yards, but I think there is a shift back to the ground game this season.
With so many questions surrounding the quarterback position, I think it’s high time Mike Gundy focuses on the task at hand, and that’s the moving the ball a little bit at a time. Ollie Gordon and Jaden Nixon are solid running backs who are both capable of making plays when called upon. If the offensive line is even a smidge improved this season, then I think it’s not too crazy to think that they could move the ball on the ground much more effectively than last season.
3. The Secondary Will Lead the Defense in Turnovers
Oklahoma State’s defense has been really good at times, but that wasn’t really the case last season. They do bring back quite a bit of experience in some spots, and I think the secondary is where they are most likely to shine in terms of highlight plays. Kendal Daniels is the reigning Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year, and I think he doubles his 3 interceptions from a year ago. Korie Black is the most experienced defensive back on the team, and despite never recording an interception, I see that changing this season.
4. Alex Hale Will Kick Multiple 50-Yard Field Goals
Tanner Brown has graduated, and after making limited appearances in games over the last few seasons, Alex Hale is the lone kicker. In his career at Stillwater, the longest field goal he’s ever kicked was a 44-yarder against West Virginia back in 2020, but I would be willing to bet there will be a couple of opportunities for him to boot a 50-yarder through the uprights, and I think he’s got the ability to do it.
5. Mike Gundy Will Actually Go For it on 4th
Early in his career, Mike Gundy had an air about him that he wasn’t afraid to try things. In recent years, he’s consistently gone the conservative route, even when in desperate need to shake things up. Last season, the Cowboys were just 5-of-16 (31.25%) on 4th down. That percentage is not great by any means, but the more concerning number is the attempts. Oklahoma State opponents combined to go 17-of-32 (53.13%), and I think there is something to be said that the more you try something, the better you can get at it.
If ever there was a time for Gundy to let loose and try some things, I think it would be this season. Expectations are low, so why not give the people something to talk about? I would love to see Oklahoma State go for it on 4th and short pretty much any time they are past their own 30 yard line. Maybe this is the year where Mike says to himself, “You know what? Let’s do it. Let’s go for it.”